China Research


Good Friends

4/07/08

On Friday I took a late night bus to Hong Kong to renew my China visa and stay there for the weekend. I would be staying with my friend Edward who I had met through Kim. He was nice enough to offer me a place to stay in his family’s apartment. I arrived in Shenzhen early Saturday morning and then took the KCR to Kowloon Tong. I met Edward in the Kowloon Tong station and we then took the MTR to Khun Tong, a stop on the light green line not to far from Kowloon Tong. We got to his apartment and I dropped off my stuff before going back out. He helped me buy a bus ticket back to Xiamen, this time I would take it from HK all of the way back to Xiamen. We then made our way to Central and took a ferry to Cheung Chau island.

It was a beautiful day with a smattering of bloated, white clouds in the otherwise clear, blue sky. We got off in an area of small shops and had lunch at a noodle restaurant. I had a milk tea with lunch, something that I would have regularly at HKBU. We then began to walk to the other side of the thin island and along some of the beaches there. We then made an awkward loop back to the shopping area and exited towards the north. The path followed the shoreline for a ways before we took a road that lead up a steep slope. We stopped at an area that overlooked a section of the town and the harbor beyond it. Two westerners on bikes were coming up the path and we talked with them for a while and ran into them a few more times while walking around the island. The guy was from Bulgaria and the woman was from Serbia. They worked for a company in London that has a branch in Shenzhen and were working in Shenzhen for a few weeks.

They had both spent some time in the US so their English was very good and had a slight American accent to it. For this reason I first placed them as American and was rather surprised to hear that they were actually from Europe. We continued on to the top of the hill and spent some time sitting in a small pagoda looking out over the island and the surrounding ocean. We then parted ways as Edward and I made our way back down the hill on foot, while they hopped back on their bikes. We ran into them again at a small temple. The temple had incense spirals in it and the setting sun illuminated them nicely. Edward lit some incense sticks and performed a typical Buddhist prayer. I decided to give him some space and walked around the temple admiring some of the intricate designs.

We walked back through the small shops, this time we passed a few vendors selling fruits and vegetables as well as the touristy flip-flop shops. We took the ferry back to Hong Kong island, met up with one of Edward’s friends, and then went out for dinner. I was craving a burrito and Edward had never tried Mexican before and wanted to give it a try, so we ate at Taco Loco in Central. After dinner we went back to Edward’s apartment and went to sleep. We were both very tired and we would have an early morning the following day. We would have to catch an early ferry out of central if we wanted to have enough time on the island.

The Sunday morning sun greeted my tired eyes at 6:15. Edward and I got ready and then proceeded to the ferry terminal. We got to the terminal early and ate breakfast at a Belgium Waffle Boys stand. We had breakfast crépes and a cup of coffee. One of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a long time. The ferry ride to Lamma island was only about 40 minutes. During the voyage a torrential downpour pummeled our vessel for 10 minutes before stopping completely. This was foreshadowing for future weather conditions. We arrived at the island around 9:00 and set off on a circuit of the island. At one fork in the road there was a trail leading up and we followed it to a great lookout over the surrounding area. The trail here went alongside some large boulders and followed along a ridge that dropped away to both sides. It was a good thing that we did because this vantage point allowed us to see the dark wall of clouds looming in the distance.

I estimated that it would arrive in 15 minutes and my estimation was not far off. Storms in Hong Kong usually last for about 15 minutes and involve strong wind and heavy rain. I was wearing my bathing suit and contacts because I had planned on going swimming at one of the beaches. Thinking that it would be a short storm I decided that I would hide my backpack and sit out on a large boulder and watch the storm arrive. I told Edward my plan and he decided that the would stay in a small gazebo that we had come upon. It didn’t have any walls so I wasn’t sure that it would provide adequate shelter from the rain. When it rains in Hong Kong it usually rains sideways, this is caused by the ferocity of the wind that comes as part of the package.

I stowed my backpack in a spacious cave I had found under a few massive boulders. I then took my place on a rock and prepared for what I thought would be a 15 minute downpour. It took a little bit longer to arrive than I originally thought and when the skies opened up it was 11:06. I clocked it because I was curious to see how long it would last. When it first started the sky behind me was still clear and Hong Kong island was still bathed in sunshine. The sky stretching out in front of me was a complete polar opposite. It had turned an ominous grey color and enveloped everything that I had seen 3 minutes earlier. It was not long before Hong Kong island met a similar fate. Aside from the rock I was on and the path to either side of my perch, my eyes were only granted the sight of dark clouds and high-speed rain.

