Time for a proper post again! Splitting this one up otherwise it’s a bit long.
So after a couple of months of living and working illegally we are finally in possession of Chinese work permits! For this we had to take a 3 day trip to Hong Kong to attend the VISA office. Expenses covered by the school it was basically a cheap little holiday.
Given the school were paying it is understandable that they’d want to get us from Fuzhou to Hong Kong as cheaply as possible, it’s their money after all. So, fair play to them, we’re booked on to a 12 hour sleeper coach. After hearing some opinions of said bus that were slightly less than positive (“Worst night of my life” etc) we decided to book a flight for the way back instead.
After a day at work on Saturday we get back home ready to be picked up and taken to the coach. I’m pretty excited but a little apprehensive about this supposedly horrendous coach. It’ll be an experience regardless, I keep telling myself. I was definitely right.
If you try and imagine what a sleeper coach looks like you’ll probably visualise it similar to how I did. Two rows of beds running parallel to the windows with a small aisle in between. Decent sized single beds, certainly space to sit up in bed and maybe get a laptop out or something to occupy yourself until you sleep.
This is China, what are you thinking. Of course you can get three rows of beds into a coach! Just, y’know, grab a few of those hospital carts that are lying around. Don’t need headroom so we’ll double layer. I suppose the more mattresses and people we have on the coach the more padding there is when there is a head-on collision as the, only, driver comes to the end of his 12+ hour driving shift (!!!).
And they make you take your goddamn shoes off. Seriously, my jimmies were extremely rustled when this can became clear. I just can’t understand the thinking there. Makes the whole damn bus smell like death which serves only to remind you that that is an extremely appropriate smell for a vehicle such as that travelling 70mph on a Chinese motorway. Hell, it’s China-safe. Maybe not rest-of-the-world safe but I felt pretty China-safe simply because, props to the driver, he stayed in the right lane most of the time.
It got there in the end. The chinese people on the bus seemed to handle the journey ridiculously well. One old lady in particular just climbed out of bed 5 minutes before arrival wearing inexplicably unwrinkled clothes combed her hair and was ready to go. She had no stuff with her, it was like she was on the bus back from the post office or something. In the background to this I crash out of bed hair sticking up at all angles smelling like I’d been at a festival for a week. Wasn’t built for this shit.
We got off the bus at Shenzhen, which seems alright. Can’t really comment further. China-alright.
From here, after customs, we got the tube into Hong Kong. It was pretty clear at this point that we were entering a very different place. It doesn’t feel Chinese at all. The tube is genuinely amazing, miles ahead of the subway systems in London and New York. The best I’d been in previously was in Stockholm and this one made the Swedish system look like it was designed and built by drunk children.
Everything is clean to the point of obsession. I shit you not, the elevators in the VISA office have signs on them claiming that the buttons are sanitised 8 times a day. This is, of course, post-SARS sensibleness. Apparently if you don’t have a job here they tend to just make you clean stuff and pay you minimum wage. Seems sensible and, as a result, it was without a doubt the cleanest place I’ve ever visited. Again, special mention to the tube system. Not a single piece of litter was to be seen, not even a flyer on the floor or anything. It was mental! And the toilets, oh man the toilets were brilliant. Public toilets in China are of a sort that would likely be rejected as sets for horror movies for being a bit too grizzly. None of that in Hong Kong, proper clean western toilets. Not a squatter to be seen.
Once we arrived we had a couple of days to kill and see the sights! More on that next time.