So now I find myself back in my favourite city, a year to the week since I last was here and many years earlier than I expected to return.I had always said that I wished to visit again, but as I had so much more of the world to see, I couldn’t envisage the return being anything but a lifetime away. Yet here I am, in a place that feels instantly familar. To the point, where I have been giving directions and advice on places to visit. Our journey here was probably the most unpleasant yet. First, we needed to retrace our steps back from Yangshao to the train station. This meant another long bus journey, but remarkably the bus this time was practically brand new and very comfortable. We watched a film called “Poker Kings”, of which we couldn’t understand a world, but looked surreal and amusing. At the very least it kept my mind off the road where our driver spent most of his time trying to overtake every vehicle – even if they were in the process of overtaking themselves! Then it was onto our final overnight train in China. I have generally enjoyed these these journeys. We have tended to congregate on the bottom bunk (usually mine) and chatted, played cards, chess or Uno and swapped and shared photos. They have been real communal experiences. This one however, was just the same until lights out but then I could not sleep as our berth was the closest to the toilets and most of the night was spent hearing the door constantly slamming as it was used. At one point we stopped at a station and a very loud arguing man came aboard and stood at the foot of my bed shouting very loudly at the attendant who was making the internationally recognised gesture for ‘keep your voice down’. I felt a little sorry for her having to try and get this guy sorted out, whilst not adding to the disturbance herself. After a few minutes I’d had enough an sat up and gave my own internationally recognised gesture to Mr Shouty. It didn’t shut him up, but at least became quieter and disappeared down the cabin. Somehow we managed to lose three hours overnight, and rather than waking to another two hours travel; we instead found that we had another 5 hours to go. By the time that we arrived in Shenzhen to transfer to the Hong Kong metro the group were all suffering from travel fatigue, but we raised ourselves once more for lunch before splitting into groups to explore Hong Kong. I went with Brian, Marie, Gernod, and Max and having acquired the nickname ‘Chen 2’, or ‘Next Chen’ guided our little group though the metro to the bus terminal before we caught the number 5 to the Peak.
The view from there is still spectacular, and even more so at night.
My biggest regret from my last visit was not going to the peak at night. We had arrived at dusk and so got to see the day view before heading to a cafe and emerging into the dark and the breath-taking view of Hong Kong at night.We bumped into some of the others at the Peak and arranged to meet a little later for a goodbye drink and bite to eat.
We took the tram down, an experience that felt wrong in every way, as we sat facing upwards, yet travelled down as the sound of the brakes stained against gravity, before walking to the metro passing the fantastic Bank of China building along the way.
Later we all met up for drinks, eventually finding a bar in a mall. I was a strange atmosphere as some of the group had come to the end of their journey and were talking of home; whereas for some of us this was the end of the beginning and we talked of our destinations – New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Bangkok. We also talked of our favourite moments.The Great Wall figured prominently in the conversation, as did the various activities in Yangshao – the bamboo boats, cooking school and cycling. The low point was generally considered to be Xi’an, which was at odds with my experience. I think because I’d met up with Karen and had seen different places to them as we went on our wall. But the downs were vastly outnumbered by the ups. I think its going to take a while to take China in as we have done so much. I do know that I am going to really miss the group. Particularly as I am now travelling alone for the next two months. I hope that I meet people with whom I can share the adventure, chat over dinner and discuss the places that we have been with and I hope those people are as varied, interesting, funny and patient as the people I now leave here in Hong Kong. I should mention Chen. I was critical of him at the start of the trip. I really do like him, and it was obvious that he wanted to make sure we all had a great time. My opinion is still that the organisation was poor at times, particularly in regards to transport after long journeys. However, I have become convinced that this was more to do with the parent company not organising anything, and a lack of useful information given to Chen himself who really did he best he could with the resources given to him. I could not reasonably ask for more from him than that and I’m pleased that he can now head back home to his wife and newborn daughter having delivered us all safely to our destination for a well earned rest.