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Shenzhen → Hong Kong → Shanghai → Toronto
singapore sunset
amw
It's been a while since i've done an in-progress travelogue. At some point i got into the habit of updating once a week or so when i found some free time in the evenings. I think on-the-road updates are more pleasantly meandering...

I am currently sitting in Hong Kong airport waiting for my flight to Shanghai. I knew i'd have a while here because the ferries from Shekou aren't regular enough to cut it fine. No problem. Today is a travel day; i know i'll be either waiting or in some vehicle or other for 30+ hours. I quite enjoy idly sitting around in departure lounges just watching the world go by.

The weather here has cleared up a lot and it's a beautiful clear day. The ferry was quick and painless, and it was awesome to be on the water again. When i arrived at Hong Kong airport i got a nice surprise of a HK$120 cash rebate on my airplane ticket because the boat takes you straight through to the departure gates without ever entering Hong Kong proper. Sweet deal. Unfortunately, the asshole security guards trashed my toothpaste because the tube was a hair over 100mL, so HK$35 of my rebate went down the drain immediately.

I spent the rest on brunch at a Malaysian chain called Oldtown White Coffee. It reminded me how much i miss my favorite thing about living in Australia - Malaysia/Singapore/Indonesia cuisine. I also had an awesome moment where my knowledge of Chinese actually helped me find a veganish dish. Hong Kong cuisine is notoriously meat-y, as are all the American-style sports bars and fast food joints that are the same in every airport in the world. But at this little halal coffee shop i noticed the Chinese characters 素汤面 (sù tāng miàn), which mean vegetarian soup noodle. The English name was something exotic-sounding like "Javanese Mee" - it didn't give the slightest hint of the content. It turned out to be a lo mein style noodle in a sweet curry soup with fried potato chunks. There was also half a boiled egg in there, and the stock almost certainly had some shrimp paste, but in the context of all the other options, it was a decent choice. It's nice not to have to rely on half-assed menu translations now.

Next stop, Shanghai.

-o-

Jeez, the sun sets so early up here. I mean, it's no Berlin, but the departure lounge is facing east - out to sea - and it is mighty gray already at 5pm. Unfortunately there isn't an international transfer facility in Shanghai, so i got my third passport stamp of the day. Hong Kong has meanwhile learned that passport stamps are stupid so they just give you a slip of paper that you are free to use to wipe your ass with after clearing customs. As if there would ever be a toilet in Hong Kong that didn't have toilet paper. But, you know, it's all on the computer anyway, right? The mainland is less lenient. I have something like 20 Chinese stamps in my passport for every time i took the subway across the border and back.

It's remarkable how much i prefer the mainland vibe to Hong Kong, though. Even the airport is better. Sure, there are no multikulti Malaysian coffee shops, but it's comfortable and well-planned and there is free hot water and the security aren't grumpy asshats. I always get the impression mainlanders are friendlier people in general, though judging by the experiences of other tourists and expats i am in the minority with that opinion.

Anywho, the most important thing is that i am drinking a beer. I have no idea how to tackle jet lag on this flight. It's 5pm now, and i will be arriving around 6pm at the other end. Do i sleep on the flight? If so i will be exactly reversed. Do i sleep half of the flight? God only knows. I will be a mess for my appointment at the Chinese embassy. I hope i just need to drop papers and that's that.

Did i tell you guys i am still married? Yeah, so that divorce thing reared its ugly head again when i posted on Facebook that i was coming back to Toronto briefly. J jumped on the post and emailed me to say she still hadn't done the final step, which 5 years ago we had agreed she would do. After some back and forth she admitted that one reason she hadn't done it was because it felt so final and emotionally she wasn't ready. It's not a big deal - i haven't filed any Canadian tax returns since i emigrated, so it's not like either of us have to worry about a dangling marriage messing that up - but it does kind of annoy me that every time i mention i will be in Canada i get another email saying "oh btw i haven't finalized the divorce so can we do it together". It feels like a waste of a "holiday" to spend time going to the family court. Especially given that uncontested divorces are specifically supposed to be filed by just one party. I mean, that's the whole point. And we already agreed she would do it since she actually lives there. But, sigh. I am trying not to be an asshole about it. So that's the other thing waiting for me on Thursday. Or maybe Friday. Or whatever. Good times.

