My digital watch screeched it's jolting alarm sound in almost perfect synchronisation with my mobile phone's very cheery but very annoying wake-up tune. Nothing sounds good at 4am. But I had a huge day in front of me - and if all went well by the end of the day I'd get to bed at midnight in downtown Guangzhou, China.
Long story short. I got to bed at 1am in downtown Guangzhou, China.
Long story long. After getting dropped off at the Melbourne Airport by my sister Lisa who almost didn't draw a breath talking excitedly about her new love of running, I checked in my baggage an hour early and started my 2.40 hour wait. Yes I was early. You see, Lisa could only drop me off that early to make sure she'd get back home before her toddler Sinclair woke up to start his daily goal of destroying the universe. It's best if she's with him while he's doing this. Plus I like being early - to balance the multiple mad-panic-rushes I'm SURE to experience in China.
The flight was good, which sounds bit boring. But it was. Good. I sat next to Robyn, a nice Chinese lady from Shenyang (near the North Korean border) who lived in Melbourne but was flying to Nanjing to marry a Chinese guy she met at University in Melbourne. So under a sunny clear blue sky we chatted for an hour about everything under the Sun, and then retreated to our respective in-flight-movie-marathon-madness, only interrupted by some pretty violent turbulence over Indonesia which had the lovely stewardesses stumbling in their aisles.
Helloo Hong Kong! (population 7 million) Actually my five hour in-transit wait there was spent doing some work on my Shenzhen University lecture and wondering if I should skip the Guangzhou flight altogether and head straight to Shenzhen on a train... But I knew I couldn't. My luggage was already packed onto the plane and ready to fly. Damn you, super efficient luggage transfers!
Soon enough I was out of the English-language-friendly Hong Kong, and in "Sorry sorry no English" Guangzhou (population 14 million). I learned one thing very quickly. My ten months of internet-based Mandarin study was all-but useless in the real world. And my hopeful arrogance of being able to communicate enough to get from the airport to my hotel without clear directions was... well okay it didn't work!
Oh I learnt another thing pretty quickly too. I learned that my clever arrival time of 10.30pm meant that I missed the last metro train! Not so clever...
So I finally found the right bus, and then I finally found a Taxi who agreed not to rip me off, then I finally walked into my hotel at 12am, then finally got past the reception desk to land in my room and after setting both of my horrible alarms for 6am, I got to bed at 1am in downtown Guangzhou, China.
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