This is the last instalment in the saga of me in a small town with four big Norwegians, armed with cameras and what not.
After having personally been denied visas to China by the Chinese ambassador to Norway himself (I hope. At least.) the four Nogs did what I had advised them to all along: Applied for a China visa in Hong Kong. Not only wasn’t there the tiniest sliver of a problem, they also got the visas that day. And so we were off on our huge adventure trip to the hinterland.
Instead of the two nights I had planned, they wanted only one, and so an incredible race against the clock started, never really to let up.
For me, the fondest memory of that trip was playing cards on the train to Guangzhou. Ah, what bliss! A pot of tea, some excellent peanuts and experiencing once again the exquisite joy it is to pass the knowledge of é‹¤å¤§D (Cho dai di, a Chinese poker-like cardgame)
I had found a driver on an earlier trip and he was waiting in Guangzhou with his van. getting to Guangzhou was the only thing he managed to do well the entire time we were together. Including finding Guangzhou on the way back. And finding the way out of Guangzhou …
It was all my fault. When I met him, I had noticed his excellent driving skills and beauty, and, at the time, thought the van was a fine van suitable for transporting. Yes, it was, for transporting Chinese. How could I not have thought that four Norwegian guys might be slightly more enormous than for example eight …een Chinese guys?
Well we finally arrived in wonderful Wan Fau (two hours later than necessary because the driver missed all the exits from Guangzhou,) just in time to miss the beautiful pink light so excellent for filming – the sun set just as we pulled up outside the hotel. The producer was miffed, but philosophical. Shit happens everywhere in the world of TV.
Ah but the hotel! The King Royal Hotel of Wan Fau! That soon put a smile on everybody’s face. Here was a five star hotel at minus one star prices, and possibly the only hotel in China with normal degree of mattress hardness; way this side of concrete. And even if it had been crap, I would have stayed there for the view:
So off we went to an orgy of hovelage- and dog joy.
I thought “playing on the train tracks” would suit these hardened adventurers and I was right. However, I really couldn’t have known that the road leading to the train track and great natural beauty (scraggy crags) would be in a state of anarchy, could I? I couldn’t have assumed that the entire strecth of road would be only one lane because the road was being widened, could I? No I couldn’t! It wasn’t my fault that it took three hours to drive there instead of one. And that being in the van with four enormous guys would be like being inside a tube of toothpaste, but without the comfort of being buffeted by the toothpaste.
This abandoned factory was the perfect backdrop for … oh shit, it wasn’t abandoned at all. Two seconds after we’d got out of the van and started even thinking about looking at the cameras, a guy came zooming up on his motorbike. The usual “What are you doing here, who sent you, have you come to take down the Asian Games and everyone in it” questions ensued. That’s when the presenter showed he hadn’t really heard much of what I had told him about China. Oh actually, he had refrained from filming when we were in the passport control, that’s true.
“Ask him where he bought his bike! Ask him who owns those geese! Cecilie! Ask him who owns those geese!” meanwhile the motorbike guy is shouting into my other ear: “You can’t be here! You must leave! Go and film over there, it’s much more beautiful!” A low point of the trip.
More and more guys started hovering, glaring. “Please, please let’s go” I implored the producer, but only with modest results. How could Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, brought up as they are on freedom of expression, movement and salmon, know that when Chinese geezers want to throw you out of a non-abandoned factory, they really mean it?
I eventually managed to get them out of there and on the way back to Guangzhou … and that’s where the driver’s zero sense of direction and inability to read Chinese signs which even the Norwegians could read, kicked in. We were freaking out but quietly, knowing that the border would soon be closed but not exactly what time.
At one stage I jumped in a taxi and told the driver to follow it, but he soon lost the will to follow. As I stood hopping inside the station and the staff were pulling down the grilles to indicate that the last train to Shenzhen, the 22.59, would soon be taking off, the driver had circled the station at least three times, the others told me. He had become so nervous about failing that his brain had closed down the neuron paths one by one, until it could just about manage to keep the bodily functions like heartbeat and breathing, going.
So we missed that train and had to take a taxi back to Hong Kong, the Norwegians having a whale of a time because they found beer at every patrol station and border crossing – me more subdued and a little bit completely knackered. I got home at 03.00 that morning.
The moral of the story is: Public transport. It can’t be beat.