After the lunacy of last night, it was time to get back on track. Myself, Dino and Mandy have written to numerous shipping companies with a view to getting me to Sri Lanka before the end of the month, but all have either rejected the proposition outright or said that there isn’t enough time to organise something.
This leaves me in a bit of a bind. The best option for me would be to head down to Singapore overland. There are plenty of ships leaving from Singapore for Sri Lanka, and since it’s a much shorter trip, the odds of me getting on a ship will be greatly improved. However, to get to Singapore means travelling through China. A Chinese visa costs a wodge and if I put in for the ‘standard’ visa, I won’t have my passport back for three days – if a company says ‘yes you can get on our ship out of Hong Kong on Wednesday, I’ll be stuffed.
Since I had already arranged a meeting with Chris from the Wallem shipping agency, I thought it best to wait and see what happens – in any case, the visa office isn’t open on Sundays.
It was 11.30am before I woke up on Michael’s floor. I couldn’t remember getting home. I know it’s not a power that would be much use to the X-Men, but it is incredibly handy to have the gift of auto-return on the magic beer scooter, even when I’ve just arrived in a foreign country. What’s more remarkable is that I got into the apartment complex and into Michael’s flat on the 20th floor without a key and without waking him up. It’s a riddle that I may never be able to solve.
My friends from Liverpool, Chris and Debbie, have been living in China for as long as I’ve been on The Odyssey Expedition. But while I’ve been wasting money and risking my life, they’ve been making money and – more recently – babies. Well, one baby – it’s due next Wednesday. So Michael and I shot over to the mainland to go meet Chris and a very, very heavily pregnant Debbie.
Now had Debbie been Chinese, she wouldn’t have been allowed into the Hong Kong SAR. The reason for this is that Chinese childbirth ‘tourists’ have been streaming over the border at the end of their third trimester in order to use the improved health care system of Hong Kong. As it was, Deb was taking a hell of a risk – if she went into labour and had the baby there and then, she would have been stranded in Hong Kong until they could get a passport and a visa for the baby before she’d be allowed to go home to Guangzhou, just two hours away.
So, shaking off the hangover that by rights should have been much worse, we raced over the water onboard the Star Ferry – in operation since 1888 – to Tsim Sha Tsui station in Kowloon. There we found Chris and Debbie and Bump. After catching up (I haven’t seen Chris and Debbie since I cut through Shanghai like a man possessed almost two years ago) we jumped the train back to the island to go meet up with some of Michael’s stand-up comedy buddies. After a beer and a stolen burger we went for a mooch around Hong Kong Central and I was taken aback at just how many Filipino women were sitting on the streets. What the bloomin’ eck is going on? Asks I. It turns out that Sunday is the Filipino maids’ day off – and, since they have little money to spend shopping or playing LaserQuest, they spend the day sitting on pieces of cardboard on the pavements of Central having a good old natter with their mates. Why they don’t populate the parks or the free-to-enter botanical gardens is anybody’s guess. Maybe they do and this was just the overflow. But seriously, it was like an urban music festival, only without the music. I could hear the Karl Pilkington in my head dying to ask ‘what do you think you’re doing?!’, but my polite Michael Palin voice was telling me (nicely) not to make a fuss.
After saying ta-ta to Chris and Debbie (‘twould be the last time I’d see them as non-parents) I went to meet up with Cherry, one of Michael’s mates. Cherry is a Hong Kong girl who studied in Canada. She does a weekly podcast about everything Hong Kong and she had asked if I would like to have a chat with her. No problem, always happy to chunder on about any old bollocks (as fans of this blog well know!). You can listen to the podcast here:
Now Hong Kong is one of those great places in the world – and there’s not many of them – that sell freshly popped SWEET popcorn at the cinema. I know this seems like a trivial thing, but to me, going to the cinema without chomping through an entire bucket of popcorn would be like going to see Celine Dion live without your bombvest. But I don’t like salty popcorn – it just doesn’t do it for me, sorry. So it’s either sweet or nuthin’ and all too often in so-called ‘civilised’ countries – like Australia and US – the chances of me enjoying the latest blockbuster while stuffing my face with the sweet stuff are slimmer than an anorexic stick insect. Which is why truly great places – step forward Fiji, Singapore and Sierra Leone (strangely enough) – have the edge over their continental counterparts: they are the lands of sweet sweet popcorn and I salute them for it.
Why am I telling you all this? No great reason, but after saying goodbye to Cherry, I met up with Michael and we went to see The Avengers. I thought it was a damn good film (although that could just be the popcorn talking) – although what’s the with title ‘Avengers Assemble’ in the UK?! Seriously? What they think we’re going to get it mixed up with that Uma Thurman turkey that came out in the late nineties? Oh ple-ease.