It has been a busy week and we are only half way through our vacation. We get up and get ready. Our Wyoming neighbors, Elder and Sister Lawton fix us a nice breakfast. We are able to visit for a little while and then depart so that we meet Cy at Kowloon Tong station to go to his sister’s and drop off our stuff. The only thing we need today is shopping bags.
Shenzhen is to Hong Kong as Tijuana is to San Diego. It is the wild, anything goes place to the sophistication and regality of more than a century of British rule. I have been to Tijuana twice in my life. Once in 1987 just prior to going to Boot Camp and then again about 1992 when the SSN-684 had completed some joint exercises with the Coast Guard and DEA. The second visit was a side of Tijuana that only a sailor could find; I am glad to have been married and a designated driver for my single sailor buddies. I have told Cy that I am not interested in finding that side of Shenzhen, I want to find the side where the price of goods makes me wish I had brought more money.
We store our backpack at Cy’s sister, Emily’s house. She is only about 7 blocks for the station and we are able to make a quick roundtrip so that we can get back on our way to Shenzhen. We bring our shopping bags but have no idea of what we are in for. I am impressed with the efficiency that the subway and trains run in this city. We have never really had to wait for more than just a few minutes on our connections. This trip is no different. We arrive in Shenzhen about 11:00 am. It is just now a little more than 2 hours since we left the Lawtons and we are again standing in line to cross the border into China, the Middle Kingdom.
I realize now that the remainder of this vacation will fill up a couple of pages in our passport. We will stamped out of Hong Kong and into China now, and in just a few hours we will be stamped out of China and into Hong Kong. Tomorrow we will stamp out of Hong Kong and into Macau, the day after out of Macau into China, the following day out of China into Hong Kong and then one last time out of Hong Kong back into China. Easily more than one page of stamps, and to think that when I got this passport in 2008 I wondered if I would ever get a stamp in it, I even begged the border guards in Toronto in 2008 to stamp it just so it wouldn’t be blank. I now wonder how long it will be before I have to go to an Embassy to add pages.
Because Cy has a Hong Kong resident card he gets an accelerated process to get through the immigration process. We are required to go through the foreign passports lines; they are at least not as long as the Chinese Nationals lines. We meet back up with Cy once we get through the Chinese immigration process. We are in Shenzhen.
We go to a book store. We really want to get some videos and books. I am looking for something that will help me with my Chinese. I would really like to get something like Dr. Seuss, you know “Sam, I am” or “Red Fish, Blue Fish”. I would at least enjoy reading them. I might even be able to read them to the grandbabies.
We get a taxi and make our way to a bookstore that Emily has recommended. It is closed, as in out of business or under-construction. We ask the driver to take us to one that he recommends. Cy says that he trusts him. He says we can trust him because he isn’t from Shenzhen but from the country. He does look honest but I am just a little concerned. We have no idea where we are going and no idea where it is safe in this part of China and where it’s not safe. We drive for about 10 minutes and it is just rows of apartment complexes and light industry. We finally hang a left and there is a mall with a bookstore. I breathe a sigh of relief.
We enter the mall and head for the video shelves. Amazed at the prices we are paying for legitimate copies of movies. Oldie are going for about $15 RMB and Blue-Ray is about $120 RMB (less than $3 USD and about $18 USD respectively). Who needs Wal-mart? Ok, we confess a good Super Wal-mart where we are would be something to be truly appreciated. I do like the variety of languages that are included on the disks. We have shipped over 200 movies from our US library but we have no idea when those are going to arrive and we can only watch so much HBO without seeing the same movie 2x or 3x in a month. We also like the idea of being able to have movie night with our new Chinese friends. Even if we have to have English subtitles with Chinese language it should make for some good times.
The bookstore doesn’t have Dr. Seuss, how is that possible? How can you teach your kids to read without Dr. Seuss? We are able to find some Chinese language books and throw a few in our bag. Ask about the English section and am pointed in the direction. This story is 2 levels, probably equivalent to 2 Barnes and Nobles; the English section is – just on 8 foot bookshelf about 5 foot tall. There are about 35 titles on the shelves. How is it that they don’t have more titles than that? This country has more people learning to speak English than there are people in the United States of America. If there are more than 300 million Chinese learning English, how can they learn without some kind of book to read? The titles are no where even close to being interesting. Think that there is one there by Bill Clinton, the rest are titles and authors I have never heard of. It is another reminder that I am in a communist country, it might be that these are the only titles that are “allowed”; can’t imagine that being the case but nothing else seems to make sense.
We eat a nice meal at the mall, I wouldn’t imagine that we could find a good restaurant at a mall but here in this country, I am finding that the nicer restaurants can be found at the mall. It is a Japanese restaurant, but they make a really good steak we are told and I don’t mind spending a little money for some aged beef. Service is good, the food is better; the steak is just right. I have accepted the fact that I need to eat good food when I find it. Eat a good lunch because you don’t know what dinner is going to be like.
