Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 16: Hello Hong Kong

Well, we all knew it had to end one day, I like the traveling, but because it’s a business trip, I’m ready to go home. But I like to spend a few days recuperating before I tackle another 16hr flight back or in my case, travel time of approximately 23hrs, with over a 6hour stopover in Seoul.

There are several ways to get from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. Shenzhen holds the border between communist China and the New Territories.

Most people call it Hong Kong, but Hong Kong actually refers to Hong Kong Island and the peninsula that is called Kowloon.

Well, it’s easy to take a ferry from Shenzhen to Hong Kong or take the train which will take you right to the heart of Kowloon. Well, the last few days I’ve been feeling the wear & tear of this trip. So I when I woke up this morning, I was feverish.

If you come in by public transportation, when you get to customs in Hong Kong, you will get scanned by a thermometer. I had one colleague who had a raging fever and only got through by placing an ice pack on his forehead for as long as he could so when he finally crossed through customs, his temp was normal.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not going to be stuck in mainland China.

I was planning on taking the ferry down to Hong Kong since I’ve taken the train in before, I’ve never ridden the Chinese ferry system. But when faced with the possible deleterious possibility of being turned back from the border, I made the decision to ask my hosts to see if they could get me a private driver who has a special license that lets him drive between mainland China and Hong Kong.

So they called me a driver that they knew, but a stranger to me of course. It’s strange that I have to come to China where I get into cars with strangers who can’t speak English and yet I trust them completely to get me to where I need to go. But I get into a cab in Chicago late at night and I call or text the cab # to someone, just in case.

He will drive me through Shenzhen and right up to the boarder. It’s not a long drive from where I was to get through the city and to the border. In the meantime, the driver chats me up a bit, he has a thick Hong Kong accent. I can understand the words in Mandarin when they speak it up in the north, Beijing, Shanghai, Ningbo, etc. But once I got to Guangzhou and the rest of the south, it is a blend of Cantonese & Mandarin and incomprehensible to me.

We’re chatting, then he tells me: “If the police ask, they don’t usually, but in case they do ask, you and I are friends.”

I listened when he said “Police”.
He’s a gypsy cab! He’s not supposed to be taking people back and forth between the borders for money.

And my stupid ass, replies “Ok…” I think of it for a moment while I mull over the point. “So how long have we known each other? Do you have family? Children?” OMG, I started working a back story in my head! In the split second he’s asked me to lie to the police, just in case I’m asked, my imagination has written a story. We’ve known each other for 5yrs, his boss and my boss are friends since their college days, blah blah blah.

I felt like an idiot.

 The boarder guards look like a toll road. I don’t have to leave the car, I sit in the back seat of this totally pimped out ride. But I am rehearsing my story. Which the more I think about it, sounds more suspicious than just a simple ‘yes’.

So this first pix is us waiting to exit mainland China, these guys will check me out of the country first, I give the driver my passport.

So I’m sitting in the middle seat, trying to look relaxed and innocent, which I am, I don’t even have pirated DVDs! So why does the police make me nervous? LOL

He's got a stuffed dog lounging on his dashboard, which in Chicago is illegal because it obstructs the driver's view. Mainland China they drive on the right side, just like we do in the US. It is only in HK that they drive on the left and the driver is on the right. 

Also, if you look close, that is a screen down in the middle there. When the car stops, the screen flickers alive and video images come on. I thought it was the front and the back, like some cars have the camera to show you when you back up. Well, his interestingly enough, were views down the sides of his car. It only comes on when he is on his brakes; at a full stop. Is it fear of carjackings?

We travel a few feet and we are in another toll booth, this time to gain entry to Hong Kong. It wasn’t long, if either inspection of my passport took more than 30secs I would have been surprised. It wasn’t long before we were off and running.

There really isn't a lot of traffic while we're still far in the northern part of the New Territories or SAR (Special Administrative Region).

This area is part of the Pearl River Delta, so the highway is strung together with a lot of bridges. This was a nice looking suspended bridge, but dusk was settling in, hope you can see it.

 I guess even as an adult, I've never gotten over my childhood thrill of crossing bridges.

The sun is dropping behind the mountains over mainland China.

There is a fork in the highway, this is the bridge that will take you to Hong Kong Island, well, I think that's what the driver said. Since I'm staying in Kowloon, we stay heading down the peninsula.

My hotel is walking distance from the Star Ferry terminal. It's actually right over the ferry that comes in from mainland China. If I were feeling better, I would have come off the ferry and simply taken the elevators to my hotel room.

There is a laser light show tonight between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. This beautiful sight is Hong Kong Island. 

My room is one of the tiniest rooms I've ever been in but what a crazy view, I open my window and I'm looking over Nathan Road!

It may be difficult to see, this is me trying to be artistic. I turned the lights on so you see the reflection of my tiny room, superimposed over the night view of Nathan Road.

Look closely, you can see my bed, the blue, red & white lights are cars on Nathan Road.

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