Chinese attractions and Re-entry 23 December 2014

On 15th December we departed mainland China for Hong Kong. In Hong Kong we found blue skies, warmth, normal toilets and QUEUING. I hadn’t expected mainland China to feel different, but it does.

A) It is definitely more expensive than the mainland

B) People queue. There is no pushing or shoving especially on the metro system.

C) The toilet cubicles have western toilets and in Disneyland HK there was one squat toilet – for which there was a queue.

D) There is no spitting. Above the bins in the metro stations there are signs “No Spitting. Spitting Spreads Germs.

E) Once you are in an attraction, there are no hidden costs.

And Martin and I are now parents of a 6-year-old.

To have been in HK for three weeks over the Christmas break would have been extortionate, so we broke the holiday up. HK, Shenzhen, HK and Sanya. 

Re-entering China from Shenzhen on 21st December highlighted to me all the things that irritate me about our host country. At the border of HK we queued like good citizens, we crossed the river and hit Chinese Immigration where queuing went out the window. Elbows and bags were used effectively to secure us a place in the queue to ensure no queue jumpers. But nothing quite prepares you for the spitting. That noise that comes from the back of the throat as the phlegm/spit is hurled out of the mouth and onto the pavement, the road or bin if you are lucky. Never a tissue. People open bus windows to gob on the road (gob – Northern Irish vernacular). And it goes quite far, not that I have tested how far my spit would go, but when I see people spit I am amazed at how far it travels.

Shenzhen has been a city where we have had some down time. We haven’t used the metro to travel but walked instead. HK has been our proper city break, travelling on the metro, visiting the science museum, The Peak for Eleanor’s birthday, Disneyland 10858586_10154979470465249_7673989565038592341_n.jpg

the day before the birthday and the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island.

We left HK on 21st and we return on Christmas Eve.

In Shenzhen we went to Window of the World and have seen the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, the Acropolis, Colosseum, Kyoto Imperial Palace, New York skyline, Grand Canyon and the Pyramids all in scale miniature. Impressive, and there were also rides to go on as well. A bit like legoland, without the lego. Eleanor was free to go into the park, but then for everything else from the monorail to the ice sculpture park you have to pay extra and you also have to be 1.2m tall to ride the rides. Considering she had done  Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, two of the scariest and fastest rides in Disneyland HK and Paris I didn’t think it was particularly fair to strop her going on a log flume, not when, if it is on grounds of health and safety, she can ride behind me on an e-bike without a helmet, where seatbelts aren’t compulsory in cars etc. However, we had a perfectly good day. Today, we braced ourselves and went to a zoo.

Some of the enclosures were adequate, but most were severely lacking in space and greenery. Yesterday at Window of the World the New York skyline still have the twin towers. So I tackled terrorism with our 6-year-old. I had already explained pickpockets to her and so the people who had hijacked the planes on that fateful day became the pickpockets of people’s lives. We had to answer many questions about the people on the top floors not using lifts to escape.

Today we tackled animal rights when we wouldn’t let her buy the food to feed elephants, giraffes, zebras, bears, wolves and more. Eleanor fed the giraffes at Longleat, a safari park in a stately home in the South West of England, and yet it never made me feel uncomfortable. Today, however, we saw brown bears being fed sweet potato and them begging for it on their hind legs with front paws together, almost in an Oliver Twist holding the bowl way. We saw wolves being teased with meat being dangled from a fishing rod, the child on the other end of the rod then jerked the meat away when the wolves jumped for it. Tigons and Ligers, rare as they may be, and panthers pacing up and down their narrow compounds Eleanor recognised it was unfair and cruel.

There were also camel and elephant rides – and given that the donkey rides in Weymouth make me feel uncomfortable we weren’t about to that in a zoo. We gave the orangutan a wide berth too, but all in all it was a different kind of day. We did go to a water show and saw seals and dolphins do tricks, not much different to elephants giving rides, but Eleanor enjoyed a seal giving her a kiss and she kissed a dolphin. That has got to be a once in a lifetime experience and I am sure in the future she will question it. At least she is now informed about animal welfare. Having visited Longleat so often it made us forgetful that these are rare animals, and not everyone sees them. But no matter these animals wherever they are in the world need to be looked after.

We also need to instil in Eleanor that seeing pandas is quite a rare thing. We want to go to Chengdu (tick!) but today we and indeed other people around us acted as if it entirely normal to see a panda. We didn’t make it to Edinburgh Zoo to see their pandas, but we saw a pair in France a couple of years ago, and the rush and awe of the public seeing them keeps us in check that this is not a usual occurrence.

Back to HK tomorrow for Christmas. HK has been great fun. Very diverse and Eleanor has even commented that there are more “white people” than in Suzhou. For me, there is much more to do – and it involves the markets and a little more shopping. I won’t do the markets this time, but I am already planning the next trip. Girls only!

HK has also dawned on me that I am no longer a woman of independent means, so poor Martin has had to cope with a sometimes grumpy and slightly upset wife. But Christmas is looming, it doesn’t feel like Christmas and again I feel like we are in a bubble, but I have an early Christmas present and I am going to go shopping. We will have turkey on Christmas Day and then we are going to see the Nutcracker ballet. Eleanor has a few presents to open and knows that Santa will stop in Suzhou rather than delivering everything to HK.

On Boxing Day we go to Hainan, China’s tropical island.

That will present its own problems because the daughter of a geography teacher didn’t check the scale of any map… we are flying into Haikou, which is north Hainan. We are staying in the south of Hainan in Sanya which is 300 miles away… and is not just a short taxi ride away. This has been a mistake that has been retold many times…

It really only dawned on me when I looked at the dots that are Macau and Hong Kong on the map compared to the flippin’ great big island that is Hainan. Thankfully there appears to be a train and that Martin booked return flights from Sanya to Shanghai. Phew…