Guangzhou – Arrived late – no one to pick me up except touts after my $$ – Li Tao looked after me – chubby, gay, nice guy! Didn’t want money. Accidentally bargained a great deal at the hotel and for that I got to sleep on a plank. My back is ok. The taxi to the hotel was hairy – I haven’t seen a westerner yet! I’m in the wrong part of town! Some parade on at the railway station – a disappointing show – looked like police displaying criminals in trucks!! On a train – don’t know how I managed it. This place is crazy and out of order – China maybe a second world country! Saw workers at midnight laying pavement – about 40 feet away someone else was digging it up! People are very curious about me – but not enough to talk – just to stare. Next stop Shenzhen – which was supposed to be first stop!
19th July 2021 – Somewhen around 1998 I joined the Asia Friend Finder website, not particularly to be looking for a girlfriend, but to make contact with people in China which was becoming a major interest as a place to visit. Through the site I met many women (I found out why when I got to China!) but a couple in particular I thought were interesting enough to stay in touch with.
At that time there were no English language versions of chat software but my new Beijing friend Echo (Yuan Yuan) talked me through setting up QQ – which I believe was only a chat program at that time. This made it much easier to communicate and I even had many more women contact me there once they found a foreigner to chat with there.
After much planning, intricate visa arrangements and money saved up I jumped on a plane. I was lucky to receive my new Visa card just before leaving but not lucky enough to set the new pin!
I had arranged to meet a lady at Guangzhou airport who would get me to the train to Shenzhen that evening, where I planned to meet Vivian, my first main contact for the trip. However, my flight was delayed out of Sydney and it was about 11pm when I finally arrived in Guangzhou. I was not shocked that she was not there waiting. When I got back to Australia I found out that she hadn’t come to the airport either as she had to accompany a friend to the hospital after breaking an arm in an accident.
Having taken the precaution not to have too much cash on me, and ensuring passport, cards and extra cash was strapped to me in a pouch under my shirt (I was really paranoid at that time) I was standing around the airport, which appeared to be closing down for the night, wondering what to do next. Seeing a lost foreigner, about 10 taxi touts surrounded me and not understanding the differences with personal space got right up in my face. Completely flustered, I asked them several times to wait whilst I got some money from the ATM. It didn’t help though and they all followed me and surrounded the ATM, looking over my shoulder. That’s when I lost patience. I looked at one guy, pointed at him and said “You. You help me, tell everyone else to go away.”
As I attempted to get money from the machine I suddenly realised I didn’t know the pin number for this new card. Fuck! What can I do now!? I asked my new taxi driving friend, Li Tao about a youth hostel or anything similar that would be near the train station. He said he knew just the place. I was still feeling cautious and wondering where this guy might take me but Li Tao was a kind man and I started to relax a little. His English was poor but good enough and I had next to no Chinese language skills. We managed to communicate well enough though.
When we got to the hostel I asked Li Tao to wait as I needed to check that they could swipe my Visa card as payment – something that was outdated in the west but luckily still in use here. Finally feeling more settled and relaxed Li Tao said farewell and gave me his number and told me to call him if I had any problems. With the little cash I had I paid him and tried to tip him but he wouldn’t hear of it. Damn, I was so lucky to find the right person to meet by chance. I started to feel good about things.
I’m not sure about the plank to sleep on that I reference originally, perhaps just implying it was a rock hard mattress. It was around midnight by now and I thought I’d take a look around. The hostel was right outside the main train station and there were thousands of people there. I had arranged these dates to travel to China because all my contacts told me that they had free time. It was only now that I was learning about the May Day and National holidays in China. All these people were heading back out of the city to their rural villages.
At the time I had dyed red hair, tattoos and a nose-ring so it was no surprise when I stepped into this maelstrom of people that they all stopped and stared, jaws dropping open. It was very uncomfortable but I pushed on, wanting to check out what I could about the station so that I knew what to do and where to go in the morning.
Suddenly a parade of vehicles came through the crowds and I later found out, as I had guessed, that there were indeed parading criminals. Usually done before they were taken out of the city to a field and shot! It felt very medieval.
The comment about people laying bricks and then digging them up again struck me as a bizarrely communist scheme to keep everyone employed. I was probably reading too much into it but I did come across several other instances like this. The reason construction work was happening at midnight was because it was too damn hot to do during the day. But my guess is that the work was going on 24/7 and that it was just better to have the night shift.
I’m unsure about my comment on China being a second world country. Did I think it was a first world country or third world country?
From the text it appears I wrote this on the train to Shenzhen the following day. I don’t really remember much about how this came about so it couldn’t have been too torturous.
I found a picture of Guangzhou train station in the 80s – I think the 6 or so floor building to the right of the square may have been the hostel where I stayed. The palm-treed roundabout was where I saw the people laying bricks in the ground.