Across Continents

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Flying south

Much better behaved than I. Compliant. Diligently completing the immigration paperwork. Putting his bags through the unmanned scanner. Obeying the sign. I’d met Anthony in the Foreigners line at passport control. He was from Sheffield. In China on business. And, like me, hoping to cross into Hong Kong. His thoroughness had taken me aback a little. Not because he was doing anything wrong. Far from it. No. He was just being the person I’d have been before I started on this venture.

I’d flown down from Wuhan earlier in the day. Left Emma, my trusty steed, in good company whilst I was gone for a few days. It had been an early start, up before five. Preferring an extra coffee in Departures than a mad panic at Check-In. The airport had surprised me. Admittedly, for a city of about nine million people, you’d hardly call it provincial. But it had a sophistication, a modernity I’d not expected.

Check in friendly. And in English. Choice of seat. Security checks thorough. Professional. Reassuring. And very efficient. But meant I was madly early. Drifted around for a while. Bemused a little by the shops and expensive boutiques. “London Fog“. “Coolava Island“. And “Generic Shop“. Always wondering what the Chinese made of these names. And then copious coffee.

The flight hadn’t disappointed. Smart Air China A320-200 airbus. As pristine as the airport. Part of the Star Alliance. And a complementary copy of the “China Daily” English language newspaper. Brought to my seat. Soon arriving in the city of Shenzhen, close to Hong Kong. Emerging into bright sunshine. Unfamiliar humidity.

A brief foray into baggage reclaim. Even a check on exit to make sure my rucksack tallied with the label on my boarding card. Not short of people to do these sort of things. The usual taxi touts in the Arrivals Hall. Ignored. Another coffee to sustain myself. Starbucks. Then off to find the bus across the border. Not sure quite what to expect. Certainly not the pink sticker we all had to wear.

[Author’s note: Hong Kong remains a defacto separate country – not sure I’d go as far as describing it as independent – to the extent you’d be hard pressed to realise it, technically, wasn’t. Practical implications? Your mainland Chinese visa gets cancelled as you cross – assuming it’s not multiple entry – and direct flights are treated as international rather than domestic. More expensive. Hence flying to Shenzhen on the border, then crossing by bus – about fifteen pounds return – and very efficient and intuitive]


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