25 June 2006
Our last day in Hong Kong was Thursday, June 22nd, the first day of
summer. This turned out to be a 19-hour ordeal for me! Travelling is
arduous, so get into physical condition if you want to, it's
I'm up at 0600, letting Tom sleep next to me in our #1704 Minden Hotel room.
It's plush, the best hotel I've stayed in since my Network television
days (this at $120 per). A LAN hookup for free, thus, we were able to
use our new MacBook, and right in our room. This will probably save
me from developing lung cancer, as no more Net Bars --'dens of
At 0700, I descend on an Otis elevator to the 'breakfast' room. Here
we have coffee and tea, plus an assortment of breads, including two TV
screens (I can do without), and the local papers ('International
Herald Tribune' for one). I bring my green apple and delight in one
muffin and very good coffee.
It's the little things in life that bring you joy. This breakfast
respite for me, made the entire day palpable, well almost. I ate,
drank coffee, and read an English newspaper. Wow, civilization!
At 0800, Tom and I head off for the Chinese Government Office, this
the third time in three days and to finally pick up my passport with
new visa.' The 'tab,' 390HKD or divide, 7.7 into 390 for the $
equivalent, I'm guessing $45 U.S. But, this only for 30 days.
Governments make money on visas!
We take the subway, two stops, having to change once. This costs
18HKD / $2.50 for two of us each way. We've got the 'drill' down
finally, having 'practiced.' We're just prior to the morning rush, so
the trains are not 'jammed' just filled. There's a difference. I've
been in subway cars where squeezed in so tight you couldn't more.
Then try getting off at your stop!
The entire subway ride, under the Bay and over to Hong Kong Island,
walking to the 'China Resources Bu idling,' takes but 30 minutes
(since we now know the way).
We're the first ones in line 2 out of 3 days. 'The early bird gets the worm!'
I go off to find the toilet behind the 'Nine Dragon Wall.' When I
return Tom is talking with two black women waiting in the visa line.
I know immediately they are from the U.S. One, a flight attendant for
United is very outspoken about what's happening in the U.S. She's
moving to Senegal. In the meantime, they're off on a one-day shopping
excursion to Shenzhen, the large Chinese city on the 'Mainland,' we've
passing through to get to Hong Kong.
The wait is not long before two 'robots' open the doors, and I have my
passport, and we've retracing our ride and back to The Minden by 1000.
One task completed.
We check out of the hotel, and take the KFC (could I be correct?) line
to the 'border,' or Shenzhen. This takes 45 minutes, with many stops
(maybe 12). Hong Kong is larger than you think, at least the area.
Here at the border crossing the usual Immigration and Customs. We're
entering 'China' again. Hong Kong, which is supposed to be part of
China, really isn't.
No problem for Tom, a citizen, or me with new visa, but Rucha is
stopped cold. Something is wrong! Her visa has only 1 entry (which
she used to enter in April), and she needs to get another one
'upstairs.' Of course, when this discussion begins, I call Tom over
to help. He's allowed to accompany her, while I wait!
This is where the day changed from O.K., to not-so wonderful. Here I
am alone in China, Tom and Rucha 'upstairs' somewhere (still in 'Hong
Kong'). I have no mobile, but Tom's bag he's left with me. There's
no place to sit while waiting. I try to talk to a Chinese 'robot,'
but no comprende. There's a 'penalty box' with a wheel chair and
benches, but this for people who are 'suspect,' their passports being
examined. A nurse sits at a desk with two chairs, and I'm temped to
ask to sit in one of the chairs, but I'm coughing so much, I better
not, knowing what can happen. 'Robots' are basically 'bored,' so you
don't give them any reason to get excited.
I wait and wait, standing, moving, trying to think what I would do if
they never appeared agin... I thought best not to go through Chinese
Customs with Tom's bag, plus I'd be beyond where he could talk to me.
So, I just 'hang in,' as we all do when in these kinds of situations.
Finally, after forty minutes Tom appears, and I move closer to the
'border,' to hear him. He shouts, 'Another twenty minutes!' I thank
him! It's not knowing that causes stress, but once you do, the burden
lifts and waiting (not one of my talents) is much easier.
