Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Headlong to Hong Kong

December 24th, 2010

Shezsign - web

Mid-afternoon. Ignore the Shanding Village Committee. Instead focus on fifty seven kilometres – about thirty six miles – to Shenzhen. City bordering Hong Kong – Chiang Kang in local parlance. Very close now. Focused riding. Covering the equivalent of cycling from London to Bristol. In nine hours.

Penultimate day in China. Tomorrow Christmas Eve. Crossing the border into the former British colony. Joining fellow Englishman Phil for some festive celebrations. And marking the end of Asia. Second continent then complete.

As the final full day in China, it was a fine test of skill. Provincial towns to navigate. A large city to circumvent. Huizhou. Minor roads. Dual carriageways. Now as adept at reading the road signs as finding somewhere to stop. Usually in a matter of minutes.

Not without a little drama. A long line of women at the roadside, south of the city of Huizhou, selling replica handguns and crossbows. The latter looked pretty real. Pulled up sharply. Curious. Thought it might make an interesting photograph. Instead an amateurish attempt at distraction theft. Petty pilfering a rarity, but still disappointing.

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Flying south

December 2nd, 2010

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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Planes, trains and automobiles

December 2nd, 2010

Shenzhen International Airport. Thought I might be able to simply stroll across the border into Hong Kong. Looked close enough on my maps. Which, admittedly, showed the whole of China on two sheets. Foolishly, I’d admitted this to my parents. They’d been quick to point out it was a good hour by bus. Teased a little that I must have opted for a budget airline, landing far from the supposed destination.

I’d fly down from Wuhan. Couple of hours in the air to the north. Popping into Hong Kong to collect a fresh visa to enable me to ride south to the former colony at a sensible pace. Arriving in time for Christmas. A flying visit in every sense.

Chosen to travel on China Airlines for no other reason than it sounded reputable. Besides, couldn’t be any worse than the little known carrier I’d used from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan. An ageing Russian Tupulov jet. The sort where you’d wish they’d relax the restrictions on rivet guns in the cabin. In flight meal boiled sweets. Helps with the depressurisation.

My trusty steed Emma secure back in Wuhan for a few days, a simple task to fly south, albeit briefly. A brief introduction to Hong Kong. And a chance to visit the imaginatively titled “Flying Ball Bicycle Company“, introduce myself to “Bikeman” with whom I’d been corresponding via e-mail. I imagined a bushy beard. No idea why.

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