For a while now I’ve been threatening to make a trip to southern China, specifically Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Well, earlier this week I finally got around to booking my flights and hotel. I’ve calmed down a bit now, but I was really rather giddy a few days ago!
I’ll be flying out to Hong Kong during the third week in March and using the island as a base for a brief three-day visit where I’m hoping to see a little of Hong Kong and Kowloon as well as making a trip further inland to the city of Guangzhou. I’m hoping to blog on a daily basis whilst I’m out there and I’ll be uploading plenty of photos (hotel WiFi allowing). So watch this space!
In the last few days I’ve been asked by several people whether this trip is research for my writing, in particular the novel I’ve been writing.
Well I guess the answer is probably ‘yes’, but I have to say that at least half the reason for visiting China is that I simply want to. Trying to use my writing (which is really just a hobby) as justification for this trip seems . . . well, a little melodramatic to be honest (not to mention foolhardy from a cost-justification point of view). I guess I’ve always been fascinated with anything east of Great Yarmouth (perhaps that’s what living in Norfolk for a couple of years does to you) and this fascination is probably based on some rather misty-eyed childhood memories of watching badly-dubbed (and probably badly copied: tut tut) VHS tapes of Enter the Dragon and Police Story whilst skiving from school. (And of course there was Seven Samurai, but Japan is going to have to wait for another year or two.) I’m sure I have all sorts of misconceptions about China and I’m looking forward to having those blown away.
So, the other half of the reason: I finished the first draft of my novel a few weeks ago and I’ve been steadily slogging away through a first edit which involved a major reworking of one of the tenses I had decided to use. The whole thing ideally needs a second edit, at least to sanity check some of the more heavily edited chapters, but I’ll leave all that until I come back from my trip.
My novel is set in the 1840s in the city of Guangzhou, known at the time as Canton (original home of the Chinese Cantonese dialect). The characters in my novel also make a brief trip to Hong Kong to what was, back then, the relatively new British settlement of Victoria. This is all against the dark backdrop of the opium trade and the aftermath of the First Opium War. I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours over the last few months pouring over research and reading novels that detail southern China and Hong Kong throughout the mid-1800s and early 1900s, but I guess I’m the kind of writer (that’s hobby writer) who likes to share the physical experience of what my characters get up to (within reason that is) and stamp my feet wherever they’ve walked, even if the locations may have dramatically changed since their day.
So this is it. My little adventure. I want to swap ni hao‘s with the taxi drivers, eat noodles looking out over Victoria Bay and see the view from Victoria Peak (and there’s probably a whole load of misconceptions right here straight off the mark). I want to visit Guangzhou and see the Pearl River with my own eyes.
And with only three days over there I think I’m going to come back with a pretty long to-do list for another visit sometime.