Sunday, November 8, 2009

30 Hours To, Through, and Back From Hong Kong


Hong Kong Street Scene

Our visas need updating every 90 days. We can do this at the local police station where they do their best to boggle the mind with a wide variety of requests and requirements that have no resemblance to the requests and requirements you complied with the previous visit. Then they charge you 920 Yuan each for your extension. Or you can leave the country and come back in.
Which means either a trip to Viet Nam, or Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a lot easier to enter and leave, kind of like going to Canada from the US. So Brian and I did the solo 30 hour burn and return. We left Friday night at 11 on a sleeper bus. These are express buses that have three rows of double bunk beds running the length of the bus. They are designed for narrow people, shorter than five and half feet tall. They are cheaper than the regular express buses and for some reason do not use the bus stations. You call the driver to book your trip. You really need to be Chinese to use this service, but Yali arranged everything, so off we went, two tall white boys scrunched up in some stumpy beds, on our way to Shenzhen. We arrive at 6 am and don't have to be back until our bus leaves at 10 that night, so that leaves us with a whole 18 hours to enjoy the Shenzhen/Hong Kong experience. Shenzhen is a 30 year old city. Deng Xiaoping decided that this fishing village needed to become an economic zone, so instant city. It has a pretty impressive skyline, kind of like Futurama.
The train station is only a block from where we were dropped off, to we headed over there. I was feeling might sporty after my bouncy, noisy, cramped night during which I had managed about 3 hours of actual sleep. My first impression was a sign informing us of an upcoming "czechpoint". We ran our packs through a scanner and looked for the john so we could freshen up. Water on the face and some minty Extra gum, and we were good to go. We had to fill out departure cards, and a health form asking about flu like symptoms, then through customs. Suddenly we are in Hong Kong land. We need different money to get our train tickets. We get a one day pass good for the entire Hong Kong Metro and off we go.
The day became pretty random. We stopped at lots of stations. Drank coffee first to wake up, then started being tourists. The whole day was pretty whirlwindy. If you want to really know about Hong Kong , here is a little Wikipedia. Here are my totally subjective impressions of Hong Kong during my day there. It's much cleaner than Zhanjiang. The cars drive on the left, stop at the lights and don't honk. Nobody stares at you because you are white. It's really expensive. People look really tired. There are some people in a big hurry. It's really expensive. The subway system is great and easy to use. Restrooms do not exist in the subway stations. There are some massive shopping complexes around some of the stations. It's really expensive. There are some fat Chinese people there. It's nice to hang out at the water front and watch the shipping. The main downtown area has cool shops and lots of non Chinese people. There are some awesome art galleries. It's really expensive. Most of the white people don't look very happy. It's a lot more orderly. There are some really rich people here. Time to go back to China.
We spent the evening in Shenzhen. There is a six story shopping complex with a zillion small shops by the train and bus station. You could get just about anything there. There were clothes, jewelry, electronics and jade. There were tailors, dentists and massage places. There were even some shops selling stuff from Pakistan and India. Since Shenzhen gets a lot more foreigners there, there were lots of touts trying to sell you DVD's that don't work, "IPhones" and watches. There was enough bootleg stuff in one building to keep an army of copyright lawyers busy for decades. "Hello! Want watch? Have Lolek!" (Rolex).
We did manage a little shopping, much better prices than Hong Kong. We then had a great dinner, then a fun adventure trying to find the sleeper bus, since they load up at places only Chinese people know about. We had a better sleep going back since exhaustion kind of overcomes noise, bumps and dinky beds. At 5 am I was in the perfect frame of mind to deal with the larcenous cab drivers at home who had apparently been alerted to the presence of foreign passengers and thought they could get away with ripping us off. They were quoting double fare rates and refusing to engage their meters. We went home with a sanmo (3 wheeled motorcycle cab) lady for a reasonable fare. It's fun telling people to fuck themselves when they don't understand you. After a shower and a double shot of vodka, I had a great sleep until 10 am.
There are people who do their visa trip by just hopping on the train, turning around at the first station, then coming right back to Shenzhen. After a day of paying too much for everything in Hong Kong, I understand why.