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Published: September 12th 2012
After hours and hours and hours of greulling research and stress, Tyler came to the conclusion that Hong Kong was going to be our best option for obtaining Chinese Visa's. Usually you're required to provide exit flight info and reservations for accomodation during your stay; neither of which we could show since we are leaving China by bus to Vietnam and have no clue where we will be staying along the way. Originally we wanted to use a visa agent that has plenty of recomendations online, but it turns out our hostel was able to get us a visa hassle free.
While our time was very limited in the city, we saw enough to realize how well run Chinese cities really are (we are going to consider Hong Kong part of China for our blog, there is a lot of controversy over it that we don't need to get into). HK is immaculately clean despite its huge population yet it is really easy to get around.
We arrived on the Sunday, checked into our hostel and organized getting our visas. Then we went to purchase our train tickets for the following day before grabbing food and walking along the
beautiful Victoria Harbour. They put on a lightshow every evening which was pretty cool, all the lights of the sky scrapers along the harbour are timed to music and there is also a "walk of fame" type path where we found the stars of Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.
The next morning we didn't have too much to do but wait for our visas to be ready and then catch our bus at 3. We spent most of our free time walking around the park. You don't see many trees in the big city, but the park is a totally different atmosphere. There are trees, ponds, turtles, flamingos, parrots ... it was really pretty! They bring in different species of birds from other countries to create a big aviary in the middle of the park. It sure kept us occupied!
When we went back to the hostel to pick up our visas they weren't ready on time (before when we said it was hassle free, that's not exactly how it went). They were going to be half an hour late which meant we could potentially miss our train. We weren't going to let that happen so
Hong Kong harbour
We took this on the bus to HK. What a cool city!
we demanded that since the hostel owner didn't have the visas ready on time, he pay for our cab to the train station. He agreed and after a stressful half hour, we were on our way to catch our train.
We made it on the train just fine and our first, hopefully longest, asian train adventure began. The ride really wasn't that bad at all. Since we left at three, we spent most of the afternoon planning what we wanted to do in Beijing. In Hong Kong we had made sure to stop at a grocery store and brought lots of snacks for our trip so we didn't go hungry. The only meal we had to buy was dinner which consisted of rice and chicken/beef.
The bed (6 bunks to a room) was just long enough to fit Tyler, but other than that they were comfortable enough. We slept through the night and spent the majority of the next day writing some blogs for you (the three previously posted), reading, playing cards and finalizing our Beijing plans.
We arrived in Beijing about an hour behind schedule and it was already very different from HK. Hong Kong has
There were real sidewalks in HK, such a nice change!
a much more "western" feel to it; most of the residents speak some or fluent english. That isn't the case for Beijing. The first thing we had to do was convert our HK dollars to Chinese Yuan. Finding a currency exchange proved impossible but our Mandarin language app came in handy and locals pointed us to a bank just outside the train station. Next thing we wanted to do was purchase our tickets to Pingyao where we will be going next. The train stations are on the outskirts of the city so coming back would have been complicated and time consuming, it was best to just plan ahead. The first line Rebecca waited in told her she had to go to line 16 which ended up being the english speaking booth and conveniently had the longest line...
After a couple hours finding a place to change our money and bouncing around to buy train tickets it was time to make our way to a hostel. We thought we would be able to find a subway but after another extended length of time we figured out that wasn't possible and got on a bus... phew!
We have been practising
our Mandarin every day. So far we only know greetings and numbers but we are going to have to learn more to make this trip as smooth as possible. The language barrier is huge. Most people don't know a word of english. Both of us are happy to finally have our own secret language and will be persevering every day to communicate our points across. Needless to say, we are aiming to walk away from China speaking more Mandarin than we left Indo speaking Indonesian.
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