“There was always more in the world than men could see, walked they ever so slowly they will see it no better for going fast. The really precious things are thought and sight, not pace” – John Ruskin

I’m in Yunnan Province in China, operating through a proxy server to try and get around the Great Firewall of China, therefore excuse the formatting.

Macau. Despite the strange start to Macau, I was stuck in a wonderful place considering. Macau is expensive relatively speaking so met up with Damien and Bert and went on a massive trek around the museums of Macau – wine , Grand Prix, art museum, handover gifts (all provinces gave gaudy sculptures and similar to celebrate the homecoming of the prodigal province) and then decided to gap it to the south. Macau is made up of the Macau peninsula which is part of the mainland, and the islands of Coloane and Taipa to the south which are linked by bridges. The islands are now one, having been joined by massive land reclamation on which the new Las Vegas strip is being built including the largest casino on the world by floor area The Venetian which is spectacular inside. The shopping area has a canal through the middle where you an hire a gondola! We went to the beach on Coloane which left something to be desired, the brown water impossible to see through, luckily there was a public pool. Afterward we hit a Portuguese restaurant. The islands are far more quiet than Macau proper. Macau is strongly Portuguese influenced with street signs in Portuguese as well as Chinese and ethnically almost 95% Chinese. The food is great especially the cakes and egg tarts, yum!

Hong Kong. Bert and I took the hour ferry to HK which was very smooth and directed ourselves to Hong Kong Island. Not knowing anything about the layout of the place, we ended up in Causeway Bay which is where there are lots of shopping malls. Not a hell of a lot of use for us really. We paid HKD$300 for a double which is on the cheap side for HK. Met up with Kira from school to get the down low on the island – in a tequila bar on Lan Kwai Fong which is a den of iniquity for rich expats. HK is far larger and greener than I imagined with many islands and also the New Territories which is huge! We went swimming on one island (Lantau) where we passed on Disneyland, hit Kowloon and checked out the hideous Chungking Mansion which is where many backpackers head to. A deathtrap with Indian curry houses. Saw the harbour all lit up with the highrises opposite on HK Island competing with each other. The Peak is the mountain rising in the middle of HK which we cleverly elected for the tram. Nice sights from there but misty when we went up. Finally we hit the clubs in Wan Chai and danced to the early hours at the beat of the Hendrixesque fingers of a guitarist playing covers in a bar called Dusk till Dawn. I shot through to Guangzhou via train. Very easy connection and super easy from a customs point of view.

Guangzhou and Kunming. Guangzhou was a day-long stop, its the major business hub of Guangdong province which is next to Hong Kong and therefore fairly wealthy. I stayed on Shaiman Island which is where the foreign colony was located so lots of nice architecture and lack of cars. Guangdong/HK also is the home of Yum Cha/Dim Sum food with which I am pretty familiar with (thanks Cynthia!). Kunming is located in Yunnan province which is one of the most beautiful provinces in China with some amazing natural sights. Kunming (~6 million pop.) is the provincial capital and is home to many universities so its pretty laid back compared to most larger cities. I couchsurfed for a few days with Seco and Dan – awesome experience as Seco has been here for 4 years so really got some interesting insights into Chinese culture. Checked out the local market and gorged on pastries!

Travel insights. I’ve been reading Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel which is a fantastic book with some really relevant insights for me at this stage in my trip. Some choice tidbits for you:

“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves … the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we truly are.”

“[He gave] the charm of novelty to things of everyday, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the minds attention from the lethargy of custom and directing it to the loneliness and wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand.” Coleridge on Wordsworth.

“Sublime landscapes, through their grandeur and power, retain a symbolic role bringing us to accept without bitterness or lamentation the obstacles we cannot overcome and events we cannot make sense of … if we spend time in [sublime landscapes], they may help us to accept more graciously the great unfathomable events that molest our lives and will inevitably return us to dust.”

“Rather than using photography as a supplement to active, conscious seeing, they used it as an alternative, paying less attention to the world than they had done previously from a faith that photography automatically assured them possession of it.”

“We find explanations for our tastes, we develop an ‘aesthetic’, a capacity to assert judgment about beauty and ugliness.”

“The pleasure we derive from journeys perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.”

“It seemed an advantage to be travelling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially molded by whom we are with, we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others. The may have a particular vision of who we are and hence subtly prevent certain sides of us from emerging … Being closely observed by a companion can inhibit us from observing others, we become taken up with adjusting ourselves to the companions questions and remarks, we have to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.’

This last one I am coming up against. There are definitely pros and cons to travelling alone. Trick is not to let it slide over into loneliness – never eat alone!