What do you do, when you are close to China, you would like to have a real stamp in your passport, you need a geocache from China to get the new country in your stats and you have a SIM-card for your phone that will work in China? Yes! You take a trip to China.
Normally you have to apply for a visa at the Chinese embassy in your home country (which would have been a pain in the a**). But there is one other thing you can do, when you are in Hong Kong. You can take the MTR to the Lo Wu station. A medium ride of about 40 minutes and at a price of 40 HKD this is a cheap and easy tour. This station is connected to a border crossing and this is the only crossing where you can get a 5-day visa for the special economic zone of Shenzhen. The procedure is not that difficult. After leaving Hong Kong (yes, fill out the departure sheet again) you follow some signs to an escalator to the second floor. There you find a table with some papers where you fill out some information (very basic) and get a number. I was no. 80 and when I arrived they were at no. 53. So a little bit of waiting. For German passport holders it costs only 168 RMB (poor US Americans have to pay nearly 1000). When your number gets announced you go to the first counter, deliver your sheet of information, your passport and they take a picture of you (I don’t want to see that picture^^). You then go back to the waiting area (took about 3 minutes) and then you get to counter no. 2 to pay your fee and after 5 to 10 minutes you have to get to counter 3, present your receipt and get your passport back, with a sticker over a whole page. Now you just have to get to customs, get your stamp and welcome to China.
Outside the station you are greeted by some guys who try to get you into the big shopping center where you can buy all the “original” stuff with the wrong spelled names. But that was not what I wanted. i wanted to see the city and find some geocaches. The area looks more clean and organized to me, than Hong Kong. Everything has a lot of space and seems well organized. Very clean even more like Hong Kong).
I start to walk towards the Jianingna Plaza, a shopping center where i should find my first geocache in China. But no luck here. As it seems the use of GPS in China is not allowed and if you use it, it will be 60-100 meters off. geocaching is more like looking for Letterboxes. Use the pictures. And another thing makes it difficult. CCTV cameras all over the place. After some time I give up and decide to take the metro towards station “Children’s Palace” in the heart of the city. The metro station is close by. First time I have to check my luggage through an x-ray scanner before entering the station. Very friendly staff there. At the ticket booth I have to use hands and feet to get the day pass. I will not need it that much, but nice to have anyway. One thing is odd… a city of 11.5 million people and there are no people around. The metro is empty (and a big westerner seem to be an unusual thing if you interpret the look right^^). Smooth and easy ride.
When I leave the station I stand in the CBD. Everything is just big here. They use a lot of space (as one should in a communist country :P) and everything is quiet new and you can tell that it was planned new. Next cache should be on the overpass (or parade ground ad I would call it^^). You can either go to a park (with a lot of CCTV cameras or) or walk down toward the CDB and city hall. In the flower area there should be a cache. After some looking around without finding anything (and a security guard being interested in what I do – taking photos of course) I have to give up again and walk towards the city hall. Where the hack are all the people living in this city? They cannot all be on holiday at the same time?!
This new build city center/CBD was designed to impress, but it lacks a soul. It is impressive to look at, but nothing I would want to live in. Did I mention that it is warm here? But not as humid as Hong Kong. That doesn’t mean that I like it. But I still have a goal. The one Chinese geocache. Next try at a classical spot. Under a bench. YES! Found it. Perfect. Now I can relax more withot the “pressure”.
I walk to a park further further south. A lot of walkways here – and more CCTVs. I did not exchange much money. Just some Macanese pataca I had from the day before to have some RMB. I am getting hungry so I try to find some food at a shopping center. Find the shopping center, but they only take cache and not one of the cards I have. Argh. And to exchange more money/find an ATM is not an option with the prices for “buying” money. I have to wait until I get back to Hong Kong.
All the walking and looking around has taken some time. So I think I will return to Hong Kong. I have been to China, have the stamp and visa to proof it and found my geocache. Success! Taking the next metro I find towards the border. There are a lot of more people traveling to Hong Kong than to China when I came earlier. You have to fill out en exit form for China and of course the entry form for Hong Kong (again, but this time for the last time). The process is fast and easy. Stamp no. 2 in my passport and a new piece of paper from Hong Kong. Just follow the horde towards the train and there we go again. Nice air conditioned train.
There is a group of younger women in the train that seem not to have any idea what they need to do, where they need to go and how they found the train is something I wonder about. After trying to communicate with an Hong Kong guy (without much success) they ask me where they have to go. I found out several things. a) They are from Egypt b) They want to stay in Hong Kong (they asked on the train how to get to Hong Kong – when they already are^^) c) They have not booked a hotel d) They have no idea how to use the MTR and have no orientation. They are going the same direction and have to change the train two times. So I offer to show them the way. First change of trains goes to hell because they are so negatively smart (read dumb) that two of them stand again when the doors close… no telephone. They manage to take the next train to the right spot and I send them on their last ride. I could have been a bad guy and send them to the other end of the city, but I had a good day. How do people survive with this level of organisation and ignorance????
I take my MTR to a bus stop and get home at a humane time. Tomorrow I will do another tour – but this time without crossing borders. :=