They say “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. In order to avoid falling into the same trap as Jack, I endeavour to get out and about whenever time allows during my stay in China. So far this has been hardly at all, thanks to work commitments and two typhoons that caused widespread disruption in this part of the world last week. On Thursday I was drenched from head to toe three times by Sarika, and yesterday I was trapped inside a draughty building full of Christmas trees whilst Haima roared by. Worse things happen at sea.
I am sorry to report that the area where I am currently working, Dongguan, is a relentlessly unattractive place. The degree to which the landscape has been mutilated by indiscriminate quarrying, ugly buildings, brutal expressways and wanton dumping never fails to depress me. Although there is ample wealth here (albeit far from equally distributed), natural environments and open spaces are often given scant attention. My hotel is situated on the shores of Songshan Lake, which is apparently quite beautiful. I’d confirm that if I could ever see it through the smog. The China of willow pattern plates, majestic mountains and foaming river gorges continues to elude me.
It’s easy to appreciate why many travellers prefer to stay in Hong Kong when doing business in China. Whilst not immune from pollution, general standards of cleanliness and care for the public domain are much higher. Parks and gardens are scarce by London standards, but “countryside” (this description never sounds quite right to me when associated with Hong Kong) is never far away. I rarely get much further than Kowloon Park, situated next to my hotel, which at weekends is frequented by thousands of local people and tourists enjoying picnics in the shade of camphor and banyan trees. It’s uplifting to see a park being used well, and respectfully.
As I have described before, there is a lot to see and do here, from taking a swim in the public pools, admiring the flamingoes, taking a nap, watching colourful demonstrations of lion dancing, picnicking, reading, exercising and bird watching, to contemplating an extensive collection of sculpture. As for me, I am just happy to get out of my hotel room to enjoy the company of others in a place full of trees, flowers, chatter and laughter.
Wishing you all an excellent weekend, wherever you may be. TFG.