Last post

I am sorry to say this is my final post; although I’ve been having too much fun recently to update regularly so I’d be surprised if anyone is still reading!

Now been home for a couple of days. Still having trouble sleeping, despite my pronouncements that jet-lag is something other people get – cue running at 5am this morning. To say life is a little quieter here is an understatement, but after the carnage of the last few months I think the calm will do me good.

I was trying to think of something insightful and thought-provoking to say about my time in China, but my limitations as a writer are starting to shine through. All I can really say is how much I enjoyed my time there; and whilst China has its annoyances – which I have detailed over the past months – these are outweighed overwhelmingly by the positives: kind-hearted people, great food, good shopping, exciting pace of life, being special (especially in bars).. the list goes on. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that made my time there so enjoyable, especially my fellow teachers at Newman English School.

I’d also like to say how much I appreciate friends and family reading my blog and keeping in contact; whilst I never felt home-sick, it was nice to hear about things going on back in the UK. Special thanks also to my Mum & Dad, who I put under constant worry and who bailed me out financially on more than one occasion.

Even though my ultimate aim is to work in Hong Kong, going back to China would be a close second, so I have a lot of work to do with my language skills, which really didn’t progress much whilst I was there. If anyone has any questions about my time in China feel free to contact me, I’ll try my best to help you out.

So that’s it. I’m about to start flat-hunting in London for my next little adventure – full-time employment. The fun of China seems a long way off….

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The last few days..

After returning from Bangkok, I spent the Monday running round Shanghai picking up suits, shirts, and last minute presents from the fakes market. The last task was made more difficult by the sudden collapse of the market, which is now not allowed to sell any of the good stuff: Ray Ban, Chanel, Paul Smith; you name it, it’s now gone. Which is annoying, but I guess it’s a reminder of the changes that are happening in China and how quickly these modifications are coming about.

On Monday evening I left for Huzhou to pick up my suitcases and stay overnight. I met Leslie, the foreign co-ordinator at my school for a final meal – we had Japanese – before picking up my stuff and heading back to the hotel.

On Tuesday I continued the travelling theme, marching across Shanghai with two suitcases. Travelling in China can be a struggle at the best of times, largely due to the Chinese themselves, who have no patience, manners or general clue when it comes to organising public transport. One particular annoyance is on the metro, where everyone barges on / off as soon as the doors open, as if the train will leave with all the people left on the platform. On more than one occasion yesterday I went full throttle out of the door, barging past people who were trying to knock me over in the rush to get on. I will not miss this.

Once I had picked up more shirts (they had not been finished – cue another wait whilst they sowed up the sides), packed my bags, posted a letter and checked in; I was able to enjoy the final evening in China. For my last meal I went to a small restaurant close to the hostel and enjoyed: fried pork noodles, small Wantons and some fried dumplings (nice and healthy then). It is a measure of how little I have learnt since being in China that when I ate my first dumpling I took one bite, sprayed boiling hot meat juice all over my face and hands and subsequently dropped the dumpling on the floor. Everyone definitely noticed, but they were polite enough not to laugh. Afterwards I strolled around the finance district, before heading back to the hostel for the night.

Now in Shanghai airport for the final time, drinking coffee and waiting for check-in to open. I will write one more post on the plane summarising my time in China, then that’ll be it for this series of ramblings.

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Diving

Haven’t posted for a while, so if anyone is still reading I apologise. I have just completed my diving course on Ko Tao: I decided to go straight from the open water course that everyone gets to the advanced course, which involves deeper dives to 30m and was finished at the end with a night dive (awesome). Highlights include: a giant turtle, hunting barracuda fish, sting-rays, moray eels and countless other cool fish. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any sharks or sea snakes, which would have been very scary, but also pretty cool. Just goes to show how hard it is to find these things, even in a place like Thailand.

The island itself is amazing, with lovely beaches and awesome food (notable highlights – pad tai, meat kebabs, roast pork with rice). It also had lots of cafes where you could get ‘Western’ style breakfasts, so I have stocked up on sausages, eggs and the like. On our final day on the island, I met a friend from home who I used to swim with years ago, which was rather strange – I guess it really is a small world after all. They were going to watch the ‘Caberet show’ later that evening (and I do mean with ladyboys) which I didn’t fancy, so I didn’t get to say goodbye. If you are reading this have a good rest of your trip round Asia.

So we left Ko Tao yesterday for the 10hr journey back to Bangkok, and we have one day sightseeing here before heading back to Shanghai on Sunday. I wanted to see a bit of Bangkok before leaving, primarily because it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me when I stayed here before (actually it did, but not exactly a positive one). So hopefully we can do some of the tourist things today – grand palace etc. Although when we arrived last night the weather was really humid, so it depends on how much we want to walk / sit in coffee bars.

