View of the Hong Kong harbour; wine at the Intercontinental Hotel - courtesy of M&D Styles!
After our month of driving around the New Zealand countryside (and successfully selling our car - Hi Shoki!), we went back China. First stop: Hong Kong. We stayed with friends Chris Lonsdale and Sheryl Climo who were wonderfully hospitable and easy-going, even when I decided last-minute to get a wisdom tooth taken out and was laying wan on their couch for much longer than our intended visit! It was so great to have a home away from home. Thanks for everything, Chris and Sheryl! We'll be thinking about you on your 'special day':)
Once I'd recovered, we headed to Yangshuo - where the mountains go straight up and straight down, meeting flooded rice paddies and swollen rivers. It was satisfying to finally see what we'd always imagined southern China to be. It was rainy and misty the whole time we were there, which suited us just fine as it fit our image of the place and also gave us a chance to take it easy.
Next we headed to Emei Shan (Emei Mountain) near Chengdu. This is one of the five most holy mountains for Buddhism in China, but of course we went for the birds. Unfortunately it continued to be rainy and misty and we hardly saw any birds, but we did see some massive monkeys (maybe snub-nosed macaques?) emerging spookily out of the mist, for which this mountain is also famous. We took the bus up the mountain and then hiked the 20km or so down the stairs. About half way down we stayed one night at a monastery where it was so damp that there was mist in the room and everything was wet - thank goodness for electric blankets!
Hellen and Justin with their new baby boy, and Justin's mom who is living with them for a year to help out. Samantha, our old boss at Western Language Center, who once again hosted us warmly - even with a broken foot! The gang at Western Language Center: our last goodbye for a long time.
Then we went to Xi'an to see Hellen and Justin's new baby and to say one last goodbye to our old friends who introduced us to Asia. The next time we get to Xi'an will probably be at least 10 or 15 years later, with kids, so it really felt like goodbye this time. It was neat for us to see them so near to the end of our journey seeing as how they were the ones to welcome us to China, and because of our wonderfully positive experience there, we ended up staying much longer! We hope we get the chance to host them in our home country in the future:)
With Armstrong (and his friend Ho Lin, taking the picture), flying kites in Zhengzhou.
Geoff squeezing through the 'Gleam of Sky' path at the Red Canal site.
Zhihwa and I looking down from the Red Canal site.
Then to Zhengzhou to see our 'lucky fortune friend' Armstrong who is studying a masters in English translation there. We met his friend Ho Lin who took us kite flying, and spent a couple of days with Zhihwa (whom we've met before): one day we drove out to the Red Canal project (a 10+year project in the 1960s hewing out a canal through a mountain - by hand - so allow the water from a river on one side of the mountain to pass through to the other side for irrigation), and one day eating and visiting Zhihwa's family.
"So we took a boat to Soooouth Korea."
It's neat to re-visit a foreign place, and we were glad to have a chance to fill in some gaps in our Chinese experience - Hong Kong, Yangshuo - and to be able to see our friends one last time. Around this time we also made the decision to come home a little early (early May instead of late June) so all this revisiting and goodbying seemed just right.
We boarded a big boat for the 16-hour crossing into South Korea a little apprehensive about seasickness but we had a most wonderful trip! We had our own little room, there was hardly any rocking, and we both had a good quiet sleep:)
The month of April we'll be back in our old home of Iksan, helping BirdsKorea in their last year of the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (SSMP). We'll tell you all about that in the next blog:)