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 😂 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 ¥168 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! 🤣

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 😱 But we still managed to fumble our way through it (my limited Chinese might have helped!), and we paid the ¥100 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 😂) 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 😆

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 👍 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 😄

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A bit discouraged

There are days when I feed Kitty a can of food, she’ll sniff it, and then walk away without touching it, as if she could smell poison in her bowl 🙄 Today was not one of those days, thankfully. She was devouring it all, and I actually gave her a third can this evening, which will take her through the night. She is so unpredictable. I never know when I’ll have wasted money on supposed poison, or when I’ve hit the jackpot. But even when she seems to like something, she will eventually get sick of it, and that flavour will eventually become poison too 🙄 And then I have to go and find some new flavour for her. Such a fusspot!

I was getting a bit discouraged with my Chinese today, I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with my listening, it feels like it hasn’t improved whatsoever. But objectively, I know it has, as I’m slowly starting to hear the odd few words, and I can also hear the other words more distinctly now, whereas before it was just a jumble of sounds with nothing discernible within it. I just don’t know that many words yet, and I also can’t process entire sentences that quickly. I need to have listening practice as part of my daily routine, in order to improve in this area. I don’t think I’m exposed enough to the language at the moment.

It is Good Friday tomorrow, the start of a four-day weekend – YEAH! We lost Easter Monday in SG, so it’s good to have it back now 👍

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 🤮 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 😔

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 🙄 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 😴

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 😅 We just need to go and use the toilet in the spare bathroom. First world problems 😄 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 😋

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 😱 BREAKTHROUGH!!

Last day of the Hong Kong 7s

* warning: Hong Kong rugby sevens spoiler alert below

N went to the rugby sevens again today, but today was more for work 😒 I managed to find a website that televised it locally, so I ended up watching it on our iPad the entire afternoon. The website wouldn’t let me play it on our tv, so I just had to make do with the iPad, which was good enough for me. I was already grateful that they were letting us watch it full stop, as most sports have broadcasting restrictions on sports that are currently being played in the city that you’re in. And I was too lazy to go out to a sports bar and watch it there 😆 And besides, they would all probably be already packed as anyway.

I was torn between Fiji and France in the final. I wanted Fiji to retain their title and win five years in a row, because that’s pretty legendary. But then I also wanted France to win because they had done so well in the tournament and had made it all the way into the final. So either way, I probably would have been happy with the outcome. But five years in a row was an awesome outcome, I was so happy for them 😊

The Singapore Sevens is on next weekend, so I’m actually thinking of following that as well! Bizarro world, since I’m not much of a sports person at all! But my sport watching is very situational, so if the people around me aren’t getting into it, then I don’t tend to be all that interested either. So let’s see how long my interest in the rugby sevens lasts…! 😆 I’m already surprised that I followed as much as I did this weekend!

I do like the pace of the sport, though. The games go really quickly, and an entire game is finished in less than 20 minutes. Most other sports haven’t even finished one quarter at this point in time! So it’s quick and fast paced, which I like. And everyone seems to be really well behaved, they’re all very courteous to one another, and also to the referees. Everyone knows the rules, and anyone who didn’t abide by them took the penalty calmly, no talking back at the referees or trying to hit their opponents, it was all very orderly. I liked that too. They’re sprinting around like crazy the entire time, fending off their opponents and trying not to get tackled as well, all while trying to score with this weird shaped ball! 🏉 It’s a pretty cool game 😊

A successful day

So it seems like you can feel the humidity quite a fair bit in this city… It’s only just the start of spring, and yet I can already feel the humidity, interesting… I think N is not going to enjoy the other three seasons of the year, then. He hated the SG weather, I don’t think he ever got used to it, and now we may effectively be going back to SG type weather…! 😆

He came back from Taipei today, and so of course the aircon has been on in the house ever since he arrived 😆 It’s going to be the same as SG on this front, I am guessing. I, on the other hand, am perfectly comfortable without the aircon, so of course now that it’s on, I have to wear a jumper around the house. Much like our routine in SG. At least from a weather perspective, it’s almost as if we never left! YEAH! 👍

And my tweaked schedule for today worked amazingly. I ticked off almost everything that I wanted to do today, in terms of the tasks that are helping me reach my various goals. It was sooo good. It was perhaps the most productive day I have had in a long time. So I will definitely be bringing this schedule idea into next week too 👍