Finally, both Tom and Rucha appear and get back into the line. More
waiting, but now even easier, as I know they've been successful in
getting her a new visa.
Through the line ('approved') we walk the 'gauntlet' of Customs, but
with no problem. Now, we're all back in 'Mainland China,' Shenzhen.
The plan now to check out taking the train back to Shang Hai.
So, we walk to the RR station, something like 500 meters. It's
raining, but the way is covered, and easy going (Rucha drags her bag
on the the marble stones).
After having to find the 'Long Distance Train' ticket office, we again
wait in line. Tom has checked the departure board and there's one at
1700 (5P.M.). It's only 1:30 P.M., so plenty of time. The only
problem, no train today! Why? We don't ask. We could take a train
to Guangdong, and go from there to Shang hai, but I opt to fly.
Now, we must find a travel or airline office. Additionally, we
haven't eaten since early breakfast.
Outside, I spy a 'Shangri la,' Hotel, and direct everyone there.
Hotels are great sources for solutions when travelling. This
especially in Asia, where a white face is thought to be a 'guest,' and
admitted with courtesy. Also, there's always a concierge, and good
We ask and are directed to the 'Business Center' on the second floor.
Right away, I notice this is a 'five-star hotel.'
On the way, we decide to have lunch, but after seated opt not to as
just 'snacks.' Upstairs is a Chinese restaurant! Perfect, as we have
to go up anyway.
We order lunch in the Chinese Restaurant, and then Tom and I go to the
'Business Center.' Here a pretty Chinese girl (turns out from Korla,
Xinjiang) books us on a China Eastern flight. By now, I'm low on
patience, and am curt with her, but she doesn't notice. Just another
'ugly American,' I can sometimes be. Everything always takes too long
for me, Tom and her having an endless conversation. I can become
irascible and demanding, especially when not feeling good. And this
day, not very good at all, with my chest cold, the one I've had for
three months and can't seem to shake (between cigarette smoking in Net
Bars and eastern China air pollution).
I finally depart to eat my 'chao mi fan' (fried rice), in the
restaurant (with Rucha). I have left my passport and Bank card with
Tom in the 'B.C.'. I'll sign when I've eaten. Everything in it's own
I notice a pretty Chinese woman staring at me in the dining room. At
my age and looks I can't believe any woman would be interested, but
some Chinese women are curious (I guess). Of course, this always
'charges' the male ego.
Tom arrives, and I have to return to the 'Business Center.' The 'tab'
for three 'Y' seats is something like 5,000RMB or roughly $170U.S.
per. I didn't care at this point, only wanting to return to Shang Hai
as quickly as possible. I'm not feeling very well at all at this
Now we have an hour's wait before departing for the airport. We have
opted to take a taxi to the airport, as the hotel offer no buses. So,
we sit in the lobby and and partake of desert. This a mere 200RMB /
$25US. for two glasses of watermelon juice and a dish of ice cream
(I'm not into watermelon juice). Yes, things can be expensive in
certain cities/establishments in China.
It turns out to be a 45-minute taxi ride to 'Shenzhen International
Airport,' right on the 'Bay of Something.'
After checking in, bags disappearing from sight, we are subjected to
the usual security gauntlet. First my money clip sets off the door
radar. Then we're relieved of all our 'weapons' two Swiss Army
knives, nail clippers, and scissors. How silly the world has become.
I'm pissed off, and getting demonstrative about it, Tom trying to calm
me down. Poor Tom, my faithful assistant. He has to run to the
check-in country and send the items some other way.
Rucha and I wait at the security check. When Tom doesn't return for
such a long time, Rucha is worried he's been 'held' for whatever
transgressions they can think of!
We live in 'police states,' in our 'countries,' whether it be China or
the U.S. We've allowed this to happen, and can only blame ourselves!
And all in the name of 'security!' Because the big, bad 'terrorists'
our out there, and going to eat us up! How completely stupid we are!
At the gate, I can 'sense' there's going to be a delay. For one
thing, there's no aircraft in sight. More waiting. I'm now trying to
catch a nap at every seat. Additionally, after three months of
travelling with Rucha, she's annoying me.
Finally the 757 arrives, looking somewhat used. Tom and I watch it
being loaded with palates of boxes. So, many things being transported
around the world. I wonder where my little soft bags are, I hope not
Tom thinks this is a 'small plane.' I explain, 'medium sized.' The
new Airbus A-380, has two floors with a capacity of 600+ passengers.
I hope to God I never have the misfortune to be subjected to one of
these flying 'cattle cars!' Can you imagine fetching your luggage with
600 other people (all in a hurry of course).
We board, one of a mere 200 'cattle.' This is the first time I've
flown on a Chinese airline. So, I'm observant. We get the middle
three of a six-seat row arrangement. The best being on the window
two. Here begins the 'torture' for me. Not the seat, but that we are
told, because of the weather, we'll be sitting on the ground at the
gate for two hours before taking off. Why didn't they tell us before
boarding... The old airline trick... Once captured have to pay. If
we'd found out before, half of the passengers would opt for something
else, causing much trouble (changing tickets, refunds, etc.). The
passenger, the customer, is the last one thought of in China.
I think about informing them I'm ill and want off (since easy still at
the gate). But, I don't because I know what this is liable to cause.
A doctor, an examination, with the 'Bird Flu' scare; much potential
trouble. So, I sit there feeling worse and worse. I have Tom ask an
attendant for cough medicine. None. We ask for 'aspirin' (I haven't
brought mine alone). They can't understand. They bring me something
labeled 'APC,' which I think is aspirin, but don't take. I want to
torture myself! No, I don't take pills that I'm not completely sure
They serve 'dinner' to keep the 'cattle' from getting too unhappy--no
one can smoke, so I'll bet the men getting restless. It's horrible,
the 'boxed' meal--reminding me of what they serve on military flights!
No alcohol is offered. Maybe this is good, although I would have
bought a beer (to anestisize myself). I'm beginning to think China
Eastern not so good.
Finally, we back away from the gate, and are moving to the active
runway. Somewhere I remember learning, probably, from an information
board, that this flight lands at Pudong International. I should have
asked. Why Pudong? This is a domestic flight? Pudong is a large
International airport. Shang Hai has a domestic airport, closer to
the city. Pudong is 50KM east of Shang Hai proper.
We take off, and the flight is smooth, and it isn't long before (two
hours, versus 25 vis RR) descending into Shang Hai. The storm has
dissipated and only raining now. I'm thinking better of China
Eastern. We land and are walking to the baggage claim 'salon' We walk
and walk, as Pudong Airport is huge!
I'm thinking we might take the 'high-speed' train into Shang Hai, but
we discover the last one departed at 2100 hours / 9P.M. We retrieve
our bags easily, and no further hassle, except the means of travel to
Shang hai... Maybe a bus, no, we opt for another 150RMB taxi ride.
I'm in no mood to catch a bus, want to get to #2306, and to bed as
quickly as possible. I'm feeling like 'donkey do-do' at this point.
When Rucha annoys me for the umpteen time, I explode and yell at her
in the taxi! Poor Rucha doesn't deserve it. We ride in silence all
the way back, but nearing my destination, I apologize for yelling at
When I finally lie on my cot in my room at #2306 it's midnight and
it's been a grueling 18-hour day of visas and travelling.
Best to travel when you're young and strong, don't wait or you won't,
worse you won't be able to!
Me, I'm a tough old bird, having travelled much, drank too much, eaten
much, made love much, done everything maybe too much. But, such is
the nature of my body/soul for whatever reason. Now, writing this
some three days later feeling better, stronger, with good news. Tom
has solved my staying in China!
Would you believe, there's a law on the Chinese books, that says, 'If
you're over 60-years of age, have no family in your home country, you
can stay if you find a 'rich' Chinese family to sponsor you. I
qualify in all regards, but yet to see, as what is said on paper (Tom
discovered this searching the Chinese Government's WEB site), and what
actually happens is sometimes different. You know how that goes.
But, as Rucha says, 'We'll find out!'
So, stayed tuned!
in Shang Hai China where the monsoon and insecticide (sprayed on the
streets) gives it a fetid quality. Eastern China is not a healthy
place for me, and I'll be here only for as long as I have to be.
Your goal the sky,
Your aim the stars!