I went to the BP international house, which I would say was about a 3 star hotel. I got a room on the 20th floor with a nice view. I was able to convince myself that no cockroach could climb that high or be smart enough to take an elevator.
I set out that day to go to China. I figured that being so close, it was worth a stop. The closest city in China to HongKong is a place called Shenzen. Shenzen is all of 90 minutes or so away by train. It’s a fairly large city, but aimed at tourists unless you get far enough in to it, all the same, I thought it would be neat to check out.
Once you take the train to Shenzen and arrive, you need to apply for a Visa to enter. It’s a rather simple process, you wait in a line behind other tourists, hand them your passport and $100, and they give you a 5 day visa. Well, the guy who was 2 people in front of me was denied his visa and he was livid. He was yelling and carrying on about how he had a business meeting. I have no idea why they denied him, I wasn’t about to ask. He just kept shouting, “Listen, I have a business meeting, I’m not just going over to shop for trinkets, you know!!!!”. Great, here I was 2 customers away from the window, and if they were going to ask what I was doing in Shenzen, the truth was I was shopping for trinkets. Furthermore, I couldn’t think of anything better to make up. Didn’t matter, they stamped my passport and let me go. I was worried with the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade the week prior, I thought they might be mean to an American. They seemed rather nice.
After getting through customs, you reach the outside of the train station, which is the biggest tourist-trap market I’ve ever seen. This thing was huge. Vendors just everywhere. Selling things that looked like antiques, and selling clothes and electronics and animals. The animals part was rather sad. They were selling puppies and kittens, but they kept them in small bird cages. Most of the animals couldn’t turn around in the cages, and some cages had 5-6 to a cage. It was pretty sad. Then I started wondering if they were being sold for pets or for dining purposes. Yikes.
I passed through the market area and decided to walk around Shenzen. I’m not sure why, but it seemed like I was the only westerner/European person that I saw in the entire city. For my whole stay there, I did not see any others outside of the market or train station. I don’t know if Shenzen is a seasonal tourist area, or if it was because of the embassy bombing (I know a few days earlier, there was a travel warning against going to china). Whatever the case, it made me stick out. I was approached by just about every person that I passed on the street.
One of the very first people to approach me was a little kid who looked to be about 6 or 7. He came up to me and started sticking out his tongue and pointing in his mouth. So, I stuck out my tongue, and pointed. This threw him for a loop. First, I don’t think he expected that reaction, second, I don’t think he expected to see a piercing. In any case, he starts pointing in his mouth again, this time holding out his hands. Now I get it, he’s asking for money for food. Shoo. Go on, git! I keep walking, and he keeps following. I start playing hide and seek (on the busy city streets) with this kid trying to lose him. People are looking, but I don’t care, its been 3 or 4 very long blocks at this point. So I give up and decide to keep walking until he leaves. Now he starts in with this “La-la -la -la -la -la -la –la”. Incessantly making this noise as he walks alongside me pointing in his mouth and holding out the other hand. Now people are watching. I ask passers by if they know how to make him go away, but no one understands english. Furthermore, every building that I pass is trying to coerce me inside, so I don’t want to go from one torture to another, I just want to get rid of this kid. We’ve gone about 8 blocks which is well over a mile at this point, and I’m still listening to this “La-la -la -la -la -la -la –la”. I was just about to sprint to lose him, and suddenly it stops. You know how when you fall asleep in a car and you wake up when it stops because the absence of noise is so jarring. Same sensation. It was like a new day, with clearer skies. Nice. I outwitted a 7 year old. Way to go Rick.
The day didn’t get much better. Everywhere I went, I would get more and more people shoving things in my face that they thought I might enjoy buying. Those that didn’t have anything to sell, just stared at me. I walked around the city for about an hour, but called it quits after that. There were no english signs like in HongKong. That made it tough to try to figure out what else to do.
Shenzen for the most part was like any other modern city in the world. They had their skyscrapers, and taxis (which were all VW Jettas) and a lot of construction going on.
As I was leaving, met up with 3 ladies on the train from the US. They were all part of the same “wives club”, which is a pretty popular thing to do in HongKong. My friend Paul was telling me about how his wife was part of one. Basically, what it is, is a club for women who have come from overseas to HongKong with their husbands as they work. The women for what ever reason, cannot find a job (it’s a very selective market) or prefer not to work. Anyway, they all get together and have functions with each other. Or as Paul put it, they get together and go shopping. That’s what these ladies were doing. Real nice people though, I talked with them the whole way back.
Once I got back, I went looking around for a couple of things. I searched a little more for the Diesel shirt to no avail, and I was also looking for a copy of the BC or HMV music guides, which basically give you a run down on the club scene in HongKong. I couldn’t find either. So, as I was walking along, I heard techno coming out of shop, as I had heard coming out of most shops that I passed. The girl working inside looked rather hip, so I thought I’d take a shot and ash her where good clubs might be.
Fair enough, I’d head to Wan Chai and check it out, it was on the way home. I get off the subway at Wan Chai, expecting to see raging clubs all around. Instead, I see many dance clubs, all with neon signs saying things like “live dancers”, “fantasy dance club”, and “girls dancing”. Obviously a small communication gap back at the store. Back to square 1.
On the way home, I passed a basketball court with a bunch of people playing. I stopped to watch for a minute. In the minute or 2 I was standing there, I don’t think anyone made a basket. It dawned on me, here’s a nation of people who cant grow facial hair, and cant play basketball well. I fit right in. I decided it was best to keep walking before they noticed me, and figured that being an American that I could play well and ask me to join in. We really wouldn’t want that. I might have some sort of reputation to live up to.
I seemed to pass a lot of beggars walking home this time. You always see them, but today they seemed plentiful. Mostly, they were without limbs. Missing an arm or a leg or sometimes both. They would lay on the sidewalk, lengthwise, so that people would have to walk over them. The whole time, they are crying and screaming. Most people just walk over them.
By the end of that day, I was pretty beat. I decided to have a night in. I hadn’t found any clubs that I wanted to check out, and I could use a relaxing night. I searched the internet for HongKong clubs, and ended up finding a page with message boards. One of the boards had a post from a girl named Jane Tan who was looking for people to go clubbing with. I sent her a reply in hopes that she would get it before I left town. The rest of the night, I watched the worst shows ever made. The only engish channel is “Star TV”. They buy quality re-runs like “Small Wonder”, that show from the early 80’s about the little girl who is actually a robot. It was pretty bad, but the commercials were neat. They had commercials for HongKong, telling people how important it is to be nice to each other. It was like this huge be-nice-to-strangers campaign. Cool.