Trains from Hong Kong to Nanning, Guangxi, China

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Moscow (Russia) -> [Trans-siberian or Trans-mongolian Express] -> Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) -> [Trans-mongolian Express] -> Beijing (China) -> Hong Kong (SAR, China) -> Guangzhou (China) -> Nanning (Guangxi, China)

MTR from Hong Kong to GuangzhouFarewell hugs before I dashed down the Peak to the MTR intercity through train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou.

Hong Kong train snacksComplimentary water from Watson’s, and I packed a little bite to eat, to be washed down with a soya bean drink.

sleeper replacement?Sleeper replacement people, one of whom (out of the frame of this photo) was taking a photo of us on the train passing him.

"Harmonious numberautomatic ticket office"At the Guangzhou East Railway Station, loved the Ching-lish. 🙂

Guangzhou East Railway Station

Guangzhou East Railway StationLoads of red everywhere! Even the digital signs were red. Also, chain-smoking indoors.

train from Guangzhou East Railway Station to Nanning
sleeper train from Guangzhou East Railway Station to Nanning

restaurant car, sleeper train from Guangzhou East Railway Station to Nanning
red-cooked beef with rice,  restaurant car, sleeper train from Guangzhou East Railway Station to NanningOn the sleeper train from Guangzhou East Railway Station to Nanning, Guangxi, the restaurant car provided a cheap but incredibly tasty and filling dinner.

train attendant, sleeper train from Guangzhou East Railway Station to Nanning
Later, babies were given milk (a train attendant went past giving milk powder samples – see the 2008 milk powder scandal and then the contamination of Fonterra’s milk).

Early the next morning, we were in Nanning, Guangxi.

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Authenticity and Anti-authoritarianism, Hong Kong SAR, China

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Moscow (Russia) -> [Trans-siberian or Trans-mongolian Express] -> Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) -> [Trans-mongolian Express] -> Beijing (China) -> Hong Kong (SAR, China)

I loved how much Hong Kong was like the set of Blade Runner, with its plethora of neon signs filling the space above the streets. Hong Kong (Kowloon)

Hong Kong (Kowloon)

Residential flats in Kowloon too spoke of the economy of air space. Nothing was wasted for something as unprofitable as a balcony: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon)

On the ground, shops were sub-sub-sub-divided so as to spawn tiny lots crammed with goods and tools of trade: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon)

in markets, boxes and sacks of dried meat and vegetables and mushrooms and noodles, unable to be confined to the shop, spilled out onto the corridors: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) It was as if empty space abhored a vacuum and any unused surface, even a door, quickly attracted posters of every description and size and colour: Hong Kong (Kowloon)

On the streets, signs, not content to be in one language, were bilingual, making even empty streets look busy: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) Everywhere, the hustle and bustle and noise and mass of goods clamouring for attention: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) in the flower market, Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon)in the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, etc.

And Hong Kong seemed authentic, in the sense that none of these markets existed mainly for the benefit of tourists. In fact, one of the bird shop owners stood outside his shop defensively, stick in hand, once a tour-bus of French people descended, using it to tap away professed animal-lovers who were simultaneously commenting on the sad lives of caged feathered beings, and shocking the same poor birds with their camera flashes.

But perhaps there was a different sort of inauthenticity, said some commentators, with reference to the Occupy Hong Kong or Umbrella Revolution. This was the latest in one-upmanship, they said. Ever since the beginning of human society, everyone has desired to show how much better they are than everyone else. A few decades ago, you trumped others with branded clothes and expensive goods. But that has since become quite vulgar. Later, animal rights and human rights advocacy were how you demonstrated your (moral) superiority. Presently it seems, political martyrdom is the thing. If the good of society was the underlying reason, there might have been a better way of being heard and changes being made without a whole lot of inconvenience to everyone else (money lost, commuters who have to deal with congestion, police who have to work long hours), but where’s the self-glory in that? Better to get world recognition and the pats on the back, than to be an anonymous contributer to the improvement of the common good.

I met some Hong Kong students on my travels who were jealous that their friends had been able to rush home to be “part of history”. (Full details, photos, vidz, were on social media, with many “Like”s.) When asked what this “full democracy” was that they wanted, they admitted they didn’t know the details.

