Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nanning07/08/2011
How spoilt we have been in the last couple of weeks, since my last update. While we were in Lijiang back at the start of our trip in China we met a lovely girl called Martina. We only met her over a "family dinner" the night before we left Lijiang but she offered to let us stay in her flat in Shanghai when we got there, as she had a spare room and would be away anyway. Well, having been staying in hostels and hotels for over 6 months staying in a real flat with a real kitchen and sitting room - what a treat! It was a lovely flat in an area of Shanghai known as the French Concession and we loved having the fridge, space, sofa and tv so much we spent quite a lot of our time just enjoying the flat and being able to cook our own food etc. We did also go and see some of the city.
Upon arriving Shanghai seemed to us a very pleasent change from Beijing and the other large cities in China. It is still large and busy and noisy but it was much cleaner and some how more organised then Beijing. The skyscrapers we saw on a night time river cruise and when wondering around the city, are impressive and strangely beautiful. The people seemed to be a bit different from those in Beijing too, at least the girls skirts got longer, hot pants were no longer mandatory for any 20something girl and shoes got flatter (the high heals some girls "walk" in in China really needs to be seen to be believed).
After a week in Shanghai it was time to head South again and another long over night bus trip, this time to Guangzhou, close to the border with Hong Kong where we immediately (after a couple of taxi journeys and a McDonalds) got onto a bus to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong we were meeting a friend of Seth's parents, Nick, who had very kindly offered to let us stay in his flat that was still being done up. Another luxary and again we felt spoilt by the hospitality of people we hardly know ourselves. Nick was fantastic at telling us all about Hong Kong, pointing us in the right directions, taking us out for wonderful food and generally making sure we enjoyed all there is to enjoy in Hong Kong. We looked up at the city at night from the comfort of a company boat with Nick and his friends, and we looked down over it from the top of the peak on Hong Kong Island after a morning walk up. The combination of the skyscrapers and hills and water in Hong Kong really do make it (in our eyes at least) a particularly special place. It was also very nice to see some reminders of home, like buses that look very much like the ones we get back at home, and lots of familiar food and drinks on the menus. Even crossing the road reminded us of home - traffic actually stopped when pedestrians were crossing, and of course they drive on the "correct" side of the road!
After a few days in Hong Kong, enjoying the shopping, city, parks, wine and beer we collected our visas to let us back into China and it was time to head off again, this time to go Nanning near the Vietnam border to arrange our visas for the next part of our trip. The journey to Nanning was surprisingly painless, getting a bus first back to Guangzhou, then managing to get a ticket to Nanning just 10 minutes before the bus left. The only down side (other then missing seeing our friends Jimmy and Casey who happened to be in Guangzhou too) was waking up at 2am and discovering we were in Nanning - we hadn't expected to arrive until about 10am but unfortunately our guide book had mislead us again (it happens a lot with the Chinese Lonely Planet unfortunately. Be warned!). Luckily a friendly man from the bus managed to get us into a taxi and negotiated a good rate for us to get us to an area where we could find a hotel, and after a few false starts we found a room for the night. It was a very basic room and a reminder of how life on the road really is, a reminder we needed after our recent luxuary appartments. We are now in a slightly nicer hotel and our passports are in another visa application processing queue so we will be here for a few more days. Nanning doesn't seem to have much to offer but I'm sure we will find enough to keep us out of trouble while we wait, then onto Vietnam - assuming the visas are approved...