To mark The Year China Goes Broke (if you predict something for enough decades, it’ll eventually happen) Hong Kong savers are getting out of the Renminbi. One way to do this is to convert your holdings back into dollars. Another is as follows…
On Sunday I strode into the charmingly modest border control point at sleepy Shataukok, tucked away in the undergrowth in the far northeast of the New Territories. After going through the dozy Chinese immigration, I stepped out into Yantian. This suburb of Shenzhen is separated from the main city by mountains and so has a small-town feel to it.
Small town – but the first thing I see is a very very very long line of people stretching along the sidewalk. After several hundred yards, the line ended and was being let into a police station in batches. People were emerging soon after. With excited looks on their faces, they then headed in the other direction. Most puzzling, until…
…I came across the Yakult-packing hordes just across the road. The crowds were applying for permits to enter Chung Ying Street. Wikipedia says its days as a magnet for Mainland shoppers are over, but this appears not to be the case. It has obviously become a parallel-traders’ enclave, conveniently out of everyone’s way in the Closed Boundary Area.
Further along, closer to the port, you see China’s other rusty ex-Soviet-scrapheap aircraft carrier…
It’s Minsk World, a ‘military theme’ tourist spot. It’s probably fascinating and in excellent taste, but I had other things to do.
On through a new development called One City. Or, as I hereby rename it, One Deserted City…
Spiky-haired real-estate agents – exact ripoffs of the Hong Kong variety (indeed, they were from Centaline) – were lurking in a dingy little office in the corner of one block. They eyed me up, but I put on an extremely convincing impression of someone not interested in buying an apartment or leasing commercial premises in this wasteland, and they slunk away into the darkness.
I naturally had to know what these places look like inside, even if it meant a bit of surreptitious underhand window-opening. Voila…
The nearby residential area is inhabited and quite pleasant in a because-it’s-newly-built way, with play spaces and greenery. There’s a Starbucks, which has Wi-Fi only for people with a registered Mainland phone number, so the People’s Anti-Rumour Enforcement Agency can arrest you if you cause a stock-market meltdown. And there’s a mall, including a sprawling Vanguard supermarket with an amazing sausage display and pretty much everything else you need…
I mean – Hello Kitty booze. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
And so, to my reason for coming here: dumping Renminbi. I have a giant wad of the stuff – leftover laisee from New Year. I chose a Shaanxi restaurant because it was one of the first I found, plus it looked fairly classy, and my previous experience with this cuisine has been very good (think Sichuan-meets-Xinjiang).
With cash to fritter away, I ordered generously (though not gluttonously – this meal was for two). Last time I ordered donkey, I got something like corned brisket of beef. This happened here too. Conclusion: maybe donkey actually tastes like beef, and I have been expecting something too viande de cheval. The bean shoots and greens were infused in chili, Sichuan pepper and nutty oil, and seriously crunchy. Then there was the biggest, flabbiest noodle in the world, with a meat and vegetable sauce including some sort of rare and secret vinegar; this is the classic Shaanxi dish. Bamboo shoots, which like the bean sprouts you could binge-munch all day. And not least, an outstanding hot and sour soup – quite subtle on the hot and sour, with tomato, coriander and something hard to pin down, possibly anise but maybe not…
Including a couple of blueberry juice drinks, with real live berries at the bottom of the glass, the bill came to RMB160. That’s 16% of the Yuan foreign exchange reserves I was trying to offload. But wait! There’s a 20% discount today, the waitress reveals. And so I get change from RMB130.
I am left with no choice but to buy Yakult-case quantities of 3.8% Hello Kitty peach brandy.
Tomorrow is the ‘Death to the Little Japanese Devils’ Occupy Beijing with Peace and Love Parade, which is a clumsily Mainland-sounding day off here in Hong Kong, which in turn suggests a need (for the lucky few not being dragged up there in the Mega-Delegation from Shoe-Shine Hell) for some holiday viewing. I declare the sub-weekend open with China journo par excellence John Garnaut in conversation with academic Hugh White.
I knew you couldn’t resist for long. With a new ‘smart-phone’ , you’ve got heavily sucked into “sharing”.
So now we have to look at pictures of heavily-laced chili noodles which you probably regurgitated over the floor when you got back home. Please spares us the later pics.
I use the Shautaukok crossing to access the cycle track that links through to Daya Bay. Built for the French engineers, who assembled the reactors, the track follows the coast line with a delightful stop for seafood in Nam O. Not a lot of people know that!
