In order for me to stay in China I needed to go to Hong Kong to get a work visa. I had only received a tourist visa, which was only allowed me to stay in the country for 90 days. I don’t know why I had to go to Hong Kong (instead of Beijing) to get the visa, but I wasn’t complaining. It was a chance for me to see another part of China. I woke up bright and early Monday morning to catch the bus for my 3 pm flight in Beijing. The plan was for me to take the bus at 9 am that goes from Qinhuangdao (QHD) to the airport to make my flight at 3 pm. I made it to the bus station, got on the bus, and left on time. Things were looking good. But right as we were about to get onto the highway things started to go wrong. We saw a long line of cars just waiting on the ramp. We even saw cars turning around and going the other way. The bus driver, thinking he was smart, went onto the off ramp and up to the front of the line. We made it all the way to the tollbooth to get onto the highway, but once again we hit standstill traffic. We waited for about an hour and then all of a sudden the bus driver turned the bus around and started driving back to QHD. I had no clue what was going on and was starting to freak out. Thank goodness there was an Australian couple of Chinese decent on the bus who, because they understood Chinese, told me that there was an accident on the highway and that we were now heading back to QHD. I got back to QHD and was told by my boss to go back to the office. There were no train seats available to take me to Beijing. I was going to miss my flight. I waited for about 2 hours not really knowing what was going on. No one was telling me anything. Finally my Chinese boss came up to me and told me to go back to the bus station; I was to take a later flight. I asked her if the road was opened and she said she didn’t know. So now I was going to take the bus even though we didn’t know if the highway was open. (Let me say that I didn’t bring my iPod because I wanted to get some reading done on the trip, but with all the delays I soon got bored with my book. It was a big mistake not bringing my iPod). This time, there was no traffic on the highway and we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. As I flew into Hong Kong I could see the city’s lights from miles away and a cloud of smog hovering above the city. As I walked outside the airport terminal I was blindsided by a wave of humidity. It was so oppressive. I thought living in Maryland was bad with the humidity, but Hong Kong’s humidity is 100 times worse. My shirt was already soaked after being outside for 2 minutes.
I took a public bus into the city and by the time I made it to my hostel it was 12 am. The hostel was in this old building called the Chongking Mansion. This old rundown building has basically been taken over by the Indian community and there must be about 50 different hostels within the building. As I got to my room the first thing I did was take a shower. I was so thirsty I drank some of the water from the faucet in my room. (I know, BAD idea! I thought that my body had already gotten over the water in China and it wouldn’t be a problem). I woke up early the next day to make it to the visa office right when it opened. I didn’t want to be waiting in any long lines. I took the ferry over the river to Hong Kong Island to find the visa office.
Nobody had told me where this place was so I Googled it and found a place called the Immigration Tower. Sounds like the right place right? I made it to the Immigration Tower and went up to the 8th floor. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes I asked one of the people working there, “Is this the place I get a workers visa?” He said, “For Hong Kong?” I replied, “no for mainland China.” He said, “Oh you’re in the wrong line. You need to go to the 2nd floor.” So I ran down to the 2nd floor and waited in line there. Once I made it to the front of that line I ask the guy behind the counter “is this where I get the workers visa for Mainland China?” And he said, “No, you’re in the wrong building. You need to go to the building across the street.” CRAP!!! So I ran out of the building to the building across the street and of course there is a long line outside. The whole reason I woke up early was so that I wouldn’t have to wait in these lines. I waited outside for about 15-20 minutes, but it felt like 2 hours with the humidity. I finally made it inside and got a number. I was number 77, they were only on number 21. So that meant I needed to wait, but thank god they had a television showing the US Open so I was able to watch some tennis. Sitting in the visa office I started to get really cold sitting there. They were blasting the AC and having a wet shirt on (because I sweated threw mine waiting in line) didn’t help.
One thing I was told that I needed to do while I was in Hong Kong was go to the top of Victoria’s Peak to see the panoramic view of the city. As I was waiting for the bus to take me to the top, I felt my body start to ache. I had this horrible need to go to the bathroom. I found a nice office building and ran inside. (Travelers tip: always try to go to the fanciest building when you need to go #2). It turned out to be “the runs” (diarrhea). I knew I was going to be in for one hell of a day.
I got on the bus and made my way to the top the mountain. By this time I am really feeling sick. Every 10th step I took I needed to take a break and sit down. But it was one heck of a view. Thankfully it wasn’t very cloudy and I could see for miles.
I found a coffee shop and rested there for about an hour. It probably had the most amazing view for a coffee shop I had ever been in.
After sitting in the coffee shop for a while, I was feeling worse. I couldn’t decide whether it was possibly food poisoning from the food I ate on the airplane (which was absolutely disgusting) or from the water I drank in the hostel. I decided I needed to go back to the hostel and rest. Not only was I too exhausted to walk around the city, but I was also scared that every time I had to fart, shit would roll down my leg. I knew I just needed to rest. So I made it back to the hostel and slept for about 4+ hours. When I woke up it was about 5 pm. I really wanted to see the city because I didn’t know if I would ever be back and I wanted to see some of the sights and get a feel for Hong Kong. I was told that there were some cool outdoor markets and I really wanted to see the Temple Street market and the Jade Market.
It should only have taken me 15 minute to walk, but having to sit down and rest every 3 minutes made it a little bit longer to get to the markets. It was so annoying, by being sick my body would be hot one second and then cold the next. So being in the humidity was great when my body was cold, but it sucked when my body got hot. At night I felt too sick to go out and explore the nightlife but I was able to make it down to the river to see a view of Hong Kong at night. It was amazing with all the lights; it looked like New York City lit up a night.
Hong Kong is really an amazing place. I have never seen or been a part of such an international city. You saw people from everywhere. It was weird walking down the street and not having people stare at me. I was doing most of the staring, mostly of other foreigners, because I had not seen any in the past 2 ½ months. Being sick really put a damper on my time in Hong Kong, so I wasn’t able to go out and experience all that Hong Kong has to offer. Hopefully I will make it back to Hong Kong at some point again in my life and be able to try all the things I was unable to do. But if I am to go again, I am going to make sure not go in the summer months. It is just too damn hot. PS – I was able to make it to Beijing (although a little late) to celebrate Rosh Hashannah. It was nice being among other Jews celebrating the holiday.