Sunday, April 17, 2005

Reconnecting with China

The days of my vacation are almost ending. The mind does learn new tricks – RESILIENT I think is the best term. When I arrived, I couldn’t wait to go back to KSA. Now that my time is over, I wish I could turn back time and start this month over.

It’s simply too late to go back and try to set meetings with people I would like to meet. I remember a few of them now and I have only REGRET. I can only hope I will have better plans next time.

Before I go on telling about the trip to Hongkong/Shenzhen, let me tell you about the FOOD, food being my main preoccupation:

Shenzhen, pm, April 10: It was the standard Cantonese lauriat, the one where there are eggs and tofu always served. We were hungry, so we wolfed that stuff down.

Shenzhen, am, April 11: Breakfast of mini-siopao, buchi, boiled egg, rice, noodles, and pancit with nothing in it, and oh, corn and peas. The only thing that bothered me was that the servings were a bit mixed up. Our tour group people were aghast.

Shenzhen, noon, April 11: There were a selection of tourist restaurants but our tour just went to one for the entire trip. Same lauriat. The food was better, but it was the same lauriat. No water served, so either buy the bottled type or drink the house tea. I drank the tea.

Shenzhen, pm, April 11: As I said, same restaurant. Same lauriat. It was starting to get cloying, but I hardly noticed. I noticed my tour group mates noticing my not noticing, since I was the only one eating heartily. What's the deal, I was thinking.

When we arrived in HK that evening, Lucky Me! Instant mami never tasted better.

Hong Kong, am, April 12: Breakfast was a cafeteria type affair in downtown Kowloon. Food was actually better.

Hong Kong, noon, April 12: We had an extended stay in the tour spot, and it was raining! We went to a restaurant instead of a McDonalds. It was a mystery since we were all going to Ocean Park. The lauriat sucked. The Shenzhen type was better. I wonder.

Hong Kong, pm, April 12: We were left to our own devices, so I finally had my first Western meal in HK at the Mongkok KFC in the night market. Fabulous, fabulous, but rice was unbelievably expensive!

Hong Kong, am, April 13: Breakfast was loaf of bread and side of luncheon meat.

Hmmm… just made me think… why should I bother writing more about the tour when I can go just go on about the food? Makes me hungry… (grabs a snack)

Think again if you are going on a package tour to China, if you have a thing about some creature comforts and of course, food. Otherwise, the trip was a real blast!

Since the low point of the trip was not making it (screwing up our departure dates, care of yours truly), we were considerably loose when we got to the airport. Cebu Pacific offers a backdoor to Hong Kong through Shenzhen (which is the closest mainland Chinese city apart from Macau). If you have a thing against old airliners, don’t take this flight.

Cebu Pacific openly admits it uses previously mothballed jets which they secure from suppliers with only the avionics updated … it was my first encounter with a DC-9. As with all CP flights, no-frills was the norm.

We arrived at the swanky Shenzhen airport and it was another example how badly the Philippines has been left behind – the Shenzhen airport was utilitarian but still a work of beauty. It took us forever to get out of immigration since somebody with an American passport joined our tour group and had to be sent home. Too bad for her.

We were met by our tour guide, a Shenzhen local named Fiona Yin who was as cute as a button. I’ve always been partial to ladies with Chinese features and here was the real article. Seeing a real Chinese person made me reconnect with my last sojourn to the PRC – a splendid eight days in Kunming and two more in Hong Kong in December 2002. I came off that trip very upbeat (good trip + nice Chinese girl who became my friend), but it’s been long past and that girl hasn’t written me back ever since I left for Saudi Arabia.

China is an object lesson for Filipinos and authoritarian government:
1) Filipinos don’t need ironclad laws, they just need ironclad and incorruptible law enforcement.
2) We already have a good thing in democracy, but we are just too lazy to learn about, and live by, the responsibilities of a democratic society.
3) We are in sore need of national direction which a strong government will provide – however, “strong” does not necessarily have to be repressive.

Okay, I’ll save the commentary and go straight to the action…

Cripes! It’s late and I have a morning appointment, have to go now…

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