As regards Chung Ying Street, it’s a nice little earner for the PSB. Did you notice any zip wires crossing the boundary conveying small packages?
Nice pics. Since you were in STK, you should have dropped in!
The Border Closed Area stops tourists from taking the ferry from the pier to Kat O: long may it survive!
Good luck with the Hello Kitty ‘drink’, its likely to contain fake or re-used Kitty though. With all the chest thumping that will go on tomorrow, I’d like to recognise the over three thousand young soldiers, many of them Canadian and other Commonwealth forces, who died in the hills above what is now modern HK. Lest we forget.
If you take one Muslim, one Sindhi, a westerner and a whole bunch of flip flopping Chinese on a trip to Peking,….errm……..there’s a joke in there somewhere, I’m sure.
The 70th anniversary day of the victory of the Chinese etc.
One September evening
In the growing dark
Grandpa, playing Chinese chess
In the local park,
Feeling someone tug his sleeve,
Sees his little grandchild, Eve.
“Grandpa, take me out tomorrow,
I am free all day!
Take me hiking, take me shopping,
Let us eat and play!
Everybody will be free
To mark the famous victory!
“But Grandpa, can you tell me
What we should remember?
Why does China celebrate
The third day of September?”
Faces frown and eyebrows rise.
Grandpa loyally replies.
“Meeting Japanese aggression
Chinese patriots repelled
Their advances, their invasion,
Till the raiders were expelled.
In the eyes of history
It was a famous victory.”
“Grandpa, I heard that in the war
The KMT drew back;
But while they stayed in Chungking
Did the Reds attack?
Grandpapa, I cannot see
Any famous victory.
“In the Fragrant Harbour
The British fleet came back.
If we were victorious
Why didn’t we attack?
Grandpapa, it seems to me
It was a British victory.
“Two American bombers
On helpless cities dropped
Their dreadful bombs.
Then the fighting stopped.
Grandpapa, it seems to me
It was a Yankee victory.”
“Evie, you are ten years old.
Why so bold, my pet?
How so wise and well informed?”
“I read it on the Internet.”
Grandpa’s friends exchange a look.
“Find yourself a proper book.”
Evie thoughtfully walks home
Through the local park,
But her mind is glowing bright
In the growing dark.
She can very plainly see
It was a curious victory.
By a sign that says ‘No Smoking’
Grandpa lights a cigarette.
He is sure he knows the answer
Without question or regret.
Grandpa and his friends agree
It was a famous victory.
With acknowledgement to ‘After Blenheim’ by Robert Southey.
There’s no flies on Hong Kong.
I note from para. 1 of LAU Kong-wah’s “foreword” on the 70th Anniversary of the blah-blah-blah that the plucky little British colony had, as early as 1937, already become “an important hub” in the “war against Japanese aggression”.
A mere 15 years later, during the Korean War, it had again become an important hub—this time for large-scale smuggling of war materiel to support Chinese troops fighting against its erstwhile allies against the Japanese.
What was that about flip-flops?
Just as the success of the Normandy landings was assured by the German Army being depleted and tied down on the Central Russian Plain; success of the US Island hopping, the fact that India remained in British Hands was due to the Japanese having to commit over 80% of their forces capability to fighting in China. If CKS hadn’t had to worry about the CCP (who, just like Lenin with the Germans WWI) would have struck a deal with the Japanese at the right price to get rid of the KMT; then there is no doubt that Japan would have gone down to defeat from exhaustion even without US. All the A-bomb did was make the occupation of the Japanese home islands a sure thing; and even there I suspect it was more fear of a Russian occupation than a slightly more efficient bombing tactic that secured this point. Surely the Japanese were thinking along the line of Ho Chi Min’s famous edict on the preference of French shit to Chinese shit when they were faced with the choice of US vs. Russian occupation.
Because the KMT lost to the CCP, and the USA lost to the CCP, and the UK lost it’s empire; much of this history is conveniently washed away in Western history and culture.
Looking through that list of delegates, I had a most unseemly thought, namely that the whole gaggle were sailing for Peking in a mothballed Russian aircraft carrier when it was suddenly attacked and sunk by swarms of Japanese “Zeros”. There were no survivors.
Momentarily appalled by my lack of charity, I soon regained my composure by reflecting upon the inestimable benefit that Hong Kong would have derived from such an event.
Alas, ’twas but a reverie.
By now, the whole sorry gang are no doubt all back in Hong Kong, grimly determined to “serve the community” in all those little ways in which the community desires not to be served. Lucky us, eh?