Ridz arrives on time; before we leave he takes me a neat Indian restaurant. Then we take a ride on a comfortable, air-conditioned coach, we change vehicles and take a less comfortable, completely non-conditioned wreck, filled with passengers to the limits… After a couple of hours we reach Port Dickson, a sort of beach resort located at Melacca Straights, 90 km south of Kuala Lumpur.

Except for tanning and swimming there is not much to do here; you can throw in a walk in the jungle – a weird jungle that is, with asphalt road cutting it in two halves… If you’re lucky you can spot monkeys, eagles and other inhabitants (mosquitoes being the most frequent ones). Ridz invites me to his house built by his father of all kinds of materials, making a surprisingly harmonious and spacious whole. The cool family receive me as one of their bunch, used to numerous foreign visitors frequenting the house. One…

Evening landing in KL, coach to the centre (many companies to choose from, reasonable prices), short hostel research in Chinatown (oh, the cheapness!) and I make myself comfortable in a dormitory shared with one cool Pakistani and one delightfully ignorant Australian.

I will leave the sightseeing till tomorrow but I decide to have the first glance just before going to sleep. A good decision again – I bump into Ridz, nice guy that talks like a machine gun. He drags me to a cheap and cosy restaurant and invites me to his hometown. The scheduled departure time is tomorrow noon, thus I’m left with just a short while for discovering KL.

In the morning I decide to check out what everybody else would – the Petronas towers. Getting there with slightly chaotic and not-so-clean metro is a piece of cake, however getting to the viewpoint on the top is impossible – even though it is still early…

http://vimeo.com/18300106

I get to Shanghai the right moment – there is the modern art biennial going on, entitled “Rehearsal”. The core of the whole event is the exhibition in Modern Art Museum, located next to the People’s Square. Some of the artists took the title too literally, simply completing their artwork with the documentation of the creative process or just transferring their studios in 1:1 scale. Fortunately, some artists were more creative – for example, Qiu Zhijie filled a room with humorous, useless machines (those female guards who never let you interact with the artwork!), Verdensteatret (Norway) put up a stunning musical-mechanical-image show, Mou Boyan brought his “breathing” animal sculptures… You can’t really find anything you would call entirely new, it all feels very safe, as if nobody wanted to cross any frontiers of political correctness… The exhibition is still an interesting walk through Asian art, with Chinese art being the main focus and some Western bits added here…

This time my visit in China was more personal than touristy, thus I will limit myself to describing the interesting para-professional experience in Da Qing and art-oriented sightseeing in Shanghai.

During yet another stay in chilly north (the temperature will soon reach -20 degrees during the day) I had the opportunity to make myself useful: I was invited to do some ordering works in a place schemed for afternoon school for kids. The previous owner of the estate left quite a mess – a lot of work to do and the grand opening will happen in just a couple of days! The reward for the job well done is the possibility of covering the walls with paintings. I am free to choose what to paint and I decide to go for animal world, the idea that the kids enjoy a lot (the classes have already started!), they even help me paint. My presence in the school is…

Night train (two-storey, comfortable sleeper) brings us to Lijiang – probably the most touristically desired town in China (for Chinese). Crowds flow through picturesque, beautifully renovated streets of the old town (there is the national holiday going on, extended by an extra weekend), not at all discouraged by the stubborn rain. The town is very photogenic, though one day stroll is enough to know it all – countless shops all offer the same authentic-fake craft and you can’t eat local delicacies (including dragonflies – crunchy, interesting) all the time, can you?

It is a good idea to visit Shuhe, old town located a couple of kilometres north, less populated with tourists, with mellow bars and hills that demand that you climb them. From the top there is a splendid view on the valley filled with the city of Lijiang and nearby villages. In Shuhe you can also check out the reconstructed Tibetan monastery. Inside, apart from not-so-impressive replica…

Kunming

Kunming welcomes us with a wall of rain and a grey sky. The city itself doesn’t look any special to me… The value of the capital of Yunnan are its parks – right now, for weather reasons, they don’t feel that great either. In spite of all, we decide to visit one of them – the park around Dianche lake. Nice views, though the rain is trying to spoil it all. We find a rain-free zone in barbecue spot, where we spend a long time trying out different delicacies on stick (really tasty octopuses!).

 

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Kunming wita nas ścianą deszczu i szaroburym niebem. Przechadzając się po mieście zauważam, że samo w sobie nie wyróżnia się niczym szczególnym… O wartości stolicy Yunnanu stanowią parki – chwilowo, z przyczyn pogodowych, pozbawione części uroku. Mimo wszystko, wybieramy się zwiedzić jeden z nich – rozciągający się wzdłuż jeziora Dianche. Widoki przyjemne, choć deszcz stara się ze wszystkich sił…

Fei is flying away, me too. But I’m going in a different direction. Encouraged by Fei’s lovely cousin who also offers to accompany me, I head for the beautiful Yunnan province. On the way we have 10-hour stopover in Changsha where we do a little bit of sightseeing. We focus mostly on the park located on the hills around the city. You can get some great views up there – mostly on the concrete jungle that is Changsha. But it’s not that view that draws everybody’s attention – everybody keeps staring at me and on … the bunch of twenty students from different parts of Africa, who chose to have a stroll that very moment. Our walk together seems to be very impressive for the passers-by. Moreover, one of the guys speaks perfect Chinese – unbelievable!

 

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Fei odlatuje, ja również – choć w zupełnie innym kierunku. Za namową sympatycznej kuzynki Feia, która podejmuje się…

In Nanjing I change trains to get to Zhenjiang. I take the super-modern, fast train that takes 15 minutes to run 90 km. I look at the screen displaying current speed – we sometimes reach 308km/h!

In Zhenjiang station I have to confirm if I reached my destination – last time I was here was two years ago and everything looks completely different!

I almost get to meet the uncle of Fei (my friend with whom I used to study in France, who is getting married now) who is supposed to pick me up… I get on the bus and try to find the given address… We somehow manage to find each other – a joyful moment, especially after seeing my buddy glued to his future wife… No time for sentiments now – there is so much to be prepared before next day’s ceremony!

Family feast starts early in the morning to reach its peak…

Shenzhen

Early in the morning Bostoe accompanies me to the subway and I head directly to Chinese border (formally HK is a part of China, but on both sides you need visas; HK citizens do not consider themselves mainland Chinese at all). I arrive in Shenzhen, greeting me with the familiar chaos and complete incapacity of communicating in English. I’m trying to get to West Railway Station, where they will have built a subway line soon but not just yet. Therefore I choose the combined method – minibus plus moto-taxi (the driver is absolutely happy to hear my fake Chinese and awards me a reduction).

I get on the train to Nanjing (25 hours ride). I can’t help the impression that the “hard seat” class is looking nicer and cleaner than a year before… Lots of free places this time, too. Luckily, one thing has not changed – the food carts passing through the corridor once in a…

After a couple of hours’ flight in a nice company – a Lankan girl whose name I forgot but I remember the meaning (“spontaneous”), a stopover in Kuala Lumpur and a couple more hours of flying (Malaysian Airlines treat me with a nice set of kung-fu movies) I reach Hongkong.

My stay is short – just two and a half days (one day more than I was planning – this is because Chinese express visa is not issued on the same day as they claim in the website but the next business day) but my host, Bostoe, does everything to enchant me with his city-state. It is true that Hongkong is a crowded concrete beast, with all the skyscrapers covering the horizon. It is true that it is noisy, sometimes dirty, with strict rules applying to basically everything (I lay down on the bench in Victoria park, and in a short while the guard runs to me, shouting)……