In a few hours I will board a plane headed for home. What was intended to be a seven-month trip turned into a ten-month trip. I left home last August and travelled two thirds of the way around the world in one month. Then I stayed put (mostly) for several months. I’ve shifted here and there according to the requirements of my visa, as well as for a friend’s wedding in India, but haven’t moved further in my circumnavigation. That didn’t mean I didn’t move ahead. I’ve learned a lot of Mandarin in this time, and a whole lot more about China, its people, and its culture.
One month for two thirds of the distance, six months working on my primary mission (to learn Mandarin) a few more months of travel, and now 13 hours in the air to complete the last third of the globe. I find it interesting to compare how the time and distance don’t move at the same speed, but I can’t say much more about it than that.
I said to my friend Daisy last night that in the west China and Asia are the things of legend. Marco Polo, the Silk Road, the Korean DMZ, the Great Wall, the Cultural Revolution, Buddhist temples, the Hong Kong skyline and the Pandas. For the past few months these things haven’t been legends for me, because I lived, worked (and got frustrated with work) and I studied here. I haven’t left yet, but I think my mind is already home. I’m sitting in a Starbucks on Hong Kong Island, but what was part of my life for several months already seems exotic and remote.
This will be the end for this blog as it’s the end for my trip. Next I’ll go back to work, like I used to do and as everyone must do in life. So far nobody has found me my dream job. Don’t forget to pass on my resume to someone you know who’s looking to hire an enthusiastic, tri-lingual, well-travelled, experienced software developer. You’ll be doing me and someone else a favour.
I just spent the last four days hanging out with friends in Hong Kong. The travel pressure is off here because I’ve been here before and my chief reason for coming here was to meet up with friends. Also, I fly home from Hong Kong later today. I suppose coming to catch a plane is a good reason to come here too.
I did some things I’d already done, including visiting Victoria Mountain, and riding the streetcars on Hong Kong Island. And I did some new things too, like visiting Lamma Island (southwest of HK Island) and going to the horse races on Sunday. It’s always better to travel with a friend.
I’m going to blast through the past week and give you the quick summary of what I’ve been up to. The daily posts I did while in Hong Kong and Seoul last year took a lot of work, and it isn’t something I could maintain for three weeks on the road. However, these brief comments don’t mean the places I’ve been recently weren’t interesting. Quite the contrary.
I spent five days last week visiting friends and the sights of Guangzhou. I already told you about visiting to see the Diaolou in the nearby city of Kaiping. Now for the quick rundown on Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) itself.
It turns out I have a lot of friends in Guangzhou, despite the fact that I’ve never been there before. Some are friends of friends, a friend I’ve known for a few years who recently moved home to Guangzhou, and then some university students I met a few weeks ago while travelling in Guilin. As a result, I was accompanied by friends everywhere I went in Guangzhou.
I visited the old European concessions on Shamian Island, two obligatory visits to local temples, the Guangdong Provincial Museum, the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King, the Whampoa Military Academy (jointly established by the KMT and the Communist Party to train officers to fight the Japanese in WWII) and the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial hall. I had no idea that so many important figures in Chinese history call Guangdong home, and that so many important historical events and movements started there as well.
I went south in China this time because I wanted to understand more about a part of China that is quite different from where I’ve spent the last six months. It has its own history of kingdoms, its own language and very unique cuisine. I really only got a taste, so I’ll have to go back some time to learn more.
That was the title of one of my favourite books as a child. Just for fun, here are some pictures of various modes of transportation I’ve taken during my trip over the past ten months. This was supposed to be about trains only, but then I started throwing other stuff in too. As for trains, I’ve noticed that a lot of trains all over the world are made by Bombardier. Makes me wonder why they seem to always want Federal Government money? Oh yes, now I remember, it’s that thing with Quebec.
Over the past ten months, I’ve travelled through seven or eight different countries or territories, depending on who’s counting. That means I’ve collected a few different currencies along the way. I’m currently in possession of six different currencies. The most I had at one time was seven and I’ll probably a drop a few more as I leave the mainland for Hong Kong in a few days. Having this many different currencies on me makes me kind of nervous. It’s not that I have a lot of money, but every time a someone suspected of illegal activity is arrested at the border, they always seem to be in posession of multiple currencies.
最近十个月我穿过了七，八 个国家或者区。其他人数可能算不一样。顺便我拿了各种各样的钱。现在我有六个不一样的钱。我最多的是七个。我离开大陆以后可能把有些换成 港币或者美元。我的钱不多不过拿各种各样的钱惹我紧张，因为看新闻的话，要是说的在边界发现了一个犯罪，他们都拿着各种各样的钱。
Today I took a day trip to Kaiping, about 140km west of Guangzhou. This is where a lot of overseas Chinese, who, involuntarily more often than voluntarily, left their homes to work (or be enslaved) overseas. Some of them became quite successful, and sent lots of money home. They built houses in their home villages for their families and to defend themselves against bandits. These towers have a peculiar blend of Chinese and western architecture due to the influence of what these people had seen while overseas.
今天我去了开平，从广 州需要往西边走140公里左右。很多在国外的华人都是这里的。一 般来说他们不是自己选择出国，是其他人被他们走过去。后来这些人当周有些是很成功的。他把挣的钱寄回国，给亲戚建很大房子，教碉楼。 他们把这些房子当成城堡，这样保护家人。这些碉楼混合西方式和中式的建筑。
In the morning I took the bus from Guangzhou to Kaiping, and then took the municipal buses around to the Li Gardens and Zili Village. In Zili I was able to walk through a house used in a recent Chinese blockbuster called Let the Bullets Fly. If you’ve seen the movie then you’ll recognize some of the pictures.
我早上坐了大巴去开 平，然后坐了公交车去立园和自力村。在自力村看了一个特别的碉楼。这个你可以在电影让 子弹飞里面看见。你肯能对那个“六哥“的墓石很熟悉。
从漓江我直接去了龙脊梯田。这个附近的梯田都是从元朝开始做的。据说这些的梯田是中国最漂亮 的。我在平安寨住了一个晚上。我觉得这个村子的名气奇怪，因为山上并不是平的。我第二天早上起的很早为了看日出，不过由于阴天看不到太阳。不 管早上的光对拍照片很不错。
Moving on from the Li River, I went to visit the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. This a region of terraced fields that dates to the Yuan Dynasty and is considered one of the most impressive in China. I visited the hillside village of Pingan and stayed there for one night. I think “Pingan” translates to “flat and peaceful”. The peaceful part might be accurate, but it’s definitely not flat on a mountainside. I woke up early in the morning to see the sun rise. While it was too cloudy to see the sun, the light provided a great opportunity to take some great pictures.