MINI HOTEL, CAUSEWAY BAY – You can tell more about a country by crossing its border than from 10 websites full of government statistics.
This weekend, we left China and entered Hong Kong… We were shocked at what we saw…
Smallest Hotel Room I’ve Ever Seen
Greetings from Hong Kong!
We had a long day of buses, taxis, high-speed trains, and lots of walking. It took us nearly 12 hours to get from our hostel in south China to our hotel room in Hong Kong.
Our hotel room is the smallest hotel room I’ve ever seen.
The beds are arranged in shelves like a toaster oven. There’s a little bathroom and just enough floor space for our luggage. No window. We’re paying $47 a night. (We rarely paid more than $30 a night in China, for far more comfortable rooms.)
Oh, and we have full access to the internet again, which means the kids can watch Netflix and I can check emails without having to fiddle with a VPN. China’s blocked internet has been such a pain in the neck.
Here we are setting off from Yangshuo…
Setting off for Hong Kong from Yangshuo, our last stop in China
Worst Fall on Record
There are big protests going on in Hong Kong. It’s causing a crash in Hong Kong’s economy.
Two weeks ago, official statistics showed Hong Kong had entered a recession. Capital is fleeing. Tourism is down 50%. Retail sales dropped 18% in September… the worst fall on record…
The Hongkonger sitting next to me on the train said the protesters are purposefully trying to crash the economy to get leverage in their negotiations. He’s fed up with the protests.
A person I spoke to just now says they’re beginning to notice a money trail leading back to mainland China.
“A rival faction of the Communist Party in Beijing might be sponsoring these riots to make President Xi look weak and break his power,” he told me.
Bad Signs for Hong Kong’s Economy
We entered Hong Kong on the high-speed train.
The coach in front of us was completely empty. I took this picture somewhere between Shenzhen and Hong Kong…
The empty coach in front of us on our train to Hong Kong
The customs hall was a ghost town. Incredible to see a row of 20 immigration officers sitting behind their desks, twiddling their thumbs…
The customs hall was so empty, the immigration officers had nothing to do
It was 4 p.m. Friday afternoon when I took that picture. Shouldn’t people be visiting Hong Kong for the weekend?
This doesn’t look good for Hong Kong’s economy…
– Tom Dyson
P.S. One of the best indicators of mental health – for me at least – is my mood when I wake up in the morning. For the last five years, I woke up every morning with a terrible sense of foreboding and pain. “Ugh, another day pushing this rock up the hill,” I thought.
These days, I wake up in a great mood every morning. I’m goofy, and we begin the day by laughing and being silly.
This trip has been a gift for me. I don’t want it to end.
Kind words from readers today, including one who wants to nominate Tom for a Nobel Peace Prize…
Reader comment: I hope you fully appreciate the power of the love generated by your series of postcards. I am moved, often to tears of joy, by the closeness of your family, and by the many well-wishers that respond. I feel certain you are not getting divided opinions from Democrats or Republicans, bright or dim, young or old, which seems to be the state of the country today.
While maybe one of the dimmer ones, and at 77, one of the older, nevertheless I feel I have won a prize. A prize for the most powerful and delightful feelings I have ever had by reading. While not qualified to do so, I would enthusiastically nominate you for the Nobel Peace Prize, and several Pulitzers.
Upon your return, I am sure you will have many options. I wish you and your family the best from all of them. Hold this moment close, and figure out a way to share with your children in their adult years what was going on from you and your wife’s perspective. Also, the universal positive response of your readers. GREAT, GREAT, GREAT!
Reader comment: I have enjoyed your daily missives. I like the fact that you have prioritized your relationships and admire your ability to plan well enough to be able to take this sabbatical with your family and not break the bank in the process.
Meanwhile, others inquire about air travel vs. trains in China (is flying cheaper? more convenient?)… what role people’s savings play in the Chinese banking system… and the best ways to store gold…
Reader question: Enjoying reading your notes on traveling in China. In your article on the asset growth in its banking system, how much of the asset growth comes from its citizens’ savings?
Tom’s response: In banking, savings are liabilities. It’s the loans that are the assets. Therefore, the entire growth of China’s banking system comes from banks making loans to property developers, engineering companies, homebuyers, infrastructure, small businesses, etc.
Reader question: Many thanks for your postcards. I enjoy reading them each day. I haven’t noticed you mention air travel. Is it expensive or less convenient than the fast trains?
Tom’s response: Air travel isn’t that cheap in China. It’s worth it only over very long distances. For medium distances, the high-speed train is cheaper and faster and more comfortable. Besides, Penny traveled free on the train, and the boys got half-price tickets, so it was much cheaper for us as a family.
In other regions, such as Europe, Southeast Asia, and India, flying has been much cheaper.
Reader question: You have suggested various ways to store gold, but did you consider facilities such as BullionVault, where one can buy or sell gold instantly and have it stored in a remote and secure location?
Tom’s response: Yes, of course. Perth Mint too. I like these services, and I would recommend them. But my personal preference is for physical gold and silver in my possession.
Your messages are an integral part of this project. Please keep writing us at [email protected]. Kate and I look forward to them, and we read every one.