We return to the general area of the immigration point. There is there, the mother of all that Shenzhen is there for, shopping. We arrive by taxi and are “hustled” by a “fetcher”; basically a well spoken person that hustles business from the sidewalks and guides them into the belly of the beast. We are quickly guided into the building of buildings; it is at least 4 levels. It is filled, with the exception of 5-6 foot walkways that criss-cross building, with shops, most not bigger than 8 foot by 8 foot, some even smaller. The call of the shopkeepers rings out as we walk past, trying to get us to stop and shop. The most frequent cry – Hey Missy – drives LaDawna insane.
We find a little of everything. This is what consumers heaven must look like. If it is for sale it can be gotten here. Literally and figuratively, when Cy and I go to the ATM to get more money (yes we ran out and had to get more) there were even the kind of ladies outside of the building that looked like they sold what wasn’t for sale inside. See I knew that sailor training would help me keep out of trouble.
We found tea sets as good as or better than we have seen anywhere in China for at least 1/3 the price of any other location. We have the tea set on our list of things that we haven’t gotten yet. We can’t pass up the deals and get one for ourselves. The tea set that we have been looking at in so many locations costs us $100 RMB, quite a savings from what we have seen in other places. The quality appears to be similar and the set looks exactly like the ones we have looked at priced at over $700 RMB. We get Christmas presents for several of our children and several birthday presents. We find a shop that is selling oil paintings. We go in and look at everything that is there. We negotiate a price that seems like a crime, about $150RMB each unframed (about $20 USD). We have hardly even begun to see what is there and our time is up, it is time to leave.
We make our way back to Immigration. We are among a crowd that is returning to Hong Kong, most have bags of treasures like we do. We wish, now as we try to keep track of our things, that we would have gotten a suitcase. We looked at some but the quality seemed substandard and nothing seemed quite right. So we now struggle with our books, videos, tea sets, clothes, and other gifts getting back to the train station. We are lucky, the train has just arrived at the platform we are going to. There are two platforms with trainings running about every 15 minutes so this train will not depart for about 15 minutes, the other platform is getting ready to depart and so there are not many people on this platform. We go right to the First Class car and are the first in line. We know that we are going to be able to get a set together. Amazed still at the difference that about $1 USD get in comfort here in First Class compared to the rest of the train; the air conditioning is just one of the little comforts that you notice in addition to comfortable seating.
Cy calls his brother-in-law and he will meet us at the station to reunite us with our bags from other adventures. I can’t imagine what it would have been like trying to do what we did today with other luggage to worry about. The train ride is relatively short, our feet don’t really have time to recover before we arrive and transfer our stuff to make the final jaunt back home. Cy volunteers to take our bag with books and videos back to Haiyang. We are fortunate to have such good friends for this trip. We are glad that we can send those heavy objects home early, our return might be at risk with all of the other things we have acquired.
We are going to get a ride back to our hotel from Cy’s brother-in-law, but have to meet with him before 6:00pm. We head back towards the immigration station and make it through the process. Since we are the first stop of the train back we go the first class car and pay the extra $3 HKD to ride in first class for the next 45 minutes. Seems like such a small amount to get a better seat and not have people standing over you, leaning into you, violating your personal space. We arrive at the Kowloon Tong station and our stuff is already in the car, we drive back to the Courtyard by Marriott. We have had a long day, my arms are tired from carrying my new treasures, and I am ready for some relaxation.
We check-in and retrieve our bags. This is, again, just a pit stop. We are going to unload dirty clothes and repack for the next leg. We stow are treasures in the suitcases and get them ready for the next day. We take advantage of the concierge lounge and a relaxing snack. It strikes me – the 7up can has a pop top.
I haven’t seen a pop top can for several decades. I remember in the mid-1970s when the cans changed to the push dots, the predecessor of the current tops. I remember because that push dot top had a very unique sound when you pushed on the top of an empty can. The average ground squirrel on 50 acres in Thayne, WY couldn’t resist sticking his head out and standing up to see what was making that crazy noise. That race of ground squirrels is now extinct, but that is another story for another day.
Tomorrow, we are on the road again. We have not seen but about half of what was on my list here in Hong Kong. I have to admit that we are not going to see it all on this trip. We are going to have to come back, what a wonderful problem.
We get to our hotel and gather our things. We say good bye to Cy and Maria, they will be returning to Haiyang tomorrow, we still have the weekend and two other locations to visit. Tomorrow we will again leave the hotel and our luggage for a travel light trip. We are going to cross the harbor to Macau and then go to see even more of China. We store our treasures in our suitcases; repack our travel bags and backpacks. We are going to have to leave early tomorrow so that we can see Macau, we have only allowed one day for that. We collapse into our bed, tired but happy.