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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 42: 5 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysWe disembark at 8 a.m. Verne observed as Fogg landed in Hong Kong that there is 'a track of English towns all around the world'. It's now reduced to one, and after 1997, none.

My bag breaks. The strap, unable to take the strain any longer, rips away as I set foot on British soil for the first time in six weeks. Unfortunately the camera has a fault as well and I am required to walk down the gangway twice more, pretending that the bag isn't broken. By this time I'm anxious to be away from the container port - so empty of people and full of the smell of diesel engines and the clang of metal resounding. Above my head huge gantry cranes are off-loading a 40-foot container every 80 seconds. I find that the Peninsula Hotel, where I am to stay for two nights, has sent a green Rolls-Royce, complete with chauffeur and champagne, to the dockside to collect me. The driver shows me, somewhat distastefully, into the snug, brown leather seats, and soon we are in a traffic jam on a flyover. Somehow after ten days at sea a traffic jam seems singularly pointless even if you are in a Rolls-Royce. Ships may move at less than 30 miles an hour, but at least they're moving. You never find yourself pulling up behind another vessel. On either side the tall apartment blocks are huddled together, side by side and back to back, scrambling for space. The city feels unbearably claustrophobic, but my eyes are wide, taking everything in - the Chinese signs and the Union Jacks. Down into Kowloon, past sparkling and expensive hotels and office buildings. I'm back in the world of security men, outside prestige entrances with their two-way radios and swivelling suspicious eyes. Haven't really noticed this breed since they chased us and our camera from the front of the National Bank in Jeddah.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 42
  • Date: 5 November
  • Country/sea: Hong Kong
  • Place: Hong Kong
  • Book page no: 132

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