It’s week 32, and I’ve taken a flight to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a melting pot! Hot, humid, and absolutely bustling! With over 7 million inhabitants, it is ranked as one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and you can tell as soon as you get off the plane! With my backpack across my shoulders I am ducking and dodging around the passing human traffic on the way to the hostel.
Look behind you! Street Art ;-)
When visiting Singapore, it struck me as an Asian version of Berlin, whereas Hong Kong definitely hit me as an Asian London. Constant movement, hustle and bustle. Business people, students, visitors, and street vendors in a constant mesh weaving in and out of each other in the street without missing a beat.
It was also the first time I’d seen a double-decker bus since leaving home 7 months ago! :-)
Despite enjoying the hectic pace, Hong Kong was definitely my sort of city in the evening time. It just seemed to open itself up a bit more. The temperature drops a few degrees, there is a bit more space out on the streets, and the city just lights up in a kaleidoscope of neon.
A walk to the waterfront in the evening and you can tell just why the skyline of Hong Kong is so famous :-)
The trip to Hong Kong also served another purpose for me. I’m planning on visiting China and I need to get a tourist visa. I’d heard that gettng a Chinese Visa could be a difficult and sometimes, a confusing and inconsistent process. But keeping a positive frame of mind, going to see for myself :-)
I arrive at the Chinese Resource Building with my documentation:
- Entry Slip into Hong Kong
- Valid Passport photo for China
- Printed proof of Exit (Flight out of the country)
- Printed accommodation bookings for my first few nights and final night before the flight out.
There is a small queue on the outside of the building where I’m given a visa application form, which I fill in while waiting for the queue to trudge along. Once inside, I join another queue where I’m given a ticket number and told to sit in the waiting area until called. So far, so good. However, after an hour and when my number gets called, I turn up at the window to be told by an unsmiling employee that I’ll have to come back tomorrow with more information. The accommodation bookings are not sufficient…..for the visa application I need to detail where I’ll be staying every night I am in the country – the 5 week gap between entry and exit is not going to fly! “We need to know where you will be staying throughout the course of your visit”, I’m told.
Ok, take 2! :-) A full 6 week itinerary isn’t really what I’d had in mind! I like the idea of being able to meet up with people, take advice and recommendations, and then be flexible enough to change my plans as I go. After a bit of online research, I found a number of other people who wanted to travel in a similar way – the solution is a bunch of fake bookings from booking.com which allows easy cancellations after the visa application is filled in.
So after filling out a rough 6 week plan and printing out the reservations, I arrive the following morning and complete the process. The, far more smiley, employee at the window this time around doesn’t even flick through the papers I hand in. She just takes my passport and the rest of my ‘visa pack’, give me a receipt ad tells me to come back in a couple of days.
Sorted? Well, not really. When I arrive back at the office a few days later I receive my passport back with a freshly glued visa on one of the black passport pages. 30 days!
30 days? This sort of made my head spin a bit.
I’m told to fill out a full 6 week plan for accommodation and flight out, so that my whereabouts are known for my time in the country -> This plan is approved and therefore I get my visa -> The visa doesn’t cover the time I need for my plan -> This forces me to change my plan -> If I change my plan, my whereabouts won’t be known anymore – I’ll have to change my accommodation and flight out the country -> in which case….I shouldn’t have got the visa approved in the first place?
After going through that loop of incomplete logic for a few seconds, I snap out of it, thank the employee (a different, non-smiley person), and head out of the building….my train out of the country is in a few hours so I don’t have much time to do anything about it anyway :-)
To close out the blog post, a few more photos below of my time in Hong Kong whilst waiting for the Visa application to be turned around. Including some recommendations from an old school friend (Thanks Alan :-) ), on getting off the island and visiting the old Monk Kok area. Which included a wander around the Ladies market and playing XiangQi (Chinese chess) in the park with a bunch of old locals. I was watching and trying to figure out the rules when I was asked to sit down and play.
I didn’t know the chinese for ‘I don’t know the rules’, so just sat down and give it a go…..after a bit of being shouted at in Chinese, I worked out the remaining rules……my knights can be blocked…and my elephants (obviously) cannot cross the river :-)
Thanks Hong Kong! Next Stop, China!….For 30 days?…or maybe more?
‘Police Line, do not cross!’- Sometimes old dudes just don’t care