Settling in to China and its hussle-bussle. My new adventure started as early as Singapore, when I was the only white person in the Airport: it was 4am in the budget terminal. I boarded the plane, and already got stared at by the flying attendants, the passengers, the children… “I am going to have to get used to that again” I thought as I sat down on an empty row of 3 seats. I was able to sleep in a fully horizontal position through the four hours of my flight, which I considered as a good omen for my on-coming travels.
Guangzhou security made my going through customs the most painless process ever, and happily wondered to the luggage collection area. Police, security, armed guards are everywhere. Not only in the airport, but on the bus, on the street, in shops… Not sure whether that makes me feel safe, or quite the opposite!
The only review for the hostel I booked online was that it was “clean” and it sure is! I even booked myself the luxury of a single room en-suite, as I figured I would want some peace and quiet. And my first night – and its 15 hours of sleep – justified my need for my own space!
I have been out and about to explore the city, before making my way to Yuangsho, where I will be studying Tai Chi and Chinese Massage.
In the mean time, I am getting used to Chinese food… Yum. After three days, have only gone to Chinese-only, no white-faces or English menus type places, with much miming and pointing involved, and have tasted delicious noodle soups, wonderful shellfish (that I actually later threw up, but they were tasty nonetheless), and incredible dumplings. Also fresh pineapple, lychees, rambutans, and funny looking fruit I had never seen before. And not a single meal for more than a Euro.
It is incredibly cold – I was told it would be between 20 and 30 degrees, but a very cold front has settled in, and at night it gets to nearly freezing temperature. Shame I don’t have any heating (but I got some extra blankets) I have had to buy a big wolly hat, wear all my clothes at once, and have to keep walking to get warm! What a change from Australia and its soaring temperatures. Glad I made the most of the beach when I had the chance!
I have spent quite a lot of time resting, either in bed or in the lounge in the hostel. The rest of my days have been largely occupied by wondering aimlessly in the streets, going from markets to malls, giant supermarkets to McDonald’s, KFC, and Starbucks. From small, flowery back alleys to giant highways and crazy traffic.
Oh and giant parks!!! What a wonderful feeling to be walking through green spaces, where music blares from every direction, and people share simple things. Couple dance to Chinese salsa in one place, other to ballroom dances in another corner… Terrible singers join efforts to form a choir and sing at the top of their lungs, before youngsters playing Chinese keepy-uppies (with a small weights feathers, resembling a badminton ball) or grumpy old men and their board games.
Young women chase me to clean my hiking boots, whilst others stare blankly at me. My new hat helps to stay more discrete, but my blue eyes are a give away… I sit down to take it in, breathe in the mixed smells of freshly cooked food and ripe pineapple, the distorted songs and mixed music, the laughs all around me… And somehow, just for a few minutes, I feel part of it. The ambiance gets to me, a smile creeps onto my face. Deep breaths help to get this feeling of peacefulness run through me. It follows me around wherever I go, I feel good here.
Today, I went to get myself a new simcard from a Chinese network: China Mobile. It apparently has good reception and very competitive prices. I went to the shop, and showed my old simcard and some miming to get my point across. Sure enough, a list of phone numbers were shoved in my face, with a price next to each one of them. I had heard of this before: because numbers have such an importance in Chinese culture, the price of the simcard depends on what digits are in the phone number. Typically, 6 and 9 are very lucky, therefore are very expensive. Some number with 6-6-6 and 9-9-9 were five to ten times more expensive than the one I chose, a modest 136 222 01 446. Since 4 is the number associated with death, and I chose a number with double four (to the amazement of the shopping assistant, who kept pointing to the many 6 or 9 numbers) I got a pretty sweet deal…
Actually, if you had +86 (code for China) to that, you get the full deal (+86 136 222 01 446), and I can receive text messages from abroad… hint hint….
I also met some cool people in the hostel, who are traveling West also, so we may share a bit of our journey together.
So far, China has felt safe, with most of the people encountered generally helpful and kind. I am looking forward to more amazing food, and tomorrow will go for my first real Chinese massage – performed by a blind practitioner.
ps: as predicted, I cannot log in to my blog from China, so thank you Alice for putting this online for me!