The return of Mr Bamboo (again)

You could at least pretend to miss me.

I’ve been off on my hols, if you must know, and I’ve been off on them whether you want to know or not. I kept a holiday diary, but I’ll spare both you and me a word-for-word transcription.

It all starts with Shenzhen and the only time that my plane was roughly on time. I arrived at the airport a little ahead of Linda, and met her just as she was leaving the baggage claim area in Terminal A. We got the bus into town and then took a taxi to out hotel, which was nice and quiet, being away from the main road. Actually, it wasn’t that quiet because on the first night we were subject to the most prolonged torrential downpour I’ve ever experienced in my life. There was a little thunder and lightning to go with it, but far less than the following evening.

The next day we went to the dance contest at the stadium and watched the semi-finals of the international section. There were four or five different groups of dancers who would go through each type of dance for about a minute and a half while the judges, somehow, managed to score them. There was a very vociferous section of the audience up behind up to our left, but I wasn’t sure who they were cheering for.

After that, Linda wanted to go looking for dancing kit, but the first group of shops were more like the costume shops on 陕西街 in Chengdu than proper outfitters for serious dancers. We found our way to a dance school near the hotel, which had a few things on sale, and we then got sent to another place, which turned out to be a party venue where they also sold skirts and tops, but again, it wasn’t serious kit. This place was also tucked away at the end of a grubby passage in the Lucking Building, which was accessible via the tradesman’s entrance.

It wasn’t until the next day, when Linda and I went to Hong Kong that she found where the proper shops were – at the railway station just near the Lowu border crossing. Unfortunately, we were there at the wrong time. The shops in the railway station dance school didn’t open until 1pm and the shop in the bus station didn’t open till 11am; but at least Linda will know where to go in future.

Anyway, Hong Kong. I needed to buy books, but all Page One seemed to have was chick lit, ’tec fic’ set in New York or the Middle Ages, and Boy’s Own stuff featuring Steel Thrust or “Dirty” Peters. I was utterly uninspired, but did make a start by buying a couple of books by Stephen Clarke, and I eventually ended up with a few more volumes, but mostly fantasy. Page One is all right, but there are better bookshops in the world and it looks like I might have to put up with the excessive expense of postage from Amazon.

We went to Repulse Bay through a short-lived monsoon as we went over the hills to the other side of the island. There were some other people from Chengdu there as well, who eventually emerged from various sheltered spots when the rain mostly died away.

Linda went shopping for cosmetics and various other things, thus making the proprietors of Bonjour, Sasa, and Watsons very happy.

Actually, we were happy because the exchange rate is now HK1.20 to ¥1.00. Back in the old days the exchange rate was just slightly in favour of the Hong Kong dollar, but it meant that I paid a bit less for the new pair of shoes that I bought. I wasn’t planning to buy new shoes, but I did need a new pair and I think I would’ve spent the next six months wishing I’d bought them while I had the chance.

I also bought a new pair of pyjamas because the cyan(ish) pair I’ve had for, er, some time now, is kind of due for retirement. I’ve replaced them with a nice dark blue pair which I got from the M&S in Time Square when the range of options at the shop in Central turned out to be a little thin.

Speaking of M&S, I didn’t know that there was now a branch in Tsim Sha Tsui. I also didn’t know that HMV seems to have entirely vanished from Hong Kong. In that case, where does anyone go for CDs and DVDs or reputable provenance outside of those usually noisy shops just off Nathan Road?

We went back to Shenzhen Airport on the world’s worst signposted bus. We knew about the 330, but there was a sign pointing to an(other) airport bus (K568, if I remember correctly), which seemed to be in the bus station at Lowu. We went right through the bus station and out the other side, rounded the corner, and found it hiding in a building next to, but separate from, the bus station itself. The only sign which indicated that this was an airport bus was right next to it. So full marks for clarity for the Shenzhen Transport Board.

We hadn’t been able to get on the same plane back to Chengdu, and I should’ve been going sooner, but my flight was delayed and instead of arriving in Chengdu an hour ahead of Linda, I arrived about three-quarters of an hour behind her, and she arrived roughly on time. I did something similar today with the plane departing almost two hours behind schedule after a half hour delay and lunch on the runway.

Chengdu was very wet on Monday, and then hot and humid, the latter having me doing my Wicked Witch of the West impression. Ikea was at least pleasant inside although it’s always tempting to go and nod off on the sofas. Linda and I found a range of chairs called Poäng which we quite liked. They have high backs and a cushion just at the right height. However, we were more modest in our purchases with rubber gloves, a soy sauce/vinegar dispenser and a mirror for shaving (or at least cleaning up the aftermath of shaving).

I also went to the bike shops to have a look at bikes. Chengdu has a much better range than Wuxi, which seems to be limited to Giant (mostly) or Merida. Probably I will buy the Hunter 3.0 (only available in Chengdu if you order it), but I quite liked the Eurobike Leap 700 and the Gogobike Pioneer, both of which are cheaper than the Giant bike and possibly lighter. Their shortcomings for me were that they didn’t seem to be designed for practical city use (no real facility for a carrier or a basket) and I know that Giant has a service centre here. Even if these two models are available (probably somewhere in the New District [= bloody long way from anywhere]), I don’t want to have to be travelling 15kms just to get them seen to.

I also went DVD shopping. Like Wuxi, Chengdu’s supply of DVD seems to be being strangled at the moment, and I only picked up a few items. The DVD shop in the cinema building has gone, but while that was a disappointment, it wasn’t a surprise. I always went there expecting to find it gone.

And that is a fairly rough overview of this year’s summer holiday.

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