Out on the briny with the moon big and shiny

The title today is lifted from a song immortalised by Bing Crosby – Slow Boat to China. And that’s what occupied a good chunk of our Friday. Our ferry was scheduled to leave Hong Kong at 8:30 am so we were awake bright and early to make sure we were there on time and didn’t get caught up in any traffic issues. We were actually at the ferry terminal before even the Starbucks had opened so we were in plenty of time. When it did open, we had large cups of tea to set us up for the day then checked our suitcases for travel.

We boarded promptly and, because we had paid the small premium required for first class tickets, we were given seats upstairs by the window so enjoyed an unobstructed view along the journey which allowed Ishbel to take a load of photos of the huge new bridge.

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Hong Kong to Jiangmen is around 120km, and we completed the journey in just over three hours. There was actually an intermediate stop, at a place called Dong Men. I panicked when we docked there and grabbed Ishbel’s dobro (which the baggage handlers hadn’t wanted to check) and rushed down the stairs. Well, I rushed about a third of the way down the stairs then surfed the rest of the distance on my behind. I’d like to say only my pride was hurt but my backside was a bit bruised as well. Anyway, no serious harm done, apart from the fright I gave the crew as a large Scotsman and a green, spangly guitar case suddenly appeared at the gangway.

We had organised Chinese visas in London so were hoping for a straightforward experience at the port of entry. It was ridiculously easy as there were only about ten people disembarking at Jiangmen, and the rest of them were all Chinese so we had the two foreigners’ lines to ourselves. We were quite closely scrutinised as we completed formalities but one lady approached us and asked if we were going on to Macau. Given that we had just arrived from Hong Kong, this would have been a very circuitous journey. She asked where we were going and, after saying the name of our hotel a few times (Wanda Realm) to no avail, I showed her the picture of the name in Chinese that I had stored on my phone. She immediately rustled up a taxi driver to take us there and off we went.

The trip from the port to the hotel was one which I had been dreading. I’ve been lucky in my travels in that I’ve always had an ear for language and have usually been able to pick up a few words to help me get by in whatever situation I’ve been in. This is the first time that I’ve felt completely out of my depth linguistically without even the benefit of being able to sound out words in hope of finding a familiar etymological root somewhere. I have become the classic Brit abroad. Speaking English slowly, pointing and attempting to act out my requirements. I don’t like it.

The hotel is lovely, and check in was very smooth. However, it appears that even the concierge doesn’t speak much English, so the art of mime will be our friend for the next few days. We were running short of clothes so, cliche though it may be, we decided we needed to find a Chinese laundry. Google maps indicated there was one a couple of blocks away so we set out to try to find it. It appears the concierge here doesn’t have maps of the area. And looked at us as if we were idiots for even asking. We managed to locate the laundry without the visual aid and handed over our washing.

We relaxed back at the hotel then had an early dinner. Not exactly a cultural experience – we ate at Pizza Hut.

On Saturday we will set about exploring a little more of Jiangmen and hopefully provide a more in-depth perspective on this city.

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