Monday, September 18, 2006

Guangzhou to Mombassa

I do not know how long it has been. Well, literally I could check the dates and know exactly how long it has been, but in my head it all a blur. So much has happened in the last few weeks and sitting alone over a few glasses of rum and coke in Lang Kwai Fong (HK), I have been contemplating how to relate my adventures. So I guess as any story does, we should also start at the beginning. I kicked off in Guangzhou and took a 2 hour train ride to Hong Kong where I caught the Airport Express train to the ‘Airport’. It was a pretty state of the art ride with this electronic dial over the door that showed exactly how close to your destination you are. For people like me who never wear a watch that serves a pretty good purpose.

The ride itself is extremely smooth. They have some news channels playing on the LCD’s that are mounted on every seat and the windows are large enough for passengers to enjoy the view. The train passes through some densely populated areas as well as coastal areas where the ocean is clearly visible. However, through out the whole time it is obvious that you are rolling through a metropolitan city. This train goes to the new HK airport that is on some island near the city. The old one used to be right in the heart of HK and pilots had to dodge buildings just to land there. I guess most people saw it as an accident waiting to happen in this age where commercial buildings have become strategic military targets.

The Qatar Airways flight I caught from Hong Kong stopped over in DOHA for about 10 hours. They provided me with a complimentary hotel and dinner. When I landed in DOHA I was under the impression that I would be cutting the 10 hours layover I had at the airport and was more than pleasantly surprised that I was being provided with complementary food and board by Qatar Airways. The flight was pretty cool as well. They had entertainment on demand with a wide range of movies to choose from and even a vast selection of music including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and even Bob Dylan amongst others. The hotel however left much to be desired. After waiting in the airport for almost 2 hours for a pick up, I was lead to a degenerated hotel and the smallest excuse for a room I have ever seen.

I do not remember the name of the joint but I was grateful for a place to rest my head. The weather outside was unbelievably hot. I think I felt every drop of humidity escape my body as soon as I hit the street so being in an air-conditioned room was a relief. I grabbed some grilled meat next door to the hotel before turning in. There was not much else in the area and to be honest, these Middle Eastern countries freak me out so I just wanted to sleep and ramble on out of there. The last thing I want is to have my dick chopped off for smiling at some random chick in a black dress. There was a TV in the room and I did not expect much variety to be available but there were some good movies running so as musty as the room was, I still felt comfortably numb.

I only caught about 5 hours of sleep before I had to get fed and ship out back to the airport. I was pretty tense that I would over sleep and be left to bake in this desert called Doha so I requested about 4 wake up calls. The breakfast spread was typically Arabic. They served up this local dish of chick peas cooked in tomato, onions, and spices served with a mixture of cold vegetables and yoghurt. I was pretty hungry so I helped myself to a healthy portion before taking off. I do not usually eat on airplanes so I try to load up in advance. They put meds in the airplane food that constipates you so you don’t shit on the plane. That’s some useless information for you.

I walked out onto the street to take a few pictures of the hotel I was in and even though it was only 6 am, it was still cooking outside. You can see how my camera lens fogged over in the heat. And it was not even that cool in the hotel. Although the picture is not clear it is still evident that this should hardly be referred to as a hotel and in my opinion falls under the category of guest house.

My first impression of Doha would only confirm my initial belief that it is a small desert town. This opinion while probably not well informed is the only one I am still left with. And to be honest I do not really care to go back and prove myself wrong. These are the views to the left and right of me. The drive back to the airport took about 10 minutes and the scenery stayed pretty much the same. The infrastructure was really good, as in the roads were well kempt and I noticed the phone and electricity lines were spanning out, but I did not notice any historical locations or open air markets. In fact the architecture was modern with hints of Arabic influence. I did not see any tall buildings either.

The Doha airport is quite small compared to cities I have visited in the Far East but the duty free shopping was extensive. You could buy everything from the regular goodies like cosmetics, booze, and candy to other oddities like common household products like toilet soaps and detergent. It was like a big duty free supermarket with an electronics section of course. I saw one dude pick up a plasma TV.

Like Dubai where they have numerous raffle opportunities to win money and cars, Doha also boasts a variety of such scams. There was the option to win this Mercedes…

This Range Rover…

And even this Harley-Davidson. They almost got me there.

But the most attractive of the scams has to be the million dollar pot. I know so many people who have bought these raffles every time they have traveled in the Middle East but I have yet to meet a singe winner. But I will admit that I decided if I had $100 hanging around in my pockets on the way back I would take a shot.

The onward flight to Nairobi and then Mombassa was uneventful. The aircraft was downgraded and there was no entertainment on demand so I kicked back with my ipod for 6 hours. I had a couple yellow pills on hand that make long haul flights a little less boring and a little more comfortable for me so the time passed smoothly. The worst part of the trip was over.

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