Oh, it's 5:30pm and night has fallen and apparently we are boarding. See you on the flipside.

-o-

It's 7am and i have been in bed sneakily reading wiki pretending to sleep for 2 hours. Who am i kidding? This jet lag is going to suck something wicked. At least i slept about 6 hours straight through.

I decided to sleep about 4 hours on the plane and then stay up. I read Kameron Hurley's The Stars are Legion, which was really interesting. I've decided i enjoy her books for their unconventional settings, but i still find her characters boring. I guess that's the classic sci-fi problem for you. I also bought the new Expanse book which has a vanilla setting but compelling interpersonal drama, so perhaps it will balance out when i take that Greyhound to Windsor.

Toronto is so ... small after spending time in Shenzhen. I picked up a SIM card at the airport, and a rechargable transit card - thank Christ the city finally got their shit together to do that one - then rode the mostly empty train to Union Station where i got a mostly empty subway to Osgoode and walked the mostly empty streets to Chinatown. Which was mostly empty. It's disconcerting seeing all the shops closed and noone around at 9pm, like it's some kind of ghost town. But then i remember that's exactly what it's like here.

I got into my hotel and she said they couldn't book me in unless i had a credit card. I don't have a fucking credit card. I haven't had once since my German bank got taken over by another bank and they didn't issue me a replacement. And my Canadian bank's credit card expired a couple years ago. I have a great rant stored up about the recent spate of anti-China news stories that are trying to paint China's "social credit" as an Orwellian nightmare. They are so fucking out-of-touch it's ridiculous. Clearly written by people who have never experienced life without credit in Canada or the US, where land-owners routinely use the credit system to deny plebs access to basic services like a roof over their heads. I'll leave that rant for another day. After trying to offer hundreds of dollars in cash as a security deposit, which was refused, eventually i got them to accept my German debit card as a credit card so i could get into the room i had already booked.

The room is hideously huge. I cannot even. I forgot how wasteful North Americans are with space. It's probably as big as my entire apartment in Berlin. They asked me if i needed a parking space when i checked in. A parking space! In the city! What the Christ crazy world have i come to?

I left my room and walked into the first restaurant that was open. Because evidently most restaurants aren't open in Toronto at 9:30pm on a weeknight. Fucking hell. It was called 中国兰州牛肉拉面 (zhōng guó lán zhōu niú ròu lā miàn), which is basically just a very long way to describe what they make. In the mainland the same sort of place is labeled 兰州拉面 - literally Lanzhou pull noodle. They usually sell variations on halal beef noodle soup. This one also had 油泼刀削面 (yóu pō dāo xiāo miàn), which means oil splash knife peel noodle. I generally eat 油泼扯面 (yóu pō chě miàn) or oil splash pull noodle once a week or so, so i figured this would hit the spot. It did. Tasted almost the same as it does in the mainland, which isn't hard to do since it's basically just fresh noodle with bok choy, garlic, chili and sesame oil. Main difference was the bowl here had twice as much food in it. Oh yeah. I forgot the serving size problem here too. Dear Lord, i am going to get fat as hell over the next 10 days if this keeps up.

The best thing is that the weather here is almost the exact same as the weather i left behind in Shenzhen. There are snow banks on the ground, but it's above freezing, which is a massive stroke of luck. It will give me enough time to buy a decent hoodie and maybe some gloves or something.

If i can get my head together.

I am spectacularly tired for having slept what theoretically should be an almost normal night. And i am definitely very culture-shocked. Visiting North America after living in Europe for a while is weird, but after China it is Very Fucking Weird. Cities here feel so quiet and spread out and inefficient. Maybe once i get out there in the daytime i will perk up. If the fucking sun ever rises. It's 7:30am. What the hell. I need coffee. So much coffee.