A three-day term break seemed like the perfect opportunity to venture into mainland China for the weekend. Reaching the Chinese border from our flat was a quick 45 minute journey on a train, followed by a short taxi ride to get as close to the border as possible. Initially we presumed the taxi was going to drop us right by the border, but this vision was quickly destroyed upon being dropped off at a fairly inconspicuous building, accompanied with a quiet grunt and hand gesture from the taxi driver. Handing him the fare, we reluctantly got out the taxi to be met with a whole load of Chinese signs and a few minibuses. After a lot of miming aided with the use of screen-shotted images from google we managed to find our way onto a shuttle bus taking us to the border.
On reaching the crossing we had to go through passport control still not 100% knowing which border we were at, let alone which country. We got through this part easily and thought we were on a roll until we left the building to an open space with yet more minibuses, completely confused as to where we were and why we had to get on another one. Turns out this shuttle we went on was taking us to the actual border. We made our way to the ‘VISA’ counter and were pretty impressed with the efficiency. Of course we were a little apprehensive, as the staff have a right to deny anyone access to the 5 day visa which wouldn’t have been ideal. Within 5 minutes however, we both had our visas to hand and had successfully got into China (but not before passport control had a worryingly long study of George’s passport).
The hotel we booked was amazing, fully equipped with a pool, sauna, steam room, hot tub and the buffet breakfast of dreams. The weather was not on our side this weekend so torrential rain left us with no option other than to make the most of the hotel facilities (what a shame) and do very minimal outside. We made it to one of Shenzhen’s famous malls which had everything you could possibly want and more: there were 4 different sections including one solely for jeans. George even purchased a giraffe top to live up to his nickname.
Its safe to say we found huge differences between China and Hong Kong. To try and put it lightly, some of those in China seemed… less tolerant of Westerners. We often take for granted in Hong Kong that nearly everyone speaks at least a basic form of English, whereas in China this was certainly not the case (and why should they). With their English being no better than our Mandarin even ordering a coke seemed a bit of a mission!
After a much needed relaxing weekend mainly filled with food and wondering around local streets, it was time to cross the dreaded border back into Hong Kong. Our hotel provided a free shuttle to the border so we presumed this time it would all go smoothly, turns out we were wrong again. Arriving at the crossing we went in the wrong side of the building, went through a security check for a train we weren’t getting on and nearly bought a train ticket taking us half way across China. After finally using our common sense we approached a customer service desk, only for him to shout ‘OUTSIDE 11’ and shoo us away. Not having the option of staying in China for the rest of our lives we left the building and followed the westerners like breadcrumbs until we found passport control.
This would have been fairly straightforward if George resembled his passport picture in any way. His stubble-free baby face alongside double the amount of curls on his head meant two people studying his passport for a considerably long time, looking at other forms of ID, to see if it was actually him. At this point I was all for saving myself. Luckily George was given the approval by a man in a scary-looking hat and our China visit came to an abrupt end. Was it an experience? Yes. Are we in a hurry to return? CERTAINLY NOT.