Monday, December 09, 2013

Down the Road From Hong Kong

For nearly a year (gulp! yes! that long!) we have been living and working in Guangzhou. While this has its ups and downs, and while on any given day Brian and I might expend just a tad more energy lamenting the downs (because: bodily functions. Just, no. Get it together, China) one distinct "up" is that Guangzhou is a great launching pad for travel around Southeast Asia and the southern parts of East Asia. Including that ever-fascinating, sophisticated jumble of islands, skyscrapers, hills, international finance, Cantonese, waterfront strolls, food, happy hour, and more that we call: Hong Kong!

If you still haven't quite registered where exactly Guangzhou is (I mean, really, would it kill you to look at a Google map?), we have been residing in the far southeast near the coast of China, in the Pearl River Delta, which means we are a hop, skip, and jump from HK. In this case, the hopping and skipping is generally done via T-class train from Guangzhou East Railway Station, which shuttles us to Hung Hom Station in Hong Kong in a mere hour and forty-something minutes, or slightly longer if there is a delay due to traffic/rain/some guy out to lunch/whatever other inexplicable thing makes the trains not run on time. (We did  not take this trip during any of the typhoons that have been on offer from the South China Sea this year, so can't blame that.)

Hong Kong has also been handy for flying: we used the airport to arrive from Phoenix via Los Angeles in the first place, back in January, and we used it again for a cheap roundtrip to Manila for our Philippines vacation during the Spring Festival holiday. But the really good times are not in the airport (though it's a fine airport), but rather, in the city, wandering the streets of Kowloon, Central, Admiralty, Tsim Sha Tsui, or Causeway Bay, riding the tram, riding the wonderful subway with our Octopus cards, walking ! up the escalators in the subway stations, looking at the water, and soaking up the sights and sounds and smells (food, naturally) that are so Chinese but so not really like China.

Hong Kong being its own (mostly)autonomous region since the handover from Britain, it has different currency and we have to pass through immigration on these jaunts. But, I grudgingly admit that it doesn't really count as another country, although I'd like it to for my tally. (It counts if I am doing the inspired-by-a-flight-attendant-acquaintance aviation-defined countries/territories count, because that list has nearly 300 places and aviation rules and regs clearly divide up the world differently than the U.N. But that's not the point for the moment.)

This week, we're heading to HK on our "weekend" -- which happens to be Wednesday/Thursday, because those are our days off, as we work Friday through Tuesday -- and it's going to be our last time! Now that is a strange thought. I've got used to Hong Kong being down the road. What will it be like to return to normal life where it's a far-off city, where the images of unbridled financial deals, dining and dim sum, light shows and ferry boats, all of those images regain their exotic tinge because one can't just spontaneously decide to head there for the day?

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