And then came the news that a second typhoon was tearing through Philippines and would hit on the weekend.
Bad news for me - i was near the end of my 30 day run and needed to duck over to Hong Kong to refresh my passport stamp. I headed out first thing Saturday, because the news wasn't sure when the next typhoon would hit. Once i got over to Hong Kong (about an hour on the subway then thirty minutes through customs) and saw how sunny it was over there i figured i had the afternoon at least.
As is now my usual reaction to the place, i felt sick to the stomach at how ridiculously expensive everything was - starting with the train. I decided to get out at a stop called Tai Po Market, since it was close to the water. I wandered about looking for something decent to eat and failed. Guangdong cuisine is so uninspiring to me after spending time in the mainland. It's all the stuff you know from Chinese restaurants overseas, but yeah... that's pretty bland. Plus pretty much nothing is vegetarian, not even the greens. I resigned myself to eating a pork bun - Hong Kong's greatest culinary gift to the world. I also had a couple of great coffees, then took a walk along the waterfront.
Goddamn, Hong Kong's coast is beautiful. Shenzhen is nice enough, but let's not pretend it isn't mostly just a muddy-ass mangrove. Hong Kong has gorgeous deep blue harbors. Almost makes the cost of living seem worthwhile.
After getting mighty sunburnt i decided to put on my bandana and then get more sunburnt climbing a mountain i saw from the point. As i walked i realized the mountain i wanted to climb was much further away and much taller than it looked from a distance. So i filed it away for a future visa run and switched direction to a closer hill. It took a few false starts - following overgrown trails that ended in old family graves or rusted gates covered in vines - but eventually i found a path that led up into one of the main country parks in the New Territories.
Unlike the urban mountain paths i have walked in mainland China, i barely saw a soul all afternoon. I suspect this is more because it was hideously hot out then because no one goes climbing in Hong Kong. Something i should mention about Chinese mountains is that the paths are not gravel-packed switchbacks like they are in the west - they are usually a series of very steep stairs that destroy your calf muscles. The distance is shorter, but it's a more intense workout. It feels awesome to reach the top. Going down is far less awesome, it takes a lot of focus and balance and it's easy to forget to take in the view.
I popped out on an overgrown path between two luxury gated communities. Because fucking Hong Kong. Also, thanks to the typhoon that had scattered branches and leaves all over the paths, my route was blocked by a fallen tree that had also taken down a power line. Hell if i was going to climb all the way back up the mountain, though, so i just made peace with God and climbed over the trunk. I didn't die. Once i got back to the main road turns out i was a fair walk out from the Tai Po village, but heading back along the road was a good way to cool off.
What was less cool was coming back over the border. Both leaving Hong Kong and entering China i was asked to confirm my name. In China they asked me to crack a smile. My paranoia made me think i was no longer passing and would face some awkward gender questions, but perhaps that's just standard operating procedure at the Lok Ma Chau/Futian checkpoint. My other two land crossings were Shenzhen Bay Bridge and Lo Wu/Luohu and there no one batted an eye. Thanks to dipping a toe in the seedy underbelly of Shenzhen the last couple weeks, i have become a little more wise to the kind of sketchy business that goes back and forth across this border, so i guess i can't blame them for being thorough, but man if i had been denied i would've been in a state - covered in sweat and stuck in Hong Kong with my backpack and health insurance in a hotel room on the other side. Oop.
It was a relief to get back to mainland China, to be honest. People are a lot more cheerful and loud and fun over here. In Hong Kong people seem to be more grumpy, or perhaps just thoroughly self-absorbed. Plus, you know, shit's fucking expensive. I grabbed a few beers on my walk back from the subway and met up with a very drunk local (born and raised in Shenzhen but still "from Fujian" because that's how Chinese families work) and pointed her in the right direction before collapsing into bed myself.
I slept poorly.
Overnight and today we got clipped by the now-downgraded second typhoon. It just dumped a shit-ton of rain and blew some umbrellas inside out. I am used to it now. Wear shorts and sandals, slosh my way down the street, buy noodles, slosh back. Most of the day i just lazed around in bed because i am so exhausted. It's gotta be the sunburn. I will have to cram all of my weekend homework tomorrow morning. Ah well, it's not like i have anything else on. Deeper journal entries can wait. I just bought me another 30 days.