I came across this song somehow called Dura, by Daddy Yankee, and it is my song of the year so far – I’m in love with it! I had it on repeat at the gym today. I was going to use the elliptical machine as warm-up, as I usually do, and turned on some music to keep me company. I decided to listen to Dura, and as soon as it came on, I was like, “stuff the elliptical, let’s do some samba!!” 💃🏻 And off I went, spending the next half an hour working on different parts of our samba routine, with this song on repeat the entire time 😆 I have forgotten just how exciting dancing can be when I find the right music. It brings me into a whole different world 😌

At this point in time, this song is the answer to Q16 for my future 2019 year in review 😊 I will have to start my draft for the year, before I forget any answers that I can already write down now. It’ll be a better representation for my year if I periodically add to it throughout the year anyhow, rather than trying to rack my brain at the end of the year, trying desperately to remember what happened in the preceding twelve months. So one question down, 34 more to go… 😳

An expensive day

I got to do some more flight tracking, with N flying back to HK today 😊

We decided to order in today, but we still somehow managed to pay over HK$400 (S$70) for dinner. We did order quite a fair bit of food, though, so at least it’ll last us until tomorrow. Still, HK$400 stung quite a fair bit, just for takeaway 😔

And then after dinner, we just did some grocery shopping – with the bill racking up to almost HK$1,000 (S$170)! 😲 And we barely bought any food! OK so HK$200 (S$35) of that was alcohol, which is obviously a splurge; and we bought Froot Loops, which apparently cost HK$70 (S$12)!! 😱 But there wasn’t much else added to that: cat food, cleaning stuff for the house, and a little food for us. That’s it. So if we want to buy our western comforts, it ends up becoming a rather expensive grocery bill! 😔

We did also buy some of those dehumidifier packs, as the humidity here is apparently quite bad. There is mold growing on some of our stuff! 😱 We never had this problem in SG! But we suspect it was because we had the aircon on quite a fair bit each day there (it was always on overnight, as we wouldn’t be able to sleep otherwise), which must’ve helped to some extent to dehumidify the apartment. So now I’m making a concerted effort to turn on the aircon units for a little while each day, if only to help dehumidify the place. We may eventually need to buy a dehumidifier, if the aircon units and dehumidifier packs don’t alleviate the problem 😔

So it ended up being an unintentionally expensive day 😔

Written in the stars

I updated our address details with a few more organisations today. A lot of Aussie sites won’t let you update your address without a postcode, which is fair enough, because everyone has a postcode in Oz. But in HK, there are no postcodes! I still find this really odd, after having lived my entire life up until this point in places with a postcode. And in Singapore, postcodes are even more precise in that a postcode will effectively give you the building’s street address! So it is even more of a contrast that there are no postcodes here. So websites that require me to input a postcode get my default “0000” 😆 They really should just build open fields for overseas addresses, as different countries all have different address formats. But I guess it’s probably not enough to build that added complexity to your website if only a very small minority of your users have an overseas address… Anyway, just sayin’ (read: ranting 😆).

I assume postcodes aren’t really needed here because the city is so densely populated, and thousands of mail items can be delivered by going down just one street 😂 Perhaps maybe even just going into one complex in some instances 😲 I did a quick Google search and found an article that pretty much said that this is indeed the case. And it also says that you should use “00000” for overseas forms that require a postcode to be used. Perfect 👌

I went and did a coding workshop at the Apple store today. I thought I’d find out a bit more about it as I’m interested in making an app. I didn’t learn all that much coding in the workshop per se, but he did give a few resources for us to check out afterwards, so I will have a look through those. It was still a fun workshop, so I may go to a few more in future 😊

Somehow that workshop threw me off my daily routine and I didn’t get to spend as much time on my trading as I normally would. Plus it was a news driven day, which isn’t how I like to trade, so it was sort of written in the stars anyway 😊 Hopefully I can end the week on a positive note 🤞

I went to the gym in the evening, and now my arms are so sore and tired that I can barely lift them 😂 They feel sooo heavyyy… Whoch means I had a good session, then 👍

And then I finished the day off with a few episodes of The Last Empress. And I have also decided to resume reading Rich People Problems, the third book in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. I felt like something light-hearted and fun, to balance out the stress and intensity of The Last Empress. It’s just so full on and extreme, and each episode is filled with so much nervous tension that you just want a bit of a break from all the craziness! I think the writers try to balance that out with a bit of light comedy thrown in now and then, and just some “regular” scenes where nothing stressful is going on, but it’s obviously not enough of a balance for me! 😂