Being tourists in our not-so-new city

We wandered around and did some touristy stuff today. We decided to check out the streets near the HK Museum of Medical Sciences and Man Mo Temple in the Sheung Wan area. This area is steep, I remember exploring this neighbourhood when we were just tourists in this city, well before there was even talk of us moving here. I was climbing the bajillion steps in this area, following exactly what Google maps told me to do. Even though, yes, it was telling me the quickest route to get to the museum, but it didn’t take into consideration the steepness! I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got to the museum – and I still remember finally reaching it, only to find out it had already closed for the day! The inter web gave me the wrong opening hours for the museum! Argh! ๐Ÿ˜ฉ And yet I still went back the next day, and climbed the damn stairs again, that’s how much I wanted to see the museum then!

But now I know better: do NOT take those damn bajillion stairs, unless you want the exercise ๐Ÿ˜‚ And especially in the HK heat and humidity, which can rival SG, believe it or not. Take the mid-level escalators and get off at Caine Road, and make your way to the museum from there. It may take longer, but it is a much less strenuous route. And then from the museum, you can then make your way down to Man Mo Temple. Doing the museum first and then the temple means a downhill walk, instead of a painful uphill climb. But you can make up your own mind which route you wish to take ๐Ÿ˜Š

The area is pretty funky, with a lot of antique stores as well as a few cafes, creating a nice juxtaposition of eastern and western influence. And the place wasn’t overly busy either when we wandered around, which made for quite a relaxing afternoon walk ๐Ÿ˜Œ So we’d like to go back again and check out a few cafes and restaurants in thjs area. Maybe find a new yum cha place sometime next weekend? ๐Ÿ˜„

And then in the evening, we finished the last few episodes of The Exorcist’s Meter. N is off to SG tomorrow for the rest of the week so we both just wanted to finish the series today rather than have to wait until next weekend to do so. I don’t want to say anything other than the ending was goood! It was right up there with some Korean dramas in terms of endings, actually. I was quite impressed with the last few episodes ๐Ÿ‘ Now we need to find our new drama…

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Friends, language learning and generally just having fun

We met up with a friend who’s here in HK for the weekend. We took her to yum cha, of course ๐Ÿ˜Š She apparently just turned 21! I didn’t realise she was so young. I made a comment saying that we are probably as old as her parents, which she agreed with ๐Ÿ˜‚ So not sure why she likes hanging out with us oldies. I guess dancing just brings everyone together, regardless of age ๐Ÿ˜Š

N went to karate, while I practised some more of my Chinese. I’ve been really focusing on my speaking and listening, to get it up to the same level as my reading and writing. I don’t want to get to a point where I can read a Chinese novel, and still not be able to hold a basic conversation! I’m still learning new words, so I’m automatically still working on my reading, but it’s just not where my focus is right now. I just want to speak more and listen more at this stage, and be as exposed to the spoken language as much as I can.

YouTube has been an absolute goldmine, a seemingly endless resource for all things related to improving these very skills. There is a ton of stuff specifically for my level, and then of course there’s more stuff that’s aimed at native speakers. I’m obviously just looking for Chinese resources, but I’m sure you could find almost any other language on there. It’s pretty crazy.

And then in the evening, we watched an episode of The Exorcist’s Meter, our current Cantonese drama. We’re getting close to the end, so we’ll have to find a new one soon! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Our first trip to Shenzhen

This post is about our experience of going to Shenzhen from Hong Kong. Firstly, the two posts from ausbt.com.au that I’ve provided links to in this post were the most helpful for me when preparing for our day trip today. I’ll outline some more things that we encountered today that weren’t mentioned in these two posts, probably because they’ve been more recent changes, but everything else is, by and large, still valid.

How to travel by train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen

Firstly, coming from HK, this still seems to be the most common route to take if you need a visa on arrival in Shenzhen. But do note that if you’ve already organised your visa to China beforehand, you can now also catch the high speed rail, which takes something like 15 minutes from West Kowloon station in HK to Futian station in Shenzhen. This is wayyy better than the normal train that supposedly takes 45 minutes or something. But yes, it is also more expensive. But the trains are newer, and you are guaranteed a seat, unlike the regular trains. So it is better to book your tickets for these beforehand, as you may not get a seat otherwise at the time you wish to go.

