Don't take travelling for granted

Trip Start Sep 30, 2005
Trip End Jun 04, 2006

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Flag of Hong Kong  ,
Saturday, October 22, 2005

Travel anywhere is a challenge, and almost always one that is an awful lot of fun. Those of us that are fortunate enough to roam far beyond our own homes should never take this for granted, and sometimes the travel thing reminds you of this with a gentle nudge in the ribs. Today, I was retracing steps I thought I knew were easy and my plans to be with friends in Dongguan by mid-afternoon got badly spiked. I know from past experience that travelling to deadlines in China is a tough ask, and when you're a bit too casual like I was today you get a kick in the backside. It's still fun, but it's a pain at the time it's happening to you and you're feeling like a prize lemon for getting it wrong.

It went something like this:
I thought I could change my ticket at Taipei airport, but I couldn't because the queues were longer than a Rip van Winkle dream so I ended up waiting around for another 90 minutes in Taipei.
When I got to Hong Kong I saw the signs for the ferry to mainland China as I went to get my bag, but not having done my homework I then found out that you can only take the ferry from airside at the airport to mainland China.
I jumped on the airport link to Central and wandered down to the main Hong Kong Island ferry terminal where I found that you can't take boats up the Pearl River.
Where to go I asked? Take a taxi to the China-Macau Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, the ferry's at 2pm I was told. Bad move on a Saturday, the Hong Kong traffic was shocking and I'd have been better to walk to the Star Ferry. By the time we came out of the cross-harbour tunnel, my ferry was gone.
Ok, take me to the KCR terminal in Mongkok I asked the driver. Now, at least I was on familiar territory having taken the KCR route to the mainland many times....
On Saturday afternoon, the Lo Wu border crossing was rammed. It was more like a cattle market than a border crossing. It was frightening at times, not least when they closed the Chinese side for a while to ease the congestion which meant that I found myself stuck on a bridge with what felt like half of Hong Kong pushing to get into China.
Finally, Shenzhen...A grotty place around the Lo Wu border, but things were getting better, there was a bus for Humen waiting for me.
In Humen, I avoided the bus station pickpockets met Joy and took the easy option of a taxi to Dongguan where the cold beer in Jason's bar was more than welcome. Things were getting better after the hassles of the day.

What should have taken me about 5 hours had taken 11 and I was fried. If only I'd been a good backpacker and looked at the guide book, I'd have been told how to do things. I was fairly cocksure of myself and had a go at trying something different. All day I'd been standing in queues and chasing shadows knowing it was my fault, but actually, just this once, it had been a lot more interesting and worthwhile than being a good backpacker. Do it yourself travel is worth it and it's better to have your head out of the book and seeing what's around you.
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