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In front of Kowloon Hotel
Our trip through Mainland China is completed. When we first decided to go on this trip we discussed our options on how to travel through this vast country and just where we would go. My first connection was to the computer and travel brochures to find the perfect trip. What we wanted did not exist. Seems no one went to all the places we felt were important. With away.com we found that we could customize our itinerary, travel by train, not be with a large group and still have a guide. Perfect. This is what we wanted. Flying over this country seemed like it would be a shame, we wanted to see China and the train with the guide waiting at each stop was our answer.
In each city at each stop we have learned something new about China and her people. Each of our seven guides has had a different personality, some I liked much more than others. Some just bubbled with enthusiasm, some seemed to sleep walk through the job, some seemed rather clueless overall.
Each hotel was a different experience. We were expecting four-star hotels throughout with a connecting door between the rooms. Four stars in China means a beautiful lobby and questionable rooms. They were all habitable but one smelled of ammonia (Beijing), many had warped doors. Cockroaches were seen running over the bed in one (Guangzhou), the legs were broken off the head end of one bed so that Cameron slept backward (he liked that). In not one were we booked into two rooms with a connecting door between the rooms. We asked at each hotel, got a variety of responses, among them that this is not what China Travel Services had arranged, there are no rooms like that or we would have to pay up to $90.00 American dollars to upgrade. We managed twice to get what we had requested from understanding, sympathetic desk clerks.
Our connection to Hong Kong from Guangzhou was fairly uneventful. We had tried to call our HK hotel from Guangzhou the night before to confirm rooms and transportation but we were not able to get an outside line or connect through our MCI Worldcom access. So we went to bed and hoped for the best.
We spent the morning of October 2nd just hanging around our room until check out time at noon. We then walked across the street to the Friendship Store to kill some time and a bit of our Mainland money. I spent all my time in the baby department. I can tell that Keegan will be very spoiled once I get my arms around him.
After a peanut butter picnic in the hotel lobby our guide picked us up for the ride to the train station. We left from the new station, which is clean, modern and looks more like an airport. Too bad our arrival in Guangzhou was not through this station. At one point a man came up to our guide pointing at Russell. Both then insisted Russell go with them, leaving me and the boys standing there, not knowing what was happening and imagining the worst. After about 10 minutes they returned. Russell has something in his suitcase that sets off the guards; he has had to open it before. We should have known.
We passed into Hong Kong at about 5:45 PM without noticing any type of border, tunnel or bridge. I am still not sure how we crossed over the water, but here we are. After clearing customs and collecting our luggage we spent about half an hour wandering around the train station trying to figure out how to get to the hotel with our luggage. Russell checked with an information clerk who said no shuttles were running because of the holiday (oh yea the holiday) and suggested the minibus, which would drop us off across the street from the hotel. As this seemed somewhat reasonable we headed out to get on the minibus with all 11 pieces of luggage. Before going outside we decided to try to call the hotel. They suggested we take a different bus, the K3 bus, from the station to the hotel. Okaaay. We headed back the way we had just come looking for the K3 exit. Found K16 but no K3. We turned around again. By now we had zigzagged across the main area three times and still didn’t know where to go.
Russell sent me over to an information desk to ask about transportation. The clerk said “oh no there is no K3 from this station, just the other station, only K1 from here. Also there is no bus that goes near the hotel, just to the pier.” I called Russell over and finally we determined that a cab would hold our luggage and be easiest, so off we went. In the cab Russell let me know that the clerk who said there wasn’t a bus to our hotel was the same one who told him a minibus would drop us off across the street. The taxi got us here just fine.
Check in was a breeze. The clerks all spoke English. They even had name tags and not just numbers.
Now that we are in Hong Kong it is easy to compare the two “countries” (we still went through customs to get here).
Connecting to God is easier in HK. On the Mainland I checked every hotel for a room Bible, nope. In Hong Kong, yes.
Connecting to your room is easier in HK. The size of the elevators in this HK hotel is half again as large as any we experienced on the Mainland; which made getting our luggage to the rooms much easier. At times in the Mainland we had to send both boys ahead just because the elevator was too full for all of us to fit. Compared to the Mainland we could put a table for four in the elevator here and have dinner.
Connecting to sleep is easier in HK. The beds in the Mainland hotels were rock hard. I was not expecting this when I first sat down on one and it jarred my back. Some of the beds also had springs you could feel once you lay down. Let’s just say I am glad, once again, that I brought my own pillow.
Connecting to news is easier in HK. On the Mainland we were not able to connect to geocities.com to check on our grandson. One of the first things we did in our HK rooms was log on and marvel at the ease of connecting and of course enjoy the beautiful pictures of Keegan. We can also understand the news on T.V. and read the papers. Heaven. This is true for Mainland Chinese also. We read in the HK paper that the Mainland’s state television station ran just 10 minutes of news about the bombing while the independent station (yes there is one called Phoenix TV) ran 36 hours of CNN and US feed coverage but to four star and above hotels only. Because of this the Chinese students were pooling their money to rent rooms so they could watch. This explains the lack of questions by most of our guides.
Connecting to each other is easier in HK. We have adjoining rooms with a door between. These rooms were arranged by our US based travel agent and are just perfect. We have Internet access in our room. Our beds are comfortable, the rooms are clean, the doors are not warped, all the lights and electrical outlets work!
Connecting to our food is easier in HK. Wow, what a difference. Food we understand and all the water we can drink (and it’s safe). The boys became very accomplished with chopsticks and can now tackle a meal with any utensil.
Upon reflection I now realize that I had become accustomed to Mainland China’s grime, noise and crowds. . After three weeks we had adjusted to the rhythm of China. I didn’t even think twice anymore when I would see a mother hold her baby over the open sewer grates instead of using diapers. Traffic no longer caused me to gasp. The noises had faded to the background. We could go into shops and markets to get our supplies without feeling overwhelmed. Crossing streets was an art we had perfected. We could step around and walk past just about anything without flinching. I could almost forget that I looked so different and towered over most everyone. I barely noticed the bricks anymore. It was time to leave.
Coming here to HK after the Mainland has been a reverse culture shock experience. Reconnecting with the familiar I realized how much comfort we have in the West, how easy our lives are. I realize once again this is why we are traveling.
Elation: our first soft beds in weeks
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