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Hello, this is Owen and this is my podcast for Friday 27th April, 2018. How are you all? I’m on the road again. After my time in Greece I spent a few days in the UK before packing my bags again and travelling to Hong Kong, where I am now. I’ve come to see Vittoria, who’s been living and working in Hong Kong for the past six months. When we were living in Kunming, I used to say: ‘If only we could get jobs in Hong Kong…’ Well, Vittoria did find a job and I’ve come to spend some time with her here in Hong Kong.
Today, I’ll be telling you a little bit about Hong Kong but first I’ll be talking about some news out of China.
So, I’m back in China! Well, almost. I guess, Hong Kong to me isn't quite China. When I was still living in China I tried to keep up with  all the local news. My Chinese was never good enough to read newspapers in Chinese or watch the news in Chinese though. There are some news agencies  in China that do some of their reporting in English but for the most part  I got my news about China from Western sources. The media in China is heavily censored anyway, so I don’t think I was missing that much. I still try to keep up with what’s happening in China. The biggest story recently, of course, was the decision to change the constitution in order to allow the current president Xi Jinping to remain president for life. It’s obviously a big deal  and I’m sure you all heard about it on the news. There are some other stories, though, that don’t get as much news coverage . One of them is about Mercedes-Benz. There have been a number of similar stories about other multinational companies recently but the one I want to tell you about involves Mercedes-Benz and Instagram. Now, it’s important to know that China is Mercedes-Benz’s biggest market and Instagram, the social media app that allows you to post pictures, is blocked in China. A lot of companies use Instagram for marketing purposes  and Mercedes posted a picture recently of one of their cars. In the picture there was a white car on a beach and a quote  by the Dalai Lama. Now, as you know, the Chinese government is not a fan of the Dalai Lama. But, remember, Instagram is blocked in China, so no one in China could actually see this picture. So what did the Chinese government do? They immediately complained to Mercedes about the picture. And what did Mercedes do? Remind the Chinese government that Instagram is blocked in China or just ignore the Chinese government? No, of course not. Instead, they immediately deleted the picture on Instagram and they issued  an apology. The word kowtow comes from the Chinese and literally means to get down on your knees and touch your head to the ground. It was how you showed respect to the emperor. These days to kowtow just means to show too much respect to someone in authority. I can’t think of a more perfect way to describe what Mercedes did: they kowtowed to the Chinese government. And the quote in the picture by the Dalai Lama? “Look at situations from all angles, and you will become more open.”
I’ve visited Hong Kong a number of times before and I’m really happy for Vittoria that she gets to live here. It’s an incredible city. It’s very crowded, of course. The downtown area in particular is jam-packed . If I’m not mistaken, it’s one of the most densely  populated urban areas in the world. The streets are narrow and the skyscrapers  are massive. The skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island are amazing to look at. If you’re on the mainland  and you look across the harbour  at Hong Kong Island, you get to see the most incredible skyline . I think it’s probably the best skyline in the world. The city is not all skyscrapers though. In fact, 40% of Hong Kong is made up of parks. And I’m not talking about the types of small green areas that you find in most cities. I’m talking about nature reserves  and proper countryside where there are no buildings and hardly any people, just beautiful untouched nature. It’s this balance and these extremes that make Hong Kong special and the reason I love the city. On the one hand it’s this busy urban city with the most amazing skyline but it’s also a tropical paradise with beautiful beaches. To give you an idea of this contrast, I’ll take you to one of my favourite spots . It takes less than two hours to get there from downtown Hong Kong on Hong Kong Island. First we take the subway over to the mainland. From there we catch a bus. We get off at the last stop and take a taxi along the reservoir . After about 15 minutes the road comes to and end and we have to start walking. It’s a bit of a steep  walk but it’s definitely worth it. We walk down through the forest until we reach the sea. On the beach there are a few small buildings, a few small restaurants and a surf school. It’s nice here but it gets better. We carry on  along the beach. At the end of the beach there’s a path that leads along the coast. With the sea on our right we follow the path for about an hour until suddenly we’re looking down onto an absolutely stunning beach. A soft sandy beach away from everything and just beautiful. Apart from a small restaurant at the far end of the beach and some showers and toilets hidden amongst the trees, there is nothing. There are no buildings or roads in sight. It’s quiet and there’s no artificial light. How about a swim? When you’re in the water and you look back at the beach, all you can see are trees and plants. It’s hard to imagine that we’re less than two hours from downtown Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. It’s worth bringing a tent. That’s what Vittoria and I did. We spent the night on the beach and it was blissful .
That’s about all from me for this month. Thank you for listening. If you want to leave a comment or ask a question, please use the box below. You can find all our podcasts on our website podclub.ch or by downloading our app. You can also download our vocabulary trainer and you can find me on Instagram using the hashtags #PodClubOwen and #oweninchina. Gerry will be back in two weeks and I’ll be back on Friday 25th May. Take care everyone! Bye for now!