The Chengdu Chronicles: Part 1

The following story covers my adventures in Chengdu, China over National Holiday at the beginning of October. If you enjoy both pandas and pandemonium, this one’s for you.

Day 1, Part 1: 深圳 / Shenzhen

The morning started bright and early, as I rolled out of bed as quickly as I could to start the morning (which in all honesty wasn’t very quickly). I’d been up late again the night before, trying to pack, trying to figure out what exactly I was doing with my life for the next few days, and then of course trying to go to sleep at night. But finally the morning had come, and I was heading off to Hong Kong for the first time.

It was the second day of National Holiday week in China, a blissful time where all 1.3 billion Chinese citizens enjoy a shared vacation. That is, everyone except employees of the tourist industry, because obviously 1.3 billion travelers means that gets pretty busy. Think of it this way: even if everyone in America took a vacation at the same time, it’d only be about 300 million people, so imagine four times the population of America trying to run around the country and sightsee. Yeah. “Chaotic” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The city of Shenzhen, where I’ve been living for the past two months or so, borders Hong Kong in several places. This allows residents of either an easy transit to the other side, or so in theory. In reality, I arrived at the border in Hong Kong at about 9:30 A.M. to see massive crowds of people already waiting to cross the border at 福田口岸 / Futian Kou’an / Futian Port, one of the many border connections between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. At this one, there was an on-land immigration port, a glass walkway over the body of water separating the two locations, and right on the other side was the Hong Kong subway, waiting to take passengers into the center of the city.

Here are the steps I went through to get from Shenzhen to Hong Kong:

  1. Border security on the mainland China side. Time: 1 hour
  2. Border security on the Hong Kong side. Yes, in fact, this security is the exact same as the security on the China side. But for some reason they felt they should do it twice. Time: 1 hour
  3. Purchase subway tickets for Hong Kong. Not as easy as it sounds. Time: 1 hour. See sub steps:
    1. Wait in 15-person line for ticket machine. Discover that they do not accept RMB, nor debit cards, despite being just over the Chinese border and catering directly to people who have obviously just come from China. Set off to find Hong Kong dollars.
    2. Decide not to wait in 60-person customer service line to exchange cash. Find ATM instead. Obtain HKD!
    3. Wait in 15-person line again at new ticket machine to use HKD. Discover that I cannot use $100 HKD on machine unless ticket is greater than $50 HKD. Ticket is $49.50. Scream in rage.
    4. Return to ATM only to find that it solely distributes $100 HKD.
    5. Wait in 15-person line for third time trying not to rip out my hair. Purchase two subway tickets and call it a day.
  4. Ride subway into Central. Time: 1 more hour
  5. Grand total to reach the city: 4 hours. 啊呀!

And then I was in Hong Kong for the first time ever…

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