BootsnAll Travel Network

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Spending the last night on the cruise boat was relaxing and peaceful, and aside from having to repack our stuff, we didn’t have much to do. Our final port of call was a town called Yichang, and we were told by our tour guide Kevin that we needed to be off the boat by 6am, so they could get the boat ready for the next trip. Luckily, we knew this ahead of time, and had planned our flight out of Yichang for 10am, giving us plenty of time to get to the airport from the boat dock. Getting off the boat, we searched in vain for a taxi that would agree to take us to the airport on the meter instead of a negotiated price. Finally, a driver agreed, but insisted we pay the 10Yuan toll also, which we agreed. We hesitated about heading into town to try and find some coffee and breakfast, as we weren’t sure how far the airport was, and assumed that we could get something there. As it turns out, not only did we have more than enough time to get breakfast in town, but it was a regrettable choice as the options were slim to none at the airport.

We arrived a few hours early for our flight, and our only options food was a Chinese restaurant, which neither of us was in the mood for, or an insanely overpriced coffee shop, who once we told them we just wanted to sit on their chairs, tried to charge us for that priviledge. So we claimed the only two rows of airport seats in the entire airport, and Chris promptly fell asleep as I did a little reading on Hong Kong. About 9:00, we were able to check in, and boarded the plane near 9:30, a very small plane holding about 40-50 people, but brand new and comfortable. For our two hour flight, we were given a copy of a Chinese/English newspaper, a bottle of water, another drink option and a box of cookies. We settled in and soon we arrived at our destination, the big city of Guangzhou in the southern part of China.

There are a few options to get from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, and it took a while for us to sort out whether we wanted to try the train, which was more expensive but faster and nicer, or the bus, which was much cheaper but took longer and was sort of confusing. After about an hour at the airport trying to figure this out, I set off in search of some food in the airport, leaving Chris with our bags in the arrival hall. Not some 5 minutes later, I was completely lost in a bewildering, ginormous modern airport, which had quite possibly the largest departure hall I have ever seen. There were also various signs showing restaurant, and I followed these up and down escalators, through an entire shopping mall, and found myself in the basement of the airport terminal, having only seen one Chinese restaurant, and one cafe charging $9 for a sandwich. After 15 minutes of wandering, I finally found my way back to Chris in arrivals, where my empty hands sparked a clear look of disappointment on his face. I had been gone almost half an hour, and had nothing to show for it. We realized we weren’t going to get what we were after at the airport, so we boarded a bus that would take us into town, and then to the train station.

The bus was full when we boarded, so we split up for the ride into town. Chris managed to talk with a nice man sitting next to him, who, after we arrived at our destination, walked us to the nearest fast food joint and wished us well. KFC. I know what you all are thinking, but it’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there. I saw some Golden Arches in the distance, but this involved crossing a huge street, with the subway underground, and with our bags we didn’t feel it was worth it. We quickly ordered some food to go, and hopped in a taxi to the train station, just a few minutes away. The train station for Hong Kong is brand new and many signs in English show the way to buy ticket and everything is spelled out very plainly, unlike most other Chinese train stations. We had just missed the 2pm train, and bought tickets for the 3pm, waiting and realizing we could have taken our time with lunch. About quarter to 3, we went through the gates and actually Chinese immigration, and boarded the very nice train to Hong Kong. The train zipped through uninspiring suburbs which seemed to go on until the border, and we reached the Hong Kong train station without incident.

After going through Hong Kong immigration, we set off to get to the main tourist strip Nathan Road, and found a taxi outside of the train station. While many people in Hong Kong speak English, we managed to find the one taxi driver who didn’t, and it quickly became apparent he didn’t understand where we wanted to go. We searched our guidebook for something familiar and important, a landmark for him to aim for, and told him to take us to the Holiday Inn, which was just down the street from where we wanted to be. He understood this, and we made our way through the traffic and towards the main tourist drag in Kowloon. After arriving at the Holiday Inn, we paid a ghastly sum of money for our taxi ride, and set out in search of more affordable accomodation, as the Holiday Inn was a big out of our price range.

Our first stop was a place called Mirador Mansion, a huge apartment complex with tons of little guesthouses hidden throughout its hallways. Each guesthouse we arrived at told us the same thing, “We’re full. It’s very busy today. It’s Saturday.” Shit.  This wasn’t good, and we felt very stupid for not booking something ahead of time, though neither of us like to do that without seeing the room. Aside from one room that was the size of the bed it contained and had no name or number of a guesthouse listed (sketchy), there was no room to be had. We finished through Mirador Mansions, all 16 floors of chaos, and went down the street to Chongking Mansions, which if it’s possible, was crazier than Mirador. Much larger, with 6 elevator blocks hidden throughout the lobby in between stalls selling Indian food, watches, telephone cards and clothing, it was bursting at the seams with people from all walks of life. One man approached us and asked if we wanted a room, and we shrugged, not expecting much. The first guesthouse and room we were shown wasn’t what we were hoping for, and after expressing our disappointment, he finally said, “Well, there is another guesthouse, but very expensive.” “How much for a double room?” He thought for a minute, and finally said HK$180 a night. Trying to hide our pleasure, we asked to see the room, since this was still in our price range. The hotel was on the top floor, and clearly brand new. The room, small and cramped, but clean and shiny with a TV and bathroom, was nicer than we were expecting at that price. We quickly agreed to the room, not expecting anything better, and was getting late. Chris set off in search of information about the Happy Valley racetrack, and I had a much needed shower. Chris got back from his outing, disappointed that it was summer holidays for the horses. It was now about 7pm, and after more than 12 hours of travel by 6 modes of transport, we had reached Hong Kong, a geographically close but cultural anomaly of China.

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