14-Dec-2002 -- One day, my colleague and old confluencing buddy TonyB came to me and said:
"Hey Targ, Guangdong is not complete any more. The confluence gods have taken it upon themselves to reinterpret the rules. There is a new water confluence there, which makes the Guangdong map sans one red dot.
"But, damn, it will be a hard one I'm sure. Those little islands are full of Chinese military outposts left over from the colonial days when the Chinese were trying to watch and listen in on the British. They won't like it too much if a few gweilos show up looking around and trying to get to a point on the sea.
"You say there is a bird sanctuary on a nearby island that we can get to via ferry? Sounds great, we can always get there and see if we can find a fisherman to take us out to the confluence point. Although with the wife and the kids, I'm pretty busy these days, I don't know if I can spare the time to go out there, as inviting as this bird sanctuary sounds. Let me look at the map more carefully and evaluate our chances and options.
"HEY! HOLD IT! WAIT a second. Targ, this is no bird sanctuary! This is the place I've wanted to go to ever since I came to Hong Kong. This island is world famous, I'm sure of it. Hang on, let me do a few Google searches. [Clickity click...]
"I was right! I love Google. Here, go search these terms:
china+hong+kong+prostitute+island and you will find www.worldsexguide.org/hongkong_faq.html. In that article, see the section on Ding Ling [sic].
"The only birds we are going to find in this fine sanctuary are ones with high heels and feathers around their necks. I'm sure the wife and kids won't miss me that much.
"WHEN ARE WE LEAVING?!
"Wooohooo. Off we go to the confluence, where certain points shall meat! (Pun intended.)"
And so it was that this confluence attempt was born. This is the closest confluence point to my home on Lamma Island, and as I stood on my balcony entering it into my GPS, it registered as being just 27.9 kilometres to the SSW. But getting to it, as Tony suggested, was not such an easy matter. The map illustrates the convoluted journey involved.
On Friday morning, I took my usual ferry journey to my office on the south side of Hong Kong Island, and then after work Tony and I went around to the north of Hong Kong Island where we met up with his wife Teresa, brother-in-law Aidan and my girlfriend Emily. The five of us took a ferry to Macau, where we had a delightful dinner at Tony's favourite Macanese restaurant Fernandos, located on the south side of the southernmost of Macau's two outlying islands. After dinner, the girls took another ferry back to Hong Kong, while we three guys headed north over the border into Zhuhai in mainland China. (I wonder if Teresa sent little brother Aidan along with us to ensure that Tony kept on the straight and narrow?)
In Zhuhai, we found a conveniently located hotel to spend the night. We were now some 54 kilometres from the confluence. Bright and early the next morning, we made our way to Xiangzhou Port, from where we caught a fast ferry that went via Guishan Island (24.3 kilometres from the confluence) to Wailingding Island. We arrived in Dangan, the only town on Wailingding Island, and were now just 11.7 kilometres from the confluence.
Our next task was to find a fisherman--or anyone with a boat for that matter--who would be willing to take us to Henggang Island, about seven kilometres to the south, and hopefully to the confluence just beyond that. We wandered around the waterfront, asking any likely looking people we could find, but all to no avail. The closest we got was at the Marina Hotel, where boat charters were available at unbelievably extortionate rates, and only if one had booked a day in advance. This suited neither our pocketbooks nor our timetable.
Word of our quest spread like wildfire around the island. As we sat in the hotel lobby, lamenting our hopeless situation and contemplating our next move, "Kevin" suddenly materialised. Kevin spoke fluent English, and seemed to be a major mover and shaker on Wailingding Island. His business card read: "Land Developer, Tourism, Hotel, Marina Club, Boat Builder, Super Intendant [sic]." He understood our requirements, and soon busied himself making calls to various boat owners, while we sat and drank complimentary tea. After numerous telephone exchanges, Kevin finally announced that he had arranged for a "special traffic" boat to come from Hong Kong to take us to the confluence. "Special traffic" was a euphemism for the boats that normally travel at night, under cover of darkness, bringing Hong Kong men to visit Wailingding Island's famous "hairdressers" (another euphemism).
With our boat not due to arrive for a couple of hours, Kevin then took it upon himself to give us a tour of the island. First, we visited the island's most popular hairdressing salon, where three of the "employees" happily posed for a photo with Aidan and Tony. We learned that Wailingding Island, with a population of less than 3,000, had at its "peak season" four major hairdressers, six karaoke bars and over 200 young girls from faraway Hunan and Sichuan provinces.
Next, Kevin organised a car to take us up to the highest point on the island, where there was a network of manmade caves that had been used during the War of Resistance Against Japan. From the peak, my home island of Lamma was just barely discernable through the perennial haze. On our way back down the mountain, we noticed a bizarre sight: a whole line of badly decaying bumper cars, a government enterprise that had apparently gone sour. (That was before they discovered hairdressing.)
Around about this time Kevin received a call on his mobile, and it was not good news. The special traffic boat wouldn't be coming after all. But resourceful Kevin always had another plan. This time he successfully negotiated with a fisherman to take us out in a fishing boat. Once again we were back in business, or so we thought. But then the fisherman decided that he'd better get the okay from the local bureaucracy first. We knew we were doomed, even before the call was made. The chief of the People's Liberation Army on the island was hardly going to condone three gweilos going off on a fishing boat for dubious purposes, despite the considerable sway of Kevin behind our endeavour.
So, in the end, we had to admit defeat, and decide how to make the best use of our time before the afternoon ferry back to Zhuhai. We started by shouting Kevin to a fantastic seafood lunch, which would have cost a small fortune in Hong Kong, but was ridiculously cheap here in mainland China, just a few short sea miles away. After lunch, Tony and Aidan availed themselves of a full-body massage at, I hasten to mention, a reputable massage parlour. The cost of a 60-minute massage was a mere 38 yuan (approximately US$4.50). While they were enjoying their hour of pampering, I went for a walk to the south side of the island, from where I was able to see Henggang Island, beyond which lay the elusive confluence, 11.3 kilometres away.
Our final stop was the bamboo bong shop, where we were first given a live demonstration by a practitioner, after which Tony bought not one, but two huge bongs to take back home. As Tony and I waited to board the ferry back to Zhuhai, the bongs were sticking out of his backpack like the proverbial! Upon arrival in Zhuhai, we took a short taxi ride around to the Jiuzhou Port, and from there took a direct ferry back to Hong Kong, with the customs people on both sides of the border not so much as blinking an eyelid.
Upon reflection, it was a good day's outing, although we never did see any real birds! Aidan was visiting Hong Kong as part of his round-the-world adventure, and I'm sure this confluence attempt added a memorable chapter. As for Tony and me, we are now more determined than ever to conquer this elusive point, and finish off Guangdong once and for all. Expect another attempt early in the new year...