How to get a Shenzhen visa on arrival when visiting from Hong Kong

We went today, the Saturday during the Easter long weekend, and there were a bajillion foreigners at the visa office. The above article said that their wait was something like 10-30 minutes, ours was more like two hours. We got there at around 10am, and we probably left at around 12-12:30pm. It was crazy busy. At one point, there were no seats and people were just standing around inside and outside the office. So if you’re going during a long weekend like we did, I highly recommend that you get there as early as possible, perhaps when the visa office opens!

The steps they have at the visa office goes something like this:

  1. Take your photo in one of the photo booths
  2. Fill out a visa application form
  3. Take a queue ticket from the ticket machine
  4. Wait for your number to be called

They now have photo booths just outside the visa office, so the first queue you have to face is this one. But don’t do the steps as they suggest: I suggest first taking a number from the ticket booth, as the ausbt article recommends. You still have to wait, so you may as well cut down that wait time by doing a few other steps beforehand. Do note, though, that they say that if you miss your number, you’ll have to queue up again with a new number, so bear this in mind and assess whether or not this is the right thing for you to do, depending on the number of people ahead of you on the day.

Also note that the rules change all the time. We ran into a few of N’s workmates at the visa office – it was one big office reunion ๐Ÿ˜‚ One of his colleague’s visa applications was actually rejected, and he had to basically turn around and head back to HK. He was constantly checking to see what the latest rules were with his passport, and he was getting conflicting information, so do bear this in mind too if your passport is from one of these countries where the rules constantly seem to be changing. You do run the risk of not being able to get a visa on arrival, so it may be safer to just apply for your visa beforehand. He knew the risk he was taking, but I was still disappointed for him.

You can also pay by credit card for your visa. The cost of the visa does vary, but a lot of countries seem to be at the ยฅ168 price point. You can pay by credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Amex), as well as by UnionPay or just with cash. I wasn’t expecting to be able to pay by credit card, so that was handy too.

And then after you get your visa, you head down to immigration. What seems to be new now are the fingerprint machines near the arrival slips. You need to do this first, so you’re in the “system”, I suppose, before you head over to join the immigration queue. Note that the arrival slip and the departure slip are attached, so you can fill both sections out now if you want, to save you time later when you depart. But it’s not necessary, entirely up to you.

And that’s it! Ordeal over! ๐Ÿคฃ

Shenzhen metro

This is actually pretty easy to understand, as it is very similar to Hong Kong’s MTR system. You can buy single journey tickets, but we decided to buy the Shenzhen metro card, which is similar to HK’s octopus card, as it’s just so much easier to get around with it. Note, though, that the machine to buy these metro cards are all in Chinese, there is no English option ๐Ÿ˜ฑ But we still managed to fumble our way through it (my limited Chinese might have helped!), and we paid the ยฅ100 for each of our cards.

Then we realised that we don’t have any value on them, so we had to go up to the customer service counter to add value on to them. Now this staff member is completely rushed off her feet, fielding numerous questions from random people. This happens all the time in HK too, and it happened a bit in SG, so I’m used to it now: people butt in and ask customer service people questions, even while the staff member is already serving someone else. I used to think this was extremely rude, but over time, I’ve come to realise that it’s just the done thing, and no one pays any attention to it. Staff must just learn to multi-task. It’s insane.

Each metro station that we went to (all four of them ๐Ÿ˜‚) had a security check area before you enter the paid area of the subway platform, with the conveyor belts and all, like at airports. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It must be a real pain to have to go through that process during rush hour on a weekday – for all parties involved!

General comments

We didn’t explore much of Shenzhen today, unfortunately, as the rain was torrential. We only got to go to Leyuan Road and KK Mall. But from this limited experience, we came across very little English. It’s tough going, but for a day trip, you put it down to the adventure of being in a foreign land ๐Ÿ˜†

I was also warned that Google Maps won’t work in China (and anything Google or Facebook related). Well it still did work for me, but my location wasn’t as accurate as it normally would be, even in densely populated HK. People have suggested this map app instead, but it’s all in Chinese, so it’s much harder to use.

