Hong Kong start of Carter's China Trip

 

As a cartographer I have been going to the meetings of the International Cartographic Association for almost two decades.  For 8 years I chaired the Map Use Commission of the ICA and before that I was Chair of the U.S. National Committee for the ICA.  For me these meetings are stimulating events as well as an opportunity to see colleagues from around the world and to see another part of the world.

In 2001 China hosted the 20th International Conference of the ICA in Beijing.  I went and my wife decided to sit this one out.  Next was the decision on where to go and what to do.  The Map Use Commission evolved into the Internet Map Commission.  The new chair Michael Peterson and one of his former students from China organized a Workshop on Maps and the Internet in Guangzhou preceding the Beijing Conference.  I joined Dr. Peterson for the trip to Guangzhou.

In late July we flew on United non-stop from Chicago to Hong Kong, taking only 15 hours.  We left on Friday about noon and landed on Saturday afternoon.

 
 

Zoomed map of area traveled in China. Red dots show cities visited.  Red lines show travel by bus and train.  

map modified from the CIA Factbook web map of China

 
 

We had reservations in the New Kings Hotel in Kowloon, a part of Hong Kong.  We bought a 3-day metro pass and took the train to the hotel.  It took two transfers but soon we were on a busy street in the middle of HK.  Luckily we emerged from underground only a block from our hotel.  

The room was small, but then it was relatively inexpensive.  This is a Chinese hotel, not one frequented often by western tourists.  Of course, we knew no Chinese.  Luckily the staff could speak enough English to accommodate us and answer our questions.  The one slow elevator got us to the 11th floor.  To get the lights on and the AC working we had to put the room card into slot on the wall.  This was the case in every room we had in China.  It is a matter of energy efficiency—you cannot leave the room with the lights and TV on.  When you take your key card the power goes off.  Hmm?  Why don’t we try that?

To fight jet lag we dumped things in our room and headed out to see our new home.  It was hot and humid, but then we were south of the Tropic of Cancer.  We zipped around with the metro pass and headed south.  We found cool air pouring out from many stores, giving brief respites.  We took the Star Ferry across the harbor to Hong Kong Island.  Wow, what a great number of tall buildings, well illuminated at night.  We walked through the side streets near our hotel where there were many street vendors of all types.  For a few dollars you could buy day-old antiques, porno CD’s, household items, toys, clothing and plenty of food.  We were very judicious in our selections.

People were on the streets on these warm nights.  There was a small band of local musicians, all playing native Chinese instruments except for the one saxophone.  They were aware of tourists and you had to pay to take their photos.  We didn’t.  But, we did buy bottled water and crashed for the night. 

We now needed to learn to brush our teeth without using running water.  We were advised to throw our toothbrush away if it touched the local water.  I learned the process but I am pleased to say that in every hotel room they provided a toothbrush in cellophane and a small tube of toothpaste.  

Every hotel room has a thermos of hot water—water that can be drunk safely.  I brought a heavy plastic water bottle to use to cool the hot water.  I used this bottle every day for the storage of drinkable water.  I also brought a container of powered tea that I mixed with my water.  So, everyday I drank a mix of Crystal-Light Peach Tea and decaffeinated tea.  The good life!
 
 

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Dr. James R. Carter, Geography-Geology Department,  Illinois State University,  jrcarter@ilstu.edu