It was difficult for me to comprehend how one could agitate for something unknown. Lemmings come to mind. Thought these questions were worth asking:

  • What is “full” or “true” democracy?
  • If this can be defined, has any country anywhere ever practiced that?
  • If so, what were the advantages and disadvantages of that, and how specific were they to the particular situation of that country?
  • Was there ever “full democracy” under the British?
  • What were the terms of the handover?
  • What does “universal sufferage” mean?
  • How differently should it apply to Hong Kong, not an autonomous state, but part of the People’s Republic of China?

But the Hong Kong students grew defensive,”This is the only chance we’ve got! We need to show them!” But what exactly do you want to show them?
actors playing policemen, Hong Kong (Kowloon)not real policemen; actors taking a break from filming

I wondered if one’s position on the social ladder was now determined in terms of how much one could boast of one’s anti-authoritarianism. If the official position was capitalism, then socialism or communism would agitated for, and vice versa. Nothing at all praise-worthy about that.

And meanwhile, the camps themselves became quite the tourist attraction, many visitors taking selfies/wefies with empty tents. Protest Theme Park in the offing?:

Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon)
Past the protest camps, Tim Ho Wan in Mongkok was quiet when we arrived. We were ushered to a table immediately and made quick work of the concise menu:

Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon)

Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon) Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon) Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon) Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon)“Do you think some of the protestors might come to this one Michelin star restaurant for dim sum?”

Why not, I thought. It would only seem incongruous because modern society has somehow conflated authenticity with anti-authoritarianism, anti-capitalism and being on a lower tax-payer scale. So even if yum cha at Tim Ho Wan was affordable generally, patronising a place mentioned in the Michelin Guide would have smacked of selling out to an Institution. Uncomfortable with the lack of clarity of thought.

Surely there is no inherent virtue in either eating one’s dinner in one’s crowded workplace:

men eating in a Chinese medicinal shop. Hong Kong (Kowloon)
instead of on the balcony of an apartment on The Peak, with a clear view of the city:

view from an apartment in The Peak, Hong Kong (Kowloon)or spending money supporting emerging artists at PMQ Arts Hub

PMQ, Hong Kong (Kowloon)instead of, say, on a Geisha brew:

Hong Kong (Kowloon)
Hong Kong (Kowloon)No. And perhaps they are equally inauthentic, for

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

PS: if anyone was looking for an English-speaking church in Hong Kong, I’d recommend Ambassador International Church Hong Kong – observed John Percival to be a faithful preacher.

Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Moscow (Russia) -> [Trans-siberian or Trans-mongolian Express] -> Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) -> [Trans-mongolian Express] -> Beijing (China) -> Hong Kong (SAR, China)

Walked into the 北京西站 (Beijing West Railway Station) and purchased a ticket just the day before I was supposed to depart for Hong Kong (or 九龍 or Kowloon). No credit cards accepted so happily, I had enough Chinese renminbi. The entrance to the departure lounge would not have been easy to spot if I hadn’t just been next door at one of those ubiquitous places selling instant-noodles-in-a-tub and assorted drinks.

From there, the usual security checks and immigration controls, then out the other side, just one platform and the Z97 Sleeper Train that would take me to Hong Kong.
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong KongIt was a neat, clean, new train,
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kongwith temperature and sound controls, some movies on repeat,
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kongdisposable slippers,
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kongand a very sanitary attached bathroom.

Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong KongThe toilets operated on vacuum flush, so you were never indisposed even at station stops.

I shared my compartment with a father of one who spent most of his time with his wife and kid and returned only to sleep late at night, disappearing when I went to brush my teeth in the morning.

Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong KongThe Chinese restaurant car was well-patronised, and the food, wok-fried a la minute was tasty.

Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
H had sent me away with instant coconut-flavoured milk tea with nata de coco bits – a nice sugar boost.

Outside, the view changed from remote fluorescent-lit train stations to bucolic countryside scenes with atmospheric mist:
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong Kong
Z97 Sleeper Train from Beijing West Railway Station to Kowloon, Hong KongThen, the foilage changed to banana trees and sugarcane, and before we could determine where the border between mainland China and its newest territory had been, we were in Hong Kong.