Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Planes, Trains and.....

Well actually, there were no planes today, but there were ferry boats, underground metro trains, buses, and taxis. Today was my first day to navigate China on my own and let me assure you, it was quite an adventure! First off, let me begin by sharing that we are in Shekou...a suburb of hour ferry ride from Hong Kong. Since Sam was working all day, I decided that I'd jump on the ferry and explore Hong Kong. After all, since Hong Kong had had a long history with Great Britain, language wasn't going to be a problem...Right? Wrong!

I won't say that it was a major problem, but it certainly was a challenge. However, the real problem in my plans occurred shortly after arriving at the tourist information office and learning that the ferry I'd traveled on to get to Kowloon (the island across from Hong Kong) didn't have a return schedule that would meet my needs. I'd prearranged with Sam to meet up with him no later than 6:00 and since I didn't have an international cell phone (something I'll for sure have on our next trip), I had no way of contacting him to let him know that I'd be an hour late. Soooo... the rest of my time was spent trying to return to Shekou.

First, I had to learn how to navigate the MTR in order to get to the travel agency that would sell me a bus ticket. With the help of many kind citizens from all over the world, I finally made it to their office. The plan was to buy my ticket, learn the departure location, and then