The droplets of rain caused pinpricks of pain on my exposed skin as they traced diagonal paths to the earth. In no time I was soaked to the bone and the sun’s baking heat from a half hour beforehand was completely forgotten. Ten minutes passed and then 15 but the storm showed no signs of letting up. At times I would catch glimpses of clear skies in the distance but these rays of light only taunted me. In the middle of the storm I heard the sound of thunder and could see streaks of lightning over Hong Kong at times when the clouds surrounding me receded. It would be another 15 minutes before the wind and rain would cease and by this time my body was shivering slightly and my left thumb had gone numb.

I retrieved my backpack from its hiding spot, still completely dry, and went to find Edward. He had managed to stay mostly dry by crouching behind one of the small, waist-high walls of the gazebo. The sun did not come out as I had expected. Instead the sky was still overcast and in the distance I could see another wall of thunderclouds approaching. I decided that sitting out in one storm was enough for one day so we started to hurry along the trail back to the dock. This time the clouds started with a light shower before the full torrent began. We were lucky enough to make it back to the street of shops and get under cover before the clouds opened their dams.

The rain showed no sign of stopping so Edward and myself decided to take advantage of the ferry sitting at the docks to beat a hasty retreat back to Hong Kong. It was a good thing that we did because the rain remained at full strength until I left later that evening. Back in Hong Kong we took the MTR to Jordan to eat at a noodle shop that Edward recommended. On the MTR I was surprised to run into Ring. At one of the stops she got on the metro and grabbed my shoulder before I saw her. She was working in Hong Kong and had managed to convince HKBU to let her stay there for the summer. It was good to see her again and we quickly talked about our summer jobs and why I was back in Hong Kong. We arrived at Jordan and I said my farewells to Ring.

After lunch we met Dean and Eric outside of Jordan station and then went to the Ikea in Kowloon Bay to have hot chocolate. We talked about how our internships were going and how everyone was running into difficulties of some sort. They were really liking Hong Kong but they said that the dorms felt like a jail since they were mostly empty and because of all the rules in place. I told them about Xiamen and how things were going on my end. I then bought a hot dog from the bottom floor of Ikea to celebrate a late Fourth of July. I said goodbye to Dean and Eric, wishing them good luck with their research and giving them some ideas for places to see in and around HK. Edward and I returned to his apartment to get my stuff and we then went to catch my bus.

It was still pouring and the lower half of my body got soaked while running around under my umbrella in search of my bus. Once we found the bus I thanked Edward greatly for his kindness and waved good-bye to my friend. I was very grateful for his assistance and hoped that I could help him out in the future. The bus I was on was not the one that would take me to Xiamen. Its purpose was to drive around Hong Kong picking up people and then cross the border into China. It took forever to go to all of the stops and by the time we got through customs and got onto the sleeper bus on the other side it was already late. It was still raining slightly and the raindrops on the window distorted the lights of the nearby buildings. I stayed awake for a while listening to my ipod and reading my book before finally falling asleep. The bed was narrower than usual. I woke up multiple times in the night with aches in parts of my body that, up until then, I had forgotten about.

I was awakened at 4:45 in the morning by a large lady tapping my leg spewing Chinese syllables, from which I was able to discern “Xiamen…dao le.” I translated this into what I thought was “We have arrived at Xiamen.” The bus was still moving so I fell back on my bed and closed my eyes. Luckily the large lady woke me up again when we arrived a few minutes later. I slipped on my shoes and grabbed my backpack as I squeezed past the other bunks and out the awkwardly positioned door. I then got on a shuttle that would take me into Xiamen. It was 5:00 and the rising sun was painting it’s favorite canvas a warm orange that bled into a deep red along the edges. Its a shame that the shuttle was moving so fast or else I would’ve attempted to photograph the scene. The shuttle dropped me off at the train station. Buses normally run through here, but it was still 5:45 in the morning so I resigned to take a taxi. Fifteen minutes after saying “Xiamen Daxue” I was back at the University and collapsed in a messy heap on my bed.