Magun's Compass - Online Home of Nomadic Gatherings Travel Notes Nomadic Gatherings: Travels in Asia and Australia Nomadic Gatherings Michel Guntern (Author) 4. Colonial Gateway - Change Money

"Hallo, change money. Hong Kong Dollar, FEC?"

I heard the same phrase about ten times within a minute. I shrugged them off and set out to find the Dong Fang Hotel.

A 'student' came up to me when I was away from the station patch. "Can I help you? You are Merican?"

"Well I'm English actually and I'm looking for the Dong Fang Hotel."

He seemed happy to help me without a fee. "This Liu Hua Hotel," he said. I was going the wrong way already. He drew a map and I quizzed him about the black-market rate.

"You want to change money?"

I said that first I had to change traveller's cheques, but I wanted to know the going-rate for future reference.

"One hundred Hong Kong Dollar, One Hundred Renminbi."

"What about FEC?" I asked. FEC were the Foreign Exchange Certificates we received from official exchanges for traveller's cheques and foreign currency.

This 'tourist money' was needed to make purchases in certain shops, pay for accommodation in 'Western hotels', and for 'tourist' travel (especially to Hong Kong). The Chinese needed this money if they wanted to buy certain goods, travel on sleeper trains, fly, or leave the country.

The going premium, he said, was two to one. So for one hundred FEC, I should expect to receive two hundred RMB. This was the people's money that was freely spent on local buses, shops and Chinese restaurants.

It was all highly illegal, of course.

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