May 26th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

We’d half-expected Tom + Jan to come round to see us, but when they didn’t show, we went round to see them instead.  Their plans are to hang around in India for a month or 2 until Jan’s dad comes out to meet them in Delhi.  But they plan to hike to the Everest base camp in the autumn, something we’re considering vaguely ourselves.  So we made loose arrangements to keep in touch via the Amex office.  We then wished each other bon voyage + bonne chance, + said goodbye (or should it be au revoir.)

We ate some breakfast at Kantipur’s, a surprisingly good little place for breakfast, especially when I supplemented what they had on offer with a crusty buttered roll from the bakery across the way.  It was funny when we had finished.  We left carrying some old stuff of Val’s – her old boots, a pair of socks, + her schoolboy shirt bought in the thrift shop in Cairns – which we planned to donate to some deserving soul.  As we walked down the street, we were being pestered by one of the regular hawkers, thrusting jewellery at us + jabbering away.  I wasn’t paying him any attention, + was just giving the usual brush-off –  “No thank you, not interested”.  He persisted, however, + I in turn became more vehement, even a little angry.  I don’t mind a man trying to make a living, I was in a similar business myself in Sydney, but he should know when to stop.  But it was only when he kept on that I realised he was proposing an exchange, the old gear we were carrying for a couple of bangles.  When he saw the quality of what we had, he wasn’t so sure, but I settled for just the one bangle, twisted copper + stainless steel, + we were both happy with the deal.

Another story.  Down on Freak St the other day, we were approached by a guy with the usual spiel.  “Wanna change some money, hash, marijuana, coke, LSD, opium…”  I tried to cut him off early in my usual polite way – I don’t like to see people wasting their time – but when he reached the end + then without pausing for breath started going thro’ it again.  I was angry + told him off in no uncertain terms.  “I just told you I wasn’t interested, don’t you understand?  No means no.”  He stopped + looked up at me from under his hooded eyes with an expression of innocence, paused, then “Hash?” he offered.  I could do nothing but laugh.

We were in a bit of as hurry now, as Val went off to see Chiling while I went back to the Lodge to sort out the bill + finish packing.  As usual, there was a mix-up with the bill, but we were able to sort it out amicably in the end.  Chiling wasn’t around, Val returned to tell me, so we decided to forget it.  I was quite happy about it, was happy to forget all about smuggling money out, it simply not being worth the emotional disturbance.  I have turned against the smuggling – not morally, just personally – especially since we discovered that 2 Swiss people were sitting in Kathmandu jails.  We had intended to visit them, but I’m sorry to confess, never got around to it.

We caught a taxi out to the airport – I was a little nervous for a while, since it took some time to find one, + the minutes were ticking by.  I think I’m becoming increasingly like my mum, wanting to have plenty of time for travel arrangements.  We timed things well, in fact – no hanging around, checked straight thro’ to Immigration, no fuss.  For the first time, we had our bags searched leaving a country, + that took some time, there being just the one guy, but it was a cursory affair, + we were soon enough thro’ to the departure lounge, then on the plane.  It was a fine flight, a definite contender for best yet, since for once we had good food + good service combined.  The plane was half-empty, making rather a mockery of RNAC’s claim that the planes were fully booked thro’ to mid-June, but it made the stewardesses’ job far easier.  Perhaps as a result, they were really pleasant, helpful + generous – especially with the booze, a far cry from the embittered battleaxes we had both had on the outward journey.  The food was very good, + we both drank a ridiculous amount.

Arriving at Hong Kong at night, with the lights of the city + harbour, was a real buzz, tho’ I would hesitate to say it felt good to be back.  The formalities were completed in record time.  We touched down at 8, + by 8.30 were in Chungking Mansions.  A problem there, when as we had feared our locker had been opened + our gear taken into storage, but luckily they had only done this recently, so we were only charged a small amount.  And the stuff was safe.  Val went to bed soon after, but I was struck by my usual Hong Kong insomnia, + stayed up till very late, first of all watching the late film, then smoking + talking.  There was a particularly spaced-out Canadian freak called Steve.  I didn’t like him much, he was a big-mouth + a know-all, but those facts were mitigated a good deal by a sense of humour.

And… back in Hong Kong. And a return to the 20th century in many ways, though in so many other ones life had been so much more relaxed and pleasant in Nepal. And good to put smuggling behind us. If it goes well, it is a ridiculously easy was of making some money; if not, of course, the consequences are dire. I cannot say for certain that the Swiss couple even existed, proper information, rather than ill-founded rumour, being so difficult to obtain, but we were both aware that it could happen… and could easily have happened to one of us.

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