Sunday, March 6, 2011

China Update #16 - En Route to Hong Kong

(Hey Everyone...Sorry for the lack of updates.  We hit Hong Kong and to our surprise couldn't find western plug-ins or reliable internet, so we were computer less for a couple days.  So I'm going back in time to post the posts we wrote along the way) - From Jay

It’s weird. I’m sitting in my seat on a train bound for Hong Kong. I never thought I’d say that. It’s really nice. The ride is much smoother than I imagined it to be. It’s an express train between Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

And we survived the station in Guangzhou! I must confess that I was a little worried. The staff at the hotel went on and on about how crazy it was, and how we would have to go here and here and there…and then push ourselves into the train…it really sounded intimidating…but it really wasn’t bad at all. Our guide walked us into the station right through security and to the first waiting area. We paid to check a few bags to make it easier lugging our luggage plus Lori and a stroller through the station. It was a relief to see other adopting Americans at the waiting area.

After a brief wait, we shoved and pushed our way into line and had our tickets punched and made it to immigration. We all got our passports stamped, including little-bit who I had to hold while the officer looked over her papers and snapped a digital photo. She still prefers Maddie & Annie so I had to do my best holding a greased pig impression at the Chinese immigration counter smiling and appearing calm while others watched.

We then made it through customs with no issues, and made it to a second waiting area. It felt so much like an airport…not what I expected a train station to be like. Once they told us to get in line, we shoved and pushed into the line. (Here I need to explain something. In China, there is little hospitality…like ‘you go first’ stuff…instead, when it’s time to get in line or get on an elevator…it’s survival of the fittest…you push your way in growling while you do…this was a change for us...our Chinese guides all told us you would have to do this…it was very uncomfortable…in two or three places, people would just cut in front of me…and I was told they would, unless I scolded them back. When we were at the airport in Shijiazhuang, while we were waiting at the ticket counter, we had one man come up and try to bully his way in…and our guide scolded them back…a very different culture compared to our southern hospitality). So, you see, it was important to push our way on because of our carry-on luggage. We were told that the train had very little room for luggage, so if you didn’t get there early, you would be riding the two hour trip with a suitcase in your lap.

Turned out that by us changing our tickets to the earlier train (noon rather than the 6pm train), we only were at about 60-70% of train capacity. There was still room to spare. The train consisted of two seats on either side with a center aisle. There was lots of seat room, much more than the planes. Some of the seats faced forward, and some faced backward, and every once in a while you would have two facing each other with a table in between…that was where we sat…Camille and Annie faced Maddie and Lori, and I sat next to them in a similar setup by myself.

On the trip it seemed like we never really got out of a city. There were less big buildings, but there was never a time when we did not see some. I really thought I would see some agriculture on the trip, but very little. There were a handful of small farms consisting of a few acres with what looked more like large gardens. There do not seem to be any large farms with acres of crops. There are also lots of mountains to our left and right. We will see two or three and then none for a while…and then they pop up again. The main thing is lots and lots of buildings…that appear run down.

I’m expecting Hong Kong to feel different. Because of the British influence, I am expecting it to be cleaner, and have buildings in better shape. It’s 1:15 here, and in about an hour, we will be departing our train at Hung Hom station in the downtown area of Kowloon, right in the heart of Hong Kong. It sounds like an amazing place. We are supposed to have a guide picking us up at the station and take us the 30-45 minute ride to the hotel which is to the west on its own island. We are hopeful, that once settled in at the hotel that we might be able to hop on the high speed train at the airport and make it back into to downtown Hong Kong, just to look around. We want to try to make it down to Victoria Harbor, ride on the Star Ferry (that’s about 35 cents per ticket) and walk around the market areas. We have heard tales of anything from exotic bird markets to fish markets to flower markets to all kinds of things. I just think that while we are in Hong Kong, we ought to at least try to walk around the downtown area for a little bit.

That’s it for now. Later this evening after we get into the hotel after hopefully exploring Hong Kong, we will fire off another post…

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