Saturday, June 04, 2011


Small boat, somewhere east of Hong Kong

It's summer in Hong Kong, when people decide it will be fun to spend the day on a boat, drinking.

Surrounded by diesel, and rubbish from other junk trips.

On a hot day, stationary in the beating sun, without even rudimentary air conditioning.

On a hot day, all day. Drinking. In a place with only the most limited access to the written word.

While around you, other people on other junks are all doing much the same thing.

As you might have inferred, a day on a junk isn't my favourite thing in all the world. Today's was particularly vicious, coming as it did with a 10am start, rough seas, and a small and slow boat that spent two hours pitching and yawing in the wake of every other vessel in Victoria harbour, until I wasn't sure if I was going to be sick or just die. The guys crewing the boat seemed to be baffled: both by where we were going to, and by the inner workings of the junk's engine. Which, obviously, was junk, and much better at spurting oil into the sea than propelling us efficiently from place to place.

Usually, it takes about an hour for the junk to trundle out to where it will drop anchor; two and a half hours was a ridiculous amount of time to spend rocking up and down. And then once we were in one place, the boat continued to bounce up and down for the next five hours, like we were on a ferry in the English Channel, not a nominally calm bay round the south side of the island.

It's always odd who turns up on a junk, and as ever half the people didn't know the other half: this time it was a squadron of random Italians who spent all their time smoking, so I went to the upper deck to concentrate on my sunburn and on reading Oscar & Lucinda (not great if you are stuck on a boat whilst reading the maritime section) and struggling to sleep.

I may have been a little hungover. Last night's booze hit me hard, and I have vague memories of X-Men: First Class, which I thought was a 3D movie which I hadn't been given glasses for, rather than a normal movie that I couldn't focus on properly. I wonder if that would be cheaper for Hollywood than to make things in 3D, but then it would leave people on junks the next day in a parlous state.

I tried to get into the spirit of things; I drank a lot of wine and ate some food I shouldn't have. My fiancee told me that crisps didn't count if I was on a boat - not sure about that. But it was to no avail; after a few hours I was sound asleep. Then again, on pretty much every junk I go on I end up prone on the floor, unconscious rather than dealing with a boatload of alcoholics, so perhaps I was just being true to form.

The sun blazed down, the boat pitched and rolled mercilessly. Then we went back to the quay, another terrifying journey through the harbour, and, feeling green about the gills, I beat a swift retreat.

So that was June 4 for me. I wonder if I could have been doing anything else today.


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