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˜„

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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˜„

Our first night in HK

We took our time checking out of the SG hotel this morning. We had to pack and weigh our luggage again, as some people gave us a farewell gift at dinner last night. We were 10kg over πŸ˜” So we had to leave some stuff in the room and just left a note saying that Housekeeping could take anything if they wanted it. We also had to leave some space for an extra 3kg gift that a friend wanted us to carry for another mutual friend in HK, which didn’t help matters. But we’d already agreed to bring it over for him, so we made room! 😊

We somehow managed to get it down to just 1kg over, and the guy at the check-in counter just turned a blind eye to it πŸ˜… Luckyyy!

It was hard going travelling with two check-in suitcases and two carry ons each. I don’t know how people do it! We decided to drop off all the luggage at the new place, and then walk down to the serviced apartment that we have booked for the next four weeks. So now instead of being in limbo between two cities, I am in limbo between two apartments πŸ˜‚ Obviously this current situation is much easier to manage! We plan on staying in the serviced apartment while we don’t have any furniture in our actual apartment, and to continue to clean it up in the meantime. I want to spend as much time in there over the next few days so it has a bit more of our scent in there for when Kitty arrives on Wednesday. She’s going to be completely terrified as it is, so I want her to be as comfortable as she can be in the new apartment, under the circumstances. She has to sleep there overnight too, without us, which isn’t ideal. So I want to make sure I spend as much time as I can with her during the day before we leave her there overnight.

We just need to get through the next few weeks, and then hopefully we’ll all be settled in before we know it!

Unnecessary stress

We went to go withdraw some cash at the bank in order to pay for our deposit tomorrow when we get the keys to the apartment. Obviously not wanting to walk around with a few grand on us, we dropped off the cash in the safe in the hotel, and went to go find somewhere to eat brunch. While we were at brunch, the agent called me. We normally just message one another in a group chat, but now she’s calling. Greeeat. I figured another problem has arisen.

Apparently she called the landlord to confirm the handover tomorrow, and that we are all set with our cash deposit. His response: “great, just make sure it is in my bank account by tomorrow”. The agent called me to relay her conversation with him at 12:20pm, and the landlord’s bank closes at 1pm. And we had just ordered our brunch. OMFG. So needless to say, we were not at all impressed with his insistence about having it hit his account. Seriously, we have just signed the lease, we have no incentive NOT to pay you the deposit. Unless he just didn’t trust his wife or the agent to receive the cash on his behalf, I have no idea why he was being so difficult. Sighhh πŸ˜”

Luckily we decided to have brunch near the hotel, so N quickly ran back to pick up the cash, and then ran down to the landlord’s bank and deposited the cash – at 12:45pm. He made it with 15mins to spare, phewww πŸ˜… He was pouring with sweat from all the running – and remember that HK is very hilly, which made it doubly worse – just as he was about to deposit a huge sum of cash at a bank! He must’ve looked a bit dodgy to the teller! 🀣

The landlord also sent back a copy of the signed tenancy agreement on his side, to acknowledge his acceptance as well. The original will be sent to his solicitor on Monday, and they will arrange to deliver it to him via post back to SG. He and his witness will sign, and they will send it back to HK for some official stamping, and hopefully that will be it! The true finish line is oh so close now 🏁 Ahhh… I cannot wait for this ordeal to be over! πŸ˜‚

His wife was also quite apologetic with the whole deposit debacle, so I’m hoping that they’ll be more reasonable going forward, especially once they realise that we’re actually pretty good tenants πŸ˜‡

N made his way back to the cafe and finished off his brunch, and then we made our way to IKEA to get some ideas for new furniture, as we need a new dining table and a study desk for me, since we got rid of both in SG as they didn’t really work for us. We’ll wait until our existing furniture arrives in the new apartment before actually buying anything, so we can better assess the space and decide what would suit it when all the other furniture is already there.

We then caught a bus back to the hotel afterwards – and when it arrived, we soon realise that it’s one of the minibuses! 😱They’re still rather stressful for me, as I don’t quite know what you’re supposed to yell out to the driver when you want to get off. That’s how you get off, by yelling something to the driver! I just don’t quite know what, as it’s always in Chinese – more specifically, in Cantonese. But today, someone yelled out in English “No 1, thanks!”, so I guess you go by the building number that you want to get off at. But I don’t know the building number at my stop! πŸ˜‚ Also, there are designated bus stops for the green minibuses, but drivers still stop wherever they want, which is what happened today at “No.1”, as I’m pretty sure the building at No.1 isn’t an actual stop…! 😳 So this non-standard way of taking public transport is still a bit challenging for me… Hopefully over time I’ll be more comfortable with it, as these minibuses are actually quite convenient and service our new neighbourhood reasonably well.

I also bought a new carrier for Kitty online. Her current one is CLEAR, which isn’t going to do the job well of sneaking her in and out of the apartment building πŸ˜‚ We were also thinking about the no pets policy, and that maybe it’s there to just make people much more conscious of their pets and to make sure they are well behaved, so as to not cause disturbance to other residents, given the close proximity of everyone in this very densely packed city. And to keep them in a carrier bag so that residents who are more fearful of them do not have to steer clear of the pets in the lifts and other public areas within the apartment building. But we’re still just hypothesising. I still have to get the true story! Hopefully when we’re in the building tomorrow, we’ll get a better idea.

So just one more day before we get the keys! πŸ˜±πŸ”‘ After this past week, I’m going to be sooo glad for these damn keys! I feel like we unnecessarily worked hard for them. It better have been worth it!