Europe and back again

My first post of 2007 will be spent talking about the last month of 2006. I realise that it’s been a shockingly long time since I wrote anything here (five months, to be exact), and also that I’ve been incredibly bad at keeping up with emails and comments (my apologies to anyone who has contacted me – I will get back to you).

I spent the whole of December in Europe. Two weeks of this was in Bratislava, Slovakia, and the rest with family for Christmas in England. After a year in Asia it was great to go back home and be able to go about my business without being a cause for curiosity. It would be very trite of me to say that nothing had changed. It would also be quite untrue. A lot of things have changed, and none more so than UK airports, which can now be summed up very succinctly: a royal nuisance. Long queues and over-zealous security made every journey an extreme test of patience. Even leaving the train at the airport’s train station was not simple, and security were unhappy that I’d thrown my ticket away between leaving the train and exiting the station.

Bratislava was quite the opposite. There may not be a lot to see (excepting a castle and a few museums it’s pretty scarce on the things-for-tourists-to-do front), but as good a time was had with the people I did meet as in Prague. Also, I finally had chance to try some the Czech/Slovak speciality of fried cheese (something I refused to do while in Prague). My first time was actually pretty good, my second resulted in a day dashing back and forth to the toilet.

Christmas raged with it’s usual ferocity in the UK, and I managed to pick up a few toys that are otherwise hard to locate in China (of which I may talk about in future posts). Also, being the daring type that I am, I tried joining up with HSBC, who just happen to have a branch not very far from me in Guangzhou. The idea was that with a global bank I’d be better able to transfer money around and stave off nasty bank charges. Alas, it seems that due to some bizarre policies, HSBC will not accept you unless you close all other bank accounts. Their reason is to stop you ‘fraudulently transferring money between accounts’. Ah, of course. My money, my accounts, it must be fraud. Sorry HSBC, but I’ve gone elsewhere.

Despite buying a return ticket, Emirates were resolutely defiant in their assertion that I was flying one way to Hong Kong, and as such was deserving of extra security checks. Yet more airport tedium. When I did make it, Hong Kong was quite the tropical paradise compared to windy England, and New Years day was spent walking around in a t-shirt on Lamma Island where I tried tofu hua (tofu flower), a bowl of goopy tofu that tastes of ginger.

On returning to China I discovered that the internet was hopelessly broken. An earthquake in Taiwan on December 26th had cut most of the ocean cables linking Asia to the USA. I’m quite astonished at how little has been made of this in the rest of the world, or how big an effect it had on the whole infrastructure in Asia. Even though it happened nearly a month ago it has still not been fully repaired. What little information I can find out suggests that nothing has yet been repaired and is not expected to be repaired until February. I’m sure it’s not the easiest task repairing cables 2km down in a stormy ocean, but based upon my own situation I can only imagine the kinds of losses that this disruption has caused to Asia as a whole, and it does make me wonder why more urgency has not been placed on fixing it.

After surviving Christmas in the UK, China is now gearing up for it’s New Year celebrations and, if it’s possible, they will be even more crazy. Typically at this time of year the country is awash with people trying to get home, and transport is guaranteed to be full. Already the stores are building up the momentum, decorating everything in red, and blasting everyone with New Year songs that are sung by extraordinarily shrill children.

6 thoughts on “Europe and back again”

  1. Good to see you back, there seem to be a lot of people awaiting solutions for some probable issues with the headspace plugin:)

    That aside, I have been wondering myself “how little has been made of this (the slow internet in China) in the rest of the world, or how big an effect it had on the whole infrastructure in Asia.”

    From what I hear, Hong Kong is pretty much up to speed again so that can’t be the problem.

    It is and has been rather disastrous here in Shanghai. I have clients that switched from Unicom to China Telecom as the former was performing even worse. It seems the local Telco’s don’t really see the need of fixing this in a “Timely fashion”.

    Maybe because most of the users in China just surf the Chinese web and for them things are fast enough now.

    If it will be fixed by Spring Festival that would be great but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes longer. In a way it shows that China on this part is not yet ready or maybe just doesn’t care that much. The upside for them is that they have less to monitor.

  2. “Alas, it seems that due to some bizarre policies, HSBC will not accept you unless you close all other bank accounts. Their reason is to stop you ‘fraudulently transferring money between accounts’.”

    The UK branches are still not properly integrated into the HSBC network, so it would have been like transfering cash between different banks anyway. I’m in Malaysia and had the same idea, but on further investigation it turned out to be pointless.

    “On returning to China I discovered that the internet was hopelessly broken. An earthquake in Taiwan on December 26th had cut most of the ocean cables linking Asia to the USA. I’m quite astonished at how little has been made of this in the rest of the world, or how big an effect it had on the whole infrastructure in Asia. Even though it happened nearly a month ago it has still not been fully repaired.”

    Same here in Malaysia. The Internet ground to a halt, and then became tediously slow for a month or so. It’s much better now, although there are still bad periods from time to time.

    I’m thinking of doing the UK Christmas run next year — I think it’s 10 years or so since I was last over at that time. About 3 weeks is enough for me, then the novelty starts to wear off. Paradoxically, it’s both the worst and best time to go. The weather’s to awful to do much, but you inevitably meet lots of people you haven’t seen in ages around Xmas.

    Totally unrelated, but will Inscript work with WP 2.1?

    Over the last few months I’ve decided I really should get back to posting more often, and I’ve now taken the plunge to upgrade from 1.5.

  3. Hi I just discovered it here. Nice to say hello to a neighbour (pff: just a few hundred eighty km).
    A friend of mine said he lived in Guangzhou and has 10Mb connection since he moved to a new building. He was impressed, me too!

    Using this test (http://www.hinet.net/support/testspeed.htm?index.htm)
    I have myself a [ 197.7 K bps ] download [ 24.2 K bytes/sec ] upload
    What rate is your connection speed right now ? that would be interesting.

  4. Thanks guys!

    The internet has indeed been returned to normal speed. In fact, I’d say it’s actually faster now than before (this may just be because I complained enough to China Telecom that they fixed the local line) – when I’m going downhill I can expect 220Kb/s, although this changes a lot depending on the time of day and inclination of the moon.

    Azam, InScript should work, but may have some issues like HeadSpace. I’ll check it out soon

  5. Hi again. Last midnight I was so puzzled about that Internet speed that I checked the grey plug, the one with two entries , one phone and other one ADSL. I found out that the plug has been inverted (The difference on my connector is not very visible). So I put back the phone line into the phone plug and so the modem adsl line into the corresponding labeled plug. Guess what ?

    My access speed now is [ 1804 K bps ] [ 221.1 K bytes/sec ].

    That’s amazing but at the same time I feel shame on myself!

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