by Niall Doherty


Traffic flows around us as we cross the street and head into the market, streams of scooters giving way to the smell of a million spices. Out back we find tubs of live crab and eel alongside a young man chopping toads with a meat cleaver. A short time later we’re back on the streets and pass the entrance to a crumbling temple. Tam asks if I’m religious. I tell her no and ask likewise. “A little bit,” she replies. “I go to temple and pray sometimes.”


Nanning, China’s green city, apparently. I’d never heard of the place until a few weeks ago. Today I find out more people live here than in my home country. I book into a hostel even though I’m not staying the night, get cleaned up and use their wifi. Later I take a walk down by the river before heading back to the train station. I leave after midnight, a seated sleep ahead of me, the only gweilo aboard.


Getting from the train station in Shanzhen to my hostel on Hong Kong Island is a mission. Ticket machines, currency exchange, language barriers, immigration checkpoints, and six different metro lines. But I love the challenge. The fact that I’m running on four hours of cramped sleep and no breakfast or lunch makes it even better, a tougher nut to crack. Just figuring out how to get there might be my favorite part of travel.


I don’t want to think about money. That’s the main reason I’d like to have a lot of it. Looking for a place to stay these next several weeks in Hong Kong and I find myself scraping the bottom of the barrel. My budget doesn’t afford me much. And it’s fine because I don’t need anything fancy, but it would be nice not to worry about price, to just find something clean and well located and be able to afford it easily. That’s the wealth I’m aiming for.


The problem with martial arts is obvious to me now. None really prepare you for a real fight. Because they all have rules. You’re not allowed poke someone in the eye or knee them in the balls, for instance. But in a street fight, there are no rules. It might even be two or three on one, and they might have knives. All your Muay Thai training won’t help much in such a situation. And Krav Maga isn’t perfect either. Impossible to simulate the real deal.

Feeling a little out of place in Nanning, China

Feeling a little out of place in Nanning, China


I’ll try save big on food while I’m here in Hong Kong. I’ve been testing out the eateries in my neighborhood and comparing prices at the markets and grocery stores. I want to get a routine down so I won’t have to think about it. So far I’ve limited myself to restaurants displaying English menus, but I’m guessing I’ll find the best meals and deals at the Chinese places. I’ve been passing up trying them, afraid of… what, exactly?


I have no interest in women right now. My sex drive might be at an all-time low. Part of it is that I keep comparing every other girl to her, and they don’t come out of that comparison looking too good. Aside from that, I’m determined to stay focused on work, no distractions. Some guys can juggle romance and business quite well, but not me. I just had a few great months of one, now I’m immersing myself in the other.


My first time eating sardines. I don’t much like the taste, but that’s okay. I’ll keep eating them anyway. Most people put taste above nutrition. I try not to do that. Ideally you’ll have both but I’m trying to cut costs here, so sometimes I have to choose. I could eat tasty McDonalds every day and save a ton, but instead I’ll choose smelly dinners of canned sardines, broccoli and kidney beans.


It was that first guy this morning, the old man I passed on the hike up to the peak. He smiled and wished me good morning. And I thought, Oh! Strangers say hello to each other here! And that was all I needed. Following his example, I offered up a few dozen greetings of my own, most of which were returned. This evening I helped an old lady push a cart up a hill. But really, it was the old man who helped her, several hours earlier, with kind words for a stranger.


It’s a little after 6 a.m. as I rest my bones at King George Park, eyes closed, heartbeats dropping, focused on the breath. I hear a shuffling come from my left and settle in front. A minute later, alarm beeps, eyes open. There’s an elderly gent leaning against another bench a few feet away, dressed in sweats, swinging one leg at a time. We exchange smiles and pleasantries, and I feel how most tourists never will. Like I’m a part of this city, not just passing through.

Overlooking Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

Overlooking Hong Kong from Victoria Peak


Business idea sitting at the back of my brain for a few weeks. Today I pull the trigger. Minimum viable product. Or offer in this case. I google around and collect appropriate email addresses, fifty-one of them, then write a quick pitch and send it out to the list. If at least three people respond and take me up on the offer, I’ll try push it further. Otherwise, drop it and move on to something else.


I’m standing in line at the supermarket when a young Asian dude approaches me: “Are you Niall?” Turns out he follows my blog and has read my book, a revelation brought to me by the letters W, T and F. We chat it up for a bit. Sam is from Hong Kong, works in banking, wants to go the self-employment route and travel the world. Before parting ways I tell him to drop me an email and we’ll meet for coffee.


I’ve disappointed her, I know it. Even though I did my best to be honest and upfront about wanting to continue traveling and doing my own thing, it’s not really fair to give myself to someone so completely before ripping it all away. Makes her wonder if I ever really cared. Makes me wonder, too, sometimes. And it’s happened before, you know. Until I’m ready to make a relationship the primary thing in my life, it’s likely to keep happening.


I get her in a headlock and start to squeeze. Suddenly she steps sideways and explodes into a twist, burying her face in my side and firing a left hand up towards my groin. Before I can tell if the grapes have been busted, I feel her right hand shoving at my face, forcing my head back until my body’s bent in an awkward arc. A split second is all it takes, and I’m done for. This lady, twenty years my senior, she could end it right now with a palm to the nose.


One of the underrated things about taking siestas is that you improve your ability to fall asleep fast. I first noticed this two years back when I experimented for a few weeks with polyphasic. This afternoon I was awoken on several occasions by someone drilling downstairs, but was able to get back to sleep within minutes each time. I like this. Helps combat the monkey mind running wild when I’m knee deep in the business lark.

Clowning around at a street market in Hong Kong

Clowning around at a street market in Hong Kong

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