The nine dragons and a hint of luck.
I don't think I have got the slightest clue about what I'm doing. Sitting in this four-walled hostel room with the toilet functioning as the shower and tiny Chinese people shouting in the corridors, I feel like I simply cannot imagine what the following year will be like. The past few days of my life have been incredibly exhausting and at the same time extremely rewarding. I have experienced more than I had originally imaged I would. Numbfounded and happy - the feeling of grandeur overcame me.
Phase I: Imatra-Vantaa-Milan-Hong Kong
Departing home gave me an anxious feeling. The last two hours before stepping onto to the train to Vantaa were painfully slow and I'm more than grateful for my parents who took me and Maria out for lunch. It's comforting to eat good food in great company. The departure itself was sort of relieving with a few tears shed and some waves of goodbye waved. I had a feeling throughout the whole train journey that I hadn't experienced the actual feeling of departure and longing yet, and now four days later, it seems that I was right.
My cousin took me and Maria into a generous custody into her nearly luxurious apartment, splashed out magnificent festivities with champaigne glasses flying mid-air and food tasting as if a god had descended onto our plates. I had feelings I might not sleep too well because of anxiety but I honestly slept like a baby with a thumb curled into his mouth. Morning arrived with a taste of excitement and the mildly tired, yet genuinely happy smile on Maria's face when we stepped outside into the brisk morning air was unforgettable.
I don't know if every story needs to start off with a dilemma to be good but it would seem likely. Ours did, to say the least. I still don't know who or what to blaim but currently I'm leaning towards our own stupidity, the travel agency's salesman or fate but regardless, the fact was that we did not have a visa for entering China. We had a flight that would take us no further than Hong Kong and half an hour to decide whether to go to Hong Kong without the slighest idea of what to do there or wait for the travel agency to open their customer service and ask for help. We took our chances and boarded the plane to Milan, from which we would continue to Hong Kong.
After a few phone calls and some moments of despair and helplessness with the help of our travel agency we managed to change our flight plan and as the lacking information about the visa was partly their fault, they made the changes for free and booked for us a night in a hotel because we had lost our booking in Shanghai. Everything turned out quite right after all, and after a moderately long 20-hour session of travelling, we made it to Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Because of troubles with obtaining the visa, we were forced into spending the weekend in Hong Kong. Technically, it turned out to be a happy accident because we managed to get a resort that was originally on the flight plan only as a transit airport.
The hectic city life of Kowloon made an impact on us and the masses of people tramping the streets were a sight for sore eyes. The tiny boutiques, the little restaurants and the puny people. I feel like a giant here, to be honest, with my head above the mass of dark-haired heads. The glowing street signs being the manifestation of the rush of city, we guided ourselves throughout the maze of lanes and streets to a building crammed full of hostels and found our own. The prices were relatively high, considering the prices in Shanghai, but it's not like we had too many options.
Eating with sticks was never my forté but I think I've done a decent job – haven't asked for a fork even once. The local kitchen is somewhat one-sided, even though there are hundreds, thousands of different dishes. It's just that the majority of them are pork, and when you see a butchered pig on a table, ready to be cleaved into pieces, it really does wonders to your appetite.
The local markets were of great interest to Maria, and how it made me smile when she grabbed my camera and started photographing everything from fruits to towels to flowers. We also visited the famous Yuen Po Street Bird Garden with a vast variety of birds in cages – a whopping 3000 cages to choose a bird from. We picked none.
With my recent (accidental) culinary experience of pig intestine, I think we're ready for Shanghai. Maria is currently packing the remnants of her travelling gear into her backpack and I can't help but to wonder how two people can travel so lightly after knowing each other only for a year. I guess some things were just meant to happen, like our unexpected excursion into the city of the nine dragons, Kowloon.