Distracted

If you recall, I mentioned yesterday that each day I was going to pick three areas of my life to focus on. Well I chose them for today, but I didn’t end up focussing too much on the third area. Should that then be recorded as not being a focus area for the day? Do I need to record actual vs expected focus areas?? I feel like I’m being too analytical, as I always tend to be πŸ˜‚ Nonetheless, I think I will indeed do this – in fact, I already have an idea for my Bullet Journal πŸ‘ Let’s see how it actually works out in reality once June starts… 😊

I started watching my new Korean drama today, The Heirs. I watched the first episode aaages ago but then got distracted by a few other shows, so I never got back to it. But now that I’ve finished Nice Witch, I can now resume watching this one 😊 It only has twenty episodes, which is a good number. I get put off by longer series at the start, because you know it’s such a huge time commitment. But if it turns out to be good, I want it to go on forever! πŸ˜‚

Anyway, there were scenes in the episode today that was filmed in the US. It made me miss Sydney, my home town πŸ˜” As much as I’m enjoying our stint in Asia, it is still very different from what I’m used to, and I haven’t been back home in a long time. Maybe this is a sign telling me that I’m well overdue for a trip back…

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Typhoon season

I woke up with a bit of a sore throat this morning, and it never got any better as the day went on. I think perhaps the aircon was a bit too cold for me last night πŸ₯Ά So I just felt a bit under the weather all day. Hopefully I can shake it off tomorrow…

The heat and humidity have kicked in now, it seems. It’s starting to feel more like SG, but a little cooler, as technically it is still spring πŸ˜„ I have put away all my cold weather clothes, and my summer clothes are now all out and ready to be worn. Yeah! Bring it on!

The only thing about summer that is freaking me out a bit is this typhoon business in HK. I know the locals are used to it, but I am SO NOT, and just the word itself stresses me out a little. I was here once when they announced a typhoon, and I was also in Taipei once when a typhoon warning was announced there too, and neither of them turned out to be too bad – at least where I was! So hopefully that remains the case… 🀞 I remember shops and hotels in Taipei were taping up their windows the night before the typhoon, laying down sandbags across the bottom of their doors, to minimise any water damage. These guys know how to prepare. They must, as typhoons seem to occur so often in this part of Asia. Hopefully during our time here, nothing major happens…!🀞🀞

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 πŸ˜‚ 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 Β₯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 Β₯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 πŸ˜‚) 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 πŸ˜†

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 πŸ‘ 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 πŸ˜„

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 β˜”οΈ We would’ve been drenched otherwise. It deterred us from doing much at all, unfortunately, and after yet another yum cha brunch πŸ˜‹ 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! 😊

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 πŸ˜‹ Let’s see if we can get ourselves to the train station first thing tomorrow morning, to avoid the crowds 😊

Google Maps and China

I helped my parents use Google Maps today. This is a hard enough feat in person, but I had to do it over FaceTime, since I’m now based in HK and all! 😱 I would ring my dad’s phone and he’d get his camera to look at my mum’s phone while I help her navigate Google Maps on her phone. And then once she’s sorted, I’d hang up and ring my mum’s phone and then she’d do the same thing so then I can help my dad. It was the most effective way I could think of to conduct this type of lesson remotely πŸ˜† My mum would type in, say, Blacktown, and she’d make the effort to make sure it was a capital ‘B’! She’s slow enough with the keyboard as it is, yet she still had to add the shift key on top of it all! Too funny! πŸ˜‚

N came back from Taipei tonight πŸ‘ He needs to travel quite a fair bit for work this year, sighhh… I would normally go along with him, but I’m so focussed on my goals at the moment that I don’t want to break my momentum on any of them. Crazy, huh?! Maybe if he needs to go to China, i might tag along, since I’ve never been there before. I can fly over and join him on a Friday night, say, and we can stay for the weekend. I should definitely visit the country while we’re here, since it’s now right next door! I know HK is now technically part of China, the SAR blah blah (I hear this from people on the language exchange apps all the time πŸ™„), but, unlike HK, Taiwan or Macau, Australians still need a visa to visit China. So it takes more of an effort to visit the mainland – and, of course, money πŸ˜’ So I just keep putting it off… But now that we’re so close, I just have to bite the bullet and GO πŸ‘‰

Lantau Island

I continued my exploration of our new city today. I went over to Lantau Island, out near HK Airport. I went to another outlet mall there, Citygate. I found a replacement pair of black ballet flats, which I desperately needed as my current pair were looking really povo and getting to the point where I was getting quite embarrassed to wear them. OK, not getting to the point, I’m already at that point! 😳

I then realised that Inspiration Lake is pretty close to Citygate, and since I was out there already, I figured I may as well just go and check it out while I’m in the area. Inspiration Lake is part of the Disneyland Resort, so it’s all nice and pristine, and relatively easy to get to, with even a Disneyland MTR station taking you straight there on the cute Disney-themed train 😊

I’d like to go back there again with N, maybe hire a bike and cycle around the lake, and/or even hire one of those pedal boats and pedal around the lake.

I then went and had dinner near Lan Kwai Fong at Central. It was just some random restaurant that I found on OpenRice, this popular dining app here in HK. I got there not long after they opened for their dinner service. I happened to be their first customer for the evening – and their only one for the next hour or so 😳 I felt rather self-conscious for that entire hour, and felt a surge of relief when two friends came to occupy a second table in the restaurant πŸ˜† My phone was also running very low on battery, and I didn’t have a charger on me, so I couldn’t just occupy myself by playing on my phone the entire time. It wasn’t the best time to have your phone low on battery! So I just sat there and tried to be mindful 😌 The juice did eventually run out, so I was also forced to be quite mindful on my trip home πŸ˜†

It was a good weekend, I had fun exploring this city 😊 Let’s see where we can go next weekend, since N will be back by then. He flew back to HK tonight, actually, but is flying out again tomorrow, this time to Taipei. I still can’t believe we’re now in North Asia! 😲

Practising

Kitty woke me up at 5am, after she had cleaned out her food bowl. Argh, why is she going through this phase at the moment?!? Why can’t she just sleep through the night?? You’d think she was a kitten, not the pensioner kitty that she is! πŸ˜‚

I used the Tandem app to chat with a few new people today. I always get all these guys saying hi, so I went looking for women to chat to. A few other women said hi too, so I got a good mix today. I do think that certain sentences are flowing much more easily easily now – eg “we recently moved to Hong Kong”; “it was nice chatting with you”; “I’m trying to log into this app every day now to practice my Chinese” etc etc. But constructing sentences in reply to other people’s questions still takes me a while to put together. I’m still just trying to improve my conversational fluency, not just on my side, but also on the listening side – the harder side, in my opinion, as the other party can say any number of things. So I’m also trying to work on my vocab, which I think will help with the listening too. Slowly… 😊

N flew to Japan today. I was tracking his flight, of course, and that’s when I noticed just how close Taiwan is to Hong Kong! His flight to Osaka was three hours, so to Taipei, it’ll be more like just one hour 😲 We’ll definitely have to go there a few times while we’re living here! It’s basically like a Sydney-Melbourne trip, so it’s pretty damn close! N will want to go for the food, of course, while I want to go to practise my Chinese 😊 And no visa required for Aussies, unlike China, so it’s even easier to visit πŸ‘ Oh, and Seoul is close too. We are basically in North Asia – my favourite part of Asia! Wowwww, this is so exciting. One of the best things about living in Hong Kong may just be its proximity to these awesome North Asian countries! πŸ˜„