Entering China

Trip Start Feb 12, 2008
Trip End Jun 26, 2008

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Where I stayed
YHA International Youth Hostel near Happy Valley

Flag of China  ,
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yesterday I got surprised to get my Vietnam visa back the same day... I thought I would have to wait another day in Hong Kong for it to finish. I was really impressed how efficient they were!

I couldn't get the Vietnam visa in Kathmandu as there is no vietnamese consulate or embassy. Vietnam is also one of the countries that doesn't allow you to get a spot-visa, so you can't just turn up at the border and ask for one. Therefore HongKong was my best option.

Anyways, with both my Vietnam and Chinese visas sorted I decided to enter the big country of china. I'm not planning to spend much time here, I just want to get a glimps of it and then move on to Vietnam where I want to spend more time. I think I will have to return and do China properly which will take longer than just a few weeks.

I caught a train from Hong Kong to the border and entered the city of Shenzhen which is the closest city to the border. Border crossing was no problem.

I didn't expect a big change in sourroundings because Shenzhen is only about 20+km from Hong Kong. I was quite surprised how different it is. Main difference I noticed is language. In Hong Kong almost everything is signed or adverised in english, similarly most people speak quite good english.

In Shenzhen hardly anyone that I've spoken to speaks any english or very little. However this doesn't stop people from talking to you - they just speak chinese... and I spoke back in english and the end-result was always utter confusion followed by weird smiles and my hasty departure after saying "XieXie"(Thanks).

So it took me about an hour to find the right bus to where I wanted to go. I asked about 5 people and they all pointed me to totally different directions. So if you come to Shenzhen (or anywhere for that matter), double check what people are telling you because 90% of the time it's wrong.

The second thing I noticed is the lack of westerners here. There are hardly any compared to Hong Kong.

A lady on the bus alerted me to the correct bus stop and I got out carrying my gigantic bag (why did I pack so much!). I thought "sweet", Lonely planet says it's only 3mins from here. So I walked, and walked, and asked people and they all pointed me into different directions again. It's hard to tell because they'll be so confident, waving in a direction and yelling something in chinese... it's confusing. Anyways, they pointed me to a massive amusement park, like disney land or something. The lady there implied that the hostel is inside the park and I should buy a ticket to get inside. As if I'm going to walk into freakin disneyland-wannabe with a gigantic bag on my back looking for a youth hostel!!

So then a found a tourist information centre where nobody spoke english. I showed them the name of the youth hostel which luckily was printed in chinese in the Lonely Planet book. They pointed me to a direction and I took off. I must get there soon surely. So I was walking again... Nobody on the street knew anything. Than I met an elderly man and I thought he could speak english - He tried but he couldn't. He took me back to disneyland-wannabe (happy valley) to the same tourist information centre I've been to before. I tried to explain to him that I have already been there but he couldn't understand.

We then walked to a hotel where finally somebody could speak english. They told me that the Youth Hostel used to be in that building 3 years ago but now it's a high class hotel. Thanks for nothing Lonely Planet! Freaking outdated copy... and I bought it new!

The lady there mentioned another hostel about 14 mins walk away but she said the way is "hmmm... complicated". The elderly gentleman was still there grinning and smiling and looked generally please with himself. So the old-man-young-woman-from-hotel-TEAM offered to get me a taxi for 12 Yuan which is about AU$2 and I agreed. I spent the last 5 days walking around HongKong. Then there was no taxis... so the elderly gentlemen called his son who drove up in a nice car.. I was reluctant to get in but I had a feeling that it would be alright - I did get in after thanking the old man and the lady at the hotel and it was fine. I was a bit worried when the youngish guy put on the central locking in the car. I wound down the window so I could open the door from the outside just in case. I think he noticed and undid the central locking.. we had a bit of a chat and turned out to be really nice guy. The car was moving at a walking pace because of traffic so I could have jumped out anytime. I gave him 10Yuan for the journey. It was harmless but I won't do that again soon.

After 4 hours I reached this excellent YHA youth hostel! It is so nice and clean. Great staff, large clean beds. Spotless kitchen and common rooms with fussball-tables and air-hockey. This place is like heaven after sleeping in the Mirador-Mansions-stinking-room-fit-for-pigs for 4 nights - and it's cheaper! 50Yuan = AU$8. Note that Cosmic Guest house is actually quite clean. I only had the misfortune of sharing the room with some filthy american who's lived there for 2 months and just layed in bed all day. I didn't see him have a shower once. I totally recommend Cosmic Guest House, the other rooms were spotless.

Oh one more thing... I went to a local gaming hall to use the internet. This place was huge. Imagine 100 young chinese geeks watching you as you enter, and then quickly look back on their screens to play some shoot em up game. The girl at reception tried really hard to explain to me what to do.. in chinese. We couldn't reach an agreement. So I returned to the hotel where it's a little slow but at least they speak some chinglish here.

Especially after travelling in Nepal I had an expectation that everywhere I'll travel most people will speak at least some english. Most people in Nepal had some english knowledge (from all the tourism I guess). In Shenzhen it's very strange when people come up to you, start speaking in chinese and expect you to understand. That's exactly what I must make them feel like when I start grunting at them in english (with swiss australian accent). Anyways... I will try to learn some chinese besides NiHao (Hello) and XieXie (Thanks).
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