19-Jan-2002 -- This is the closest confluence to Hong Kong, lying approximately 80 kilometres to the north in the mainland Chinese city of Dongguan. Dongguan is roughly half-way between the special economic zone of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, and Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. (Some readers may know Guangzhou as Canton, from which the local dialect Cantonese, spoken throughout Guangdong and Hong Kong, gets its name.)
I set off from my home, situated on an outlying island of Hong Kong, on a misty Saturday morning. A ferry and three train journeys got me to the Lowu border crossing within two hours. Lowu is the main crossing point between Hong Kong and mainland China, utilised by several hundred thousand people daily. The photo was taken from the Shenzhen side of the border, looking back at the customs hall (the yellow building slightly left of centre), with the Shenzhen railway station the prominent building on the right. The two hills in the background are on the Hong Kong side. The construction work going on in the foreground is for the new Shenzhen underground, due to begin operation later this year. The pace of development in China is awesome, and one sometimes gets the impression that the whole country is just one big construction site, but more on that later...
In Shenzhen, I met up with my friend Liu Zifeng, or Feng for short. Feng is the same friend who met Tony and me at the Shenzhen airport three months earlier, when Tony and I were en route to our first confluence visit at 21º north, 110º east. This time, Feng was to take Tony's place as my co-confluencer.
We caught an express train heading in the direction of Guangzhou. There are many such express trains plying the route between Shenzhen and Guangzhou every day, and a few of them, including the one we were on, make a single intermediate stop at Dongguan. The journey from Shenzhen to Dongguan took just half an hour.
The Dongguan railway station is only a kilometre and a half from the confluence. Unfortunately, the only exit from the station put us on the wrong side of the tracks. Finding a way across was not a trivial matter, as the accompanying photo illustrates. We walked some distance along a road parallel to the tracks, until eventually coming to a bridge that allowed us to cross.
We continued on foot along roads that brought us closer to the confluence. When we were within 400 metres, we found ourselves at the entrance to a brand new housing estate called Lake Side Villa. The photo shows Feng holding the GPS, indicating that the confluence may be located somewhere inside. Just after this photo was taken, we were accosted by the housing estate security guard, demanding to know what we were doing. I showed him the Degree Confluence Project's "Dear land owner or manager" letter that one of my colleagues had kindly translated into Chinese for me the day before, however the only part that the guard seemed to comprehend was "take a few pictures." This led him to the conclusion that we had mistaken the housing estate for a public park. While Feng and the guard were debating this point, I slipped away with the GPS and proceeded a short distance inside. From the readings I was getting, I began to suspect that the confluence may not be within the grounds of the housing estate after all. I therefore suggested that we go back and follow the road along a bit further, thus defusing the situation with the security guard.
We walked along the road as it curved promisingly around to the right, but the confluence stubbornly remained an elusive 400 metres away. Eventually we decided to turn down a laneway that took us through a residential area in the direction of the confluence. The houses soon gave way to a small orchard, and after making our way across that, we came upon a construction site surrounded by a high wall. The confluence was inside the construction site!
We walked along the wall around the outside of the construction site, looking for a way in, even though this entailed temporarily putting more distance between the confluence and ourselves. When we finally did find an opening and let ourselves in, we were amused to discover that we were in the back section of Lake Side Villa! This housing estate was so new that parts of it, including the area where the confluence is located, were still under construction.
The photo looking west from the confluence features several large semi-completed buildings surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. It was from behind these buildings that we had approached the confluence and had run into the high wall, which we were then forced to follow around to the right, eventually gaining access from the east. A completed section of the estate is visible on the opposite side of the lake in the photo looking south. The main photo at the top of this page was taken from the eastern side of the lake, looking back across to the construction zone where the confluence is located.
The lake was surrounded by grass and flowerbeds, which sported numerous strategically-placed, oversized, green plastic mushrooms. Melodic harmonies emanated from these "music mushrooms," and no doubt one day, when the estate is finally complete, will serve to generate an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. But for us, they were drowned out by the starkly contrasting cacophony of construction noise.
We left Lake Side Villa the easy way, through the main entrance, where we once again encountered the security guard. His main objective now was to avoid any kind of hassle that was going to unduly complicate his day. Having established that we were definitely in the process of leaving, he was content to let matters rest at that.