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Koh Tao

Arrived in Koh Tao yesterday after a long journey that took in Jiaxing, Shanghai, Bangkok and Chumphon over a period of 24hrs. Start my diving today: I’m taking the PADI Open water course, which gives me 3 / 4 dives, a couple of lessons and a nice exam at the end.

The island is lovely, the food is amazing (I’ve just had bacon & eggs for breakfast – nice taste of home) and the weather is glorious; but I’m not trying to make anyone jealous. I’ll update further when I’m not in an Internet Cafe, which I currently am.

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Packing

So the last few days have been spent putting everything off that needed to get done, so that it is now 24hrs before I leave for Thailand and I have very little sorted.

On Tuesday I picked up my passport from the police station, which I am assured will get me into China without being locked up; but like most things here, I’ll believe it when I arrive back safely in 10 days time. Yesterday I went for a meal with some people from school to say goodbye, and we had a lovely BBQ thing where you can cook everything yourself on a big gas hot plate. Unlike the more traditional hotpot – which is the same idea, but boiling instead of frying – BBQ is very tasty; and the whole experience was enhanced further by the special ‘foreigner discount’ we received, much to the dismay of the other guests.

Today was my final day at school, so it was busy saying goodbye to everyone. I got some lovely presents off some of my colleagues – a hand painted opera picture and a knitted pillow case were the highlights – and our boss took us out for lunch at a very nice restaurant in the centre of town. Of course I couldn’t taste much of the food through all the baijiu we were drinking, but at the end I was labeled a ‘strong man’ for drinking it all, which of course, I loved.

Now going to finish packing and head into town for some dumplings etc before I leave tomorrow. I will be coming back to Huzhou for a couple of days when I get back from Thailand so I don’t need to say goodbye properly. I will take my laptop with me on my travels so I’ll try and update the blog and keep in touch.

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Shopping…

Just had three days off, which I definitely didn’t spend recovering from Hong Kong. On Saturday Will came to Huzhou for the night, and I finally met the expats from the UK who have been living / working in Huzhou for a few years. One of them was from Newcastle and one of them was good at pool. That’s about all I remember.

The next morning we went to Shanghai at crazy o’clock to do a bit of shopping (It didn’t help that I had peaked for the day at about 10.30am, and it was downhill from there). First stop was the fabrics market, where I went to pick up my suits, which look awesome. I went for a different style this time – Armani I think – which is a bit more fitted, and I also took along my suit jacket from last time to be adjusted slightly. Of course I ordered some more shirts, which I will pick up before flying home in July. Next was the fakes market, where I had to buy boring things like suitcases and presents for other people (sigh); although I still got some cool stuff: aviator sunglasses, jeans, walking trousers and silk (ish) ties. I nearly bought an Ipod until I came to my senses and realised that if they haven’t even bothered to make the buttons on the front look straight, there’s probably not a lot of hope for the electronics inside.

Afterwards it was off to Jiaxing for the night, but because the police are currently in possession of our passports, which are needed to get a train in China, we had to get the bus, which was unnecessary and not appreciated. It was even less appreciated when one guy decided to answer a phone call by screaming down the phone and then proceeding to talk for the next twenty minutes like both parties were in the middle of a gun battle in downtown Baghdad. It was a joke. Even the Chinese people, who tend to do whatever they please, thought he should be quiet, which tells you how bad it was. I’d like to think whatever he was discussing must have been important, so I came up with some theories:

1) the trade price of potatoes, which kept violently fluctuating, and therefore losing / winning him a lot of money

2) Yao Ming

3) the unfolding Ryan Giggs affair scandal (he now has to pay £1 million to save his marriage –  thanks The Sun)

After another night out, we spent the day chilling out in Jiaxing. In effect this meant more shopping: waterproof trousers (essential), camping stuff and lots of Calvin Klein products. In fact the only thing I didn’t get was the one thing I definitely need for Thailand – flip flops. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Now back in the flat before my final week of work (I say work, but this is the loosest sense of the word). Lots to sort out before leaving for Thailand on Friday. Definitely need to send stuff home, despite two suitcases; should probably clean the flat; pack my suitcases; pick up my passport. But I think I can get most of this done on Thursday. Probably.

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Visa Update

Just been to the police station to sort out my visa for Thailand, which I was told would be no problem before I left for Hong Kong. After arriving and being told by a couple of people that it would be pretty difficult (erm… what?) I started to get worried. Luckily a colleague at my school knew one of the bosses, so we were able to bend the rules and get the process started. Unfortunately Will has been having more trouble than me, and even came to Huzhou today to try and sort it here. It’s really ridiculous that it’s so difficult to do and seemingly relies on who you know, rather than what the actual rules are. Hopefully it will be sorted out for him tomorrow or next week. If not I have no idea what to do – Hong Kong again maybe? Now that wouldn’t exactly be a disaster…

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