Overall, I think we sorted out the practical stuff today, which was really the main objective of the trip, as we knew the rain would probably make it hard for us to do much else. But we didn’t expect it to be so torrential! Despite not doing much touristy stuff, though, I still think we had a successful day ๐Ÿ‘ I’d like to go back again and do the touristy things that we didn’t get to do today because of the rain. Maybe we’ll apply for a visa beforehand next time ๐Ÿ˜„

A wet start to the Easter long weekend

We got quite a fair bit of heavy rain today, so much so that we had to stop by 7-Eleven to buy an umbrella and one of those el cheapo raincoats that I seem to like for some reason โ˜”๏ธ We would’ve been drenched otherwise. It deterred us from doing much at all, unfortunately, and after yet another yum cha brunch ๐Ÿ˜‹ we just went home afterwards.

The heavy rain persisted all afternoon, which made for perfect stay-at-home weather. I just watched YouTube clips posted by another polyglot, Luca Lampariello, while N took a nap. All these polyglots inspire me to keep going, to keep pushing on, so it was quite timely to come across this guy now, actually, after feeling a bit down yesterday with my lack of improvement. He kept saying that the most important thing is to work at it every day, which I am, so I must be on the right track. I just need to continue focussing on the process, not the goal – much like with all my other goals, really! ๐Ÿ˜Š

We were actually planning on going to Shenzhen tomorrow, but the forecast is for thunderstorms there tomorrow, so now I don’t really want to go, especially since the things that I want to do are all outdoor activities. But even if it is raining, we can still just go and do general shopping and other more indoor stuff like eating ๐Ÿ˜‹ Let’s see if we can get ourselves to the train station first thing tomorrow morning, to avoid the crowds ๐Ÿ˜Š

Bathroom issues and a breakthrough

I went to bed quite late last night, close to around 2am. But then half an hour later, N unintentionally woke me up: he apparently has food poisoning. Greeeat. I know the drill, this has happened so many times before, but it doesn’t make me feel any better each time it happens. So basically for the next three hours, he was pretty much heading to the bathroom every half an hour, as if on a schedule ๐Ÿคฎ And of course, I’m getting more and more worried each time it happens, as he’s getting more and more dehydrated. And all I can do is just sit / lie there and watch it happen ๐Ÿ˜”

The most recent serious case of food poisoning was in SG. That time we actually went to the hospital. But now we’re in a brand new city, and it suddenly dawned on me that I don’t know anything about how their medical system works here! So I’m on my phone at 4am trying to locate the nearest hospital, and trying to figure out whether our health insurance will cover the cost. And then I realise that I don’t know how to say “hospital” in Cantonese, and “accident and emergency” in either Mandarin or Cantonese, which I will need in case we need to catch a cab there, if N’s condition worsens. Taxi drivers, by and large, do not speak English here, so I had to be ready to say it in Cantonese just in case.

Luckily, N’s condition stabilised by around 5:30am, and we both got a few hours’ sleep from that point.

Until it was time for Kitty to be fed at 8am. She, of course, did not hesitate to let me know that she needed food ๐Ÿ™„ So I got up and gave her breakfast. I normally would just get up and start my day from here, but given the circumstances, I felt like I needed another hour or two of rest. And since N was getting some respite now from this bug, I figured I should let him get some sleep. So rather than head back to bed and risk waking him up by doing so, I decided to just take a nap on the couch ๐Ÿ˜ด

Surprisingly the hour on the couch did wonders. I have no idea what magic happened there, but I felt so much more rejuvenated afterwards, and ended up having a very productive day! Totally not what I was expecting at 5 o’clock this morning!

But then something else had to go awry, in order to keep our lives interesting: the toilets in our bathrooms weren’t working. It wasn’t refilling with water after being flushed. Greeeat. I contacted building management, and they replied back and said that they’re doing an emergency repair. Greeeat x 2. After about an hour, they seemed to have switched the water back on for the spare bathroom, but still no such luck for our bathroom. And even after coming back from dinner, our toilet is still not getting any water. It looks like the engineers will resume their repairs tomorrow. Arghhh! But at least all the taps are still working, so we can still brush our teeth and take a shower ๐Ÿ˜… We just need to go and use the toilet in the spare bathroom. First world problems ๐Ÿ˜„ I’m just grateful we have a second bathroom!

We caught up with a friend from SG tonight. He’s here in HK for a short work trip, and he’s already flying back tomorrow. He gave us a pandan cake, a signature cake from SG. It is so nice, so light and fluffy ๐Ÿ˜‹

I wanted to find out how to say “pandan” in Chinese, and during my search, I stumbled across this article: http://news.nanyangpost.com/2017/04/cnn.html?m=1. This article is in Chinese, but for whatever reason, I decided to try and read the title. And I surprised myself when I realised that I could read most of it. So that gave me some confidence, and thought I’d try and read the actual article itself. Normally after about the first few words, I’m coming across a whole ton of new characters that I don’t know, so I don’t bother trying to read any further. But this didn’t happen with this article. I found myself being able to read almost everything in the first paragraph! So I continued. And continued. And I read about half of the article before stopping, as I had to run over to N to tell him about this totally amazing achievement of mine. My comprehension isn’t entirely there, but I got the general gist. I am sooo happy! So maybe all this effort that I’ve been putting into learning this language is starting to show up now. Perhaps I’ve taken a step up after being on the previous step for so long, and feeling like I will never climb to that next step. And now I may actually have reached it ๐Ÿ˜ฑ BREAKTHROUGH!!

HK food and HK drama

We went and had yum cha again today. We can’t get enough of yum cha, I tell you! And there are sooo many places to try, surely we can’t run out of options, even if we went somewhere new every single day for a whole year ๐Ÿ˜„

We left the house thinking it was quite warm, so we were both wearing shorts. But then as soon as we left the restaurant, the temperature had dropped and it had also started raining! I was freezing! ๐Ÿฅถ

So I decided to stop by one of those bajillion tea places that you can find all over the city to order myself a cup of tea, to help me deal with this sudden onslaught of cold weather that I wasn’t dressed for. But the guy who took my order spoke very poor English, and forgot to ask whether I wanted hot or cold tea – and I forgot to specify – and he chose to give us cold! Arghhh! Why would you do that?? But the good thing about cold tea is that it just stays cold, so I took my time drinking it all afternoon… ๐Ÿ˜Œ

We then just watched a few episodes of our current Cantonese drama, The Exorcist’s Meter, before N headed off to karate. I then spent the rest of the evening on my Chinese, learning a few new words and reviewing recent ones. I still don’t think I’m doing enough practice on my listening. But listening is so haaard and mentally exhausting! ๐Ÿ˜ฉ Native speakers speak so damn fast. But I must persevere and just get to the next level, where I can hear even more words. I still think I’m expecting too much from myself at this stage of my learning. Still, I must push on and expose myself more and more to the language.

So despite the crappy weather that decided to stay all day with us, I think the day didn’t turn out too badly in the end ๐Ÿ˜Š

Earphones and Asian Dramas

We went and had yum cha in Wan Chai today. There’s a computer centre in Wan Chai, not sure if I’ve mentioned it before. We like going there for all our electronic needs. I needed a new pair of earphones. I wanted to get a wireless pair, as it’s hard to practise dancing without headless earphones, as I have to hold my phone the entire time, and I can’t move my arms around as easily, which is necessary in Latin. We found a pretty cheap pair, as I don’t really need anything fancy, especially if it’s really more for when I’m practising. I could easily lose it, or break it, so an el cheapo pair is perfect ๐Ÿ‘Œ

And so I used them tonight at the gym. It doesn’t have much of a bass, but like I said, good enough for my purpose. I felt so free today! ๐Ÿ˜„

And we finished off the evening with another episode of the Cantonese drama, The Exorcist’s Meter. It’s not a bad drama. For some reason, it’s taking us forever to finish it. Oh, I know why: because N has been travelling so much for work lately! Ugh. He’s in HK all of next week, at least. I am currently juggling about four Asian dramas at the moment, it’s a bit insane ๐Ÿ˜‚ And I’m not making much headway on any of them as I’ve been busy working on my goals lately! Which isn’t a bad thing ๐Ÿ˜Š