I step off the train, and into the smell of… an Asian grocery store in the States? What is that, dried squid or something? And what is that guy eating?! This isn’t the China I know, not by a long shot. I didn’t get much sleep on that overnight hard seat train, not much at all, and there’s a good second-long pause before the words reach my mouth whenever I have to say something in Chinese. But why don’t the words coming out of the loudspeaker make sense? Is that Cantonese? Oh well, I have a little over ten hours to find my way to the Hong Kong border, cross over, and then cross back before my return train to Wuhan leaves.
Turns out the train station IS the border crossing! That was easy enough. I just have to maneuver my way through the sprawling station/shopping mall/customs building, and I’ll be on Hong Kong. Customs is easy enough- for Hong Kong you pretty much just have to show up and they’ll let you in. Once I’m through I hop on the Hong Kong metro, ride it one station into Hong Kong, switch trains, and ride it back to the PRC border. There we go, officially legal to re-enter China! Next month I’ll be back for 5 days to fully switch my visa, and at that point I’ll stay for a while to actually see the place. Not today, though.
A bit of wandering has revealed that Shenzhen, the border city on the Chinese side, is a decidedly boring place. I should have figured as much when all the guidebooks touted various amusement parks but were mysteriously silent on the subject of other things to do.
After lunch and a bit more wandering, I’ve returned to the train station. Unlike my ludicrously uncomfortable train ride in, my return to Wuhan will be accomplished in grand style: a soft sleeper ticket, which also unlocks the magical Soft Sleeper Waiting Room. I still have a few more hours before the train leaves, but how often do you get to enjoy chairs this comfortable in China?!
What I learned:
-Hard seat really isn’t ok for overnight trains, despite what some lunatics may tell you.
-Hong Kong and southern China all smell like a vast open air Chinese grocery store.
-Chinese border agents are used to seeing people come and go for this exact reason all the time- they didn’t bat an eye at my passport telling them that I was re-entering China after having left earlier that morning, barely two hours after the crossing opened that morning.
-Hong Kong money looks like it’s from the future.