china-ward and back

lotus lanterns, macauToday in our junior youth group here in Hanoi, we studied a lesson in which Rose, a fifteen-year-old girl who is training to be a nurse, travels to a small village by bus to visit her cousin Musonda and her family. The participants—all Vietnamese junior youth of various ages—learned words like “travel”, “arrive”, “greeted”, and so on. It gave me the idea that I should write a little bit more about my own travels of late, especially to and from China, so here’s yet another not-a-travelogue for you all to read.

After returning from Sapa in the mountainous Vietnamese northwest (look for a not-a-travelogue on that trip soon), my fellow travellers and I were greeted by appallingly hot weather back in the ninth level of Hell, uh, I mean the centre of the Earth, uh, I mean Hanoi. Still battling an infuriating air-conditioner cold, I spent the next few days resting up and packing my bags again (more tightly this time) for a nine-day trip through Hong Kong, southern China and Macau.  My schedule was fairly basic: after the flight in from Hanoi, three days in Hong Kong; then a train to Guangzhou, China to spend another three days; then a bus to Macau for another three days, after which I would fly back to Hanoi and settle down for a long nap—or a long quarantine, judging by the H1N1 paranoia. Arrival in Hong Kong greeted us with the odd spectacle of infrared images or ourselves displayed on a coloured screen, allowing security staff to weed out those who were running temperatures of 38 C and above—if your face showed up in oranges and reds, you were fit for the infirmary. (Sneaky H1N1 carriers used fever-reducing drugs to circumvent this system, giving Vietnam its first few cases in June.)

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shoe city

siang in shoe heavengreetings from behind the Great Firewall! At this very moment, I’m coming to you live from the city of Guangzhou, known as the shoe wholesaling capital of China (the world?). there are literally thousands of shops here, all packed into huge buildings and complexes, selling shoes at wholesale prices for buyers that come from just about anywhere in the world. it figures that someone who intensely dislikes shopping for shoes (such as me) would pick a place to go that is internationally famous for selling shoes. isn’t that right? of course it’s right. and that’s okay.

all sarcasm aside, after several months hanging around Vietnam, I’m taking a break for a short trip into China—I figured, why not swing into China for a week since I’m in this part of the world anyway? So I hopped onto a flight from Hanoi to Hong Kong this past Friday, spent a few days hanging around in HK getting hawked by Indian tailors, and just yesterday grabbed a train up the Pearl River to Guangzhou, one of China’s bustling commercial cities. I… don’t know how I feel about China yet. I haven’t been here long enough, and I’m still under the shock of arrival. The first thing I noticed is that I can’t read any of the signs, since they’re all in Chinese (duh). Since I’m visiting a friend while I’m here, I got him to teach me some of the more common Chinese characters, and now at least I know the difference between, say, the Heavenly Cloud Five Gold Shop and the regular Five Gold Shop. (????) I managed to at least buy a bottle of cola and get back some change in Chinese yuan, which is something.

uh, so yeah, shoes. right now I’m in the downtown part of Guangzhou, which is stuffed to the cracks with shoes, shoes spilling out of every street corner basically. they’re gathered here from many different factories in the area and in China as a whole, shown to international buyers, and shipped off by the crateful to shoe stores in Canada, Japan, America, Australia, wherever, you name it. I’m not especially knowledgeable about wholesaleing but these people seem to have gotten it down to an exact science, or rather, made it into a bustling national enterprise. No wonder China’s economy is doing so well. It’s just too bad I’m not so crazy about shoes—if they were wholesaleing, say, smurfs or something that’d be pretty awesome. I’d pay to visit a smurf wholesaler. there must be one in China, I can feel it. Smurf City, here I come.