Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Looking through Guido’s Eyes - Part 1

Looking through Guido’s Eyes

Guido is a friend of twenty years who is twenty years younger than me. He is well travelled in Europe and English-speaking parts of the world but has never been to Asia and has never been to the tropics so his reactions to what he sees in my part of the world should be interesting. He is also a very curious naturalist.

So where to go?

Obviously start with the store of, now, nine storeys of shit that nobody could possibly want to buy. There must be about 500 shops in this one arcade. I underestimated the man. Within ten minutes he wanted to buy two sparkly (and I mean sparkly) purses shaped like a hare and a goldfish – costing about 50 euros each.   Fortunately his wife, his mother and his sister are not entirely devoid of taste so he had no-one to buy them for.

Fifteen minutes and three floors later he decided that he must have a lamp shaped like pak choi (Chinese cabbage) being towed by a horse. He won’t dare take it home so I have a suspicion that he will go back and buy it and it will end up in my apartment.

The fungus shops were a bit of an eye-opener. Basically these are for any variety of dried mushroom-like things in huge bags. Essentially it a wholesale market targeting restaurants and hotels but if you want a lesson in the variety of stuff that Chinese eat people go this is the place.

We had imbibed a small amount of alcohol so the next day began with lunch with Jennifer and Qin Gang. Lunch was excellent. Most of you won’t believe me but the mushroom and tofu dishes were generally agreed to be the best.

This turned into an afternoon visit to an “old village”. Most of this old village was, of course, built last week. When G & I suggested it we hadn’t known that Jennifer and Qin had been many times before so J & Q G wandered off and left Guido and I to wander round.

WTF is this? A bloody theme park with illuminated fairy grottos. But we started going into a building or two or three or four and in fact there was lots of old stuff – mainly bronze ware going back 3,500 years ago but also porcelain, wood carvings, paintings, calligraphy and jade ornaments. Actually rather good. Guido was rather taken by a Bodhisattva with a Jesus like halo.

Guido was taken with the balance. Keep the kids happy with fish feeding and silly things to do whilst having a chance to look at a lot of interesting stuff. And you were paying for this balanced mixture.

We stopped for dinner in the middle of nowhere. G & I were probably the first “white” people in there for a year or few. The food wasn’t spectacular but it was the highlight of G’s day. He should get out more.

To Hong Kong.

7 million people in quite a small area – the most densely populated part of the world they claim. But there are some areas that are not developed. At all. So off we went looking for this. Fog on the mountain, roads not paths and that sort of stuff conspired against us. But Guido is a naturalist and an ace spotter so we saw lots of birdies – excellent. It is an indication of Guido’s travels that he had never seen black kites – which I have seen in several parts of the world.

Finally we escaped the urban sprawl and got out in the country. Guido is at his best at this time pointing out things I don’t notice and spotting things about a week before I would. We saw lots of stuff. At some later date I may update this blog after two events. We go back to Guangzhou to look up the bird book and when I am next outside mainland China so I can post to this blog.

We bussed around quite a lot in the afternoon/evening. G was not impressed by Stanley (a real HK tourist spot) but was impressed by the mountainous nature of the Island. I kept thinking “What happens if the brakes fail on this double-decker bus on these incredibly tight and twisty steep roads?”

We took the tram up to “The Peak.” This is 428 metres high so you look down on all the sky –scrappers. Well most of them. The IFC – 2 tower in Hong Kong is about level and there is a building in Kowloon (the name of which is unknown to me) that is higher than the peak. I thought about how much effort it took to create all the skyscrapers and roads in Hong Kong and it would all be gone in a few hundred years at most. Guido thought about geological time and how tiny all this stuff was. Such is the way that minds work.

Next was go to see the lady to get rid of our demons. The high spot of this was that she hit a piece of paper that with a slipper until it was knocked to pieces and then burnt it. There were other bits that were burnt, various incantations etc. Guido was fine but I am possessed by an evil spirit and it would cost 300 dollars to get rid of it. I like my spirit and declined.

Guido is really taken with all the food here. I truly live in the food capital of the world with Hong Kong as a small satellite.

We are off mammal hunting in the mainland but I can’t post from there so you will only get the next instalment in a few months.

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