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The Silly Season

Away from the desk

03 Sep 2015

Away from the desk Image

The tale of travelling 10 hours to see junk

Boy, did I get away from the desk this month.

Having built up a sizable kitty of annual leave hours, I jump on a tram at Collins Landing and head to a travel agent.

Within half an hour I decide – based on the travel agent’s expert recommendation – on a trip to Hong Kong and Japan.

It all seems very sudden, but it has to be. I’m leaving in two weeks!

Back at the office, I consider my itinerary and whether I’ll do any tours – the kind of things organised people do months before they go abroad. I remember my aunt raving about a wonderful 10-hour shopping day trip she did from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland city of Shenzhen. I make a mental note of this and carry on with the rest of my day.

Two weeks later and I’m in big, bustling Honkers. It’s as humid as hell, but who cares? It has some of the best shopping in the world.

Time is limited. I’m here for just three days and there’s so much to see and do. I’ve been here before, so I focus on the stuff I haven’t done: I catch the ferry to Kowloon, go shopping, ascend one of the world’s tallest towers, go shopping, walk around Hong Kong University with an old friend, go shopping …

I realise I’ve only got one day left in HK. I toss up between a day trip to Macau to see the Portuguese ruins (I’ve wanted to do this for years) or follow my aunt’s advice and travel to Shenzhen for some awesome shopping.

Seeing as I haven’t done that much shopping, I decide on the latter.

Bound for the bullet train station, I’m picked up by a mini bus. It’s full of Aussies. Old Aussies from the country! So for hours I listen, and occasionally chime in, to stories about back pain, grandkids and other stuff oldies talk about.

One bloke can hardly walk – he’s got a bung leg. He tells me he fought in Vietnam and now caravans around Western Australia catching yabbies. A true Aussie battler. I’m tempted to tell him I work in a swish Docklands office with views over Victoria Harbour but just can’t seem to find the right timing.

Shenzhen seems pleasant enough. We walk through a picturesque park, visit a jade museum and have a tea ceremony. Meanwhile, the tour guide keeps talking up our pending visit to Lo Wu, or “the biggest shopping mall in the world with 1200 shops” as the guide calls it. Chinese yuan in hand, I can barely contain myself.

We finally arrive at Lo Wu.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. So when I take the steps up to this bleak, grey, soulless-looking building which looks just a fraction of the size of Chadstone, I try to remain positive.

My positivity, however, quickly takes a nose dive when I realise that the mall is actually a downtrodden flea market. Yes, there are 1200 shops, but each is only a few square metres. And most are selling the same junk as the shop next door. Such disappointment!

We’re allocated two-and-a-half hours to explore it. I’m done in 15 minutes after the third shady character approaches me and demands I follow them to a “private warehouse”. No thanks.

Feeling rather unsafe and unhappy, I find solace in a nearby KFC. I order a chocolate sundae and sit down with the old Aussie battler whose leg is playing up.

With time on our side, I proudly tell him I work in the Docklands. He hasn’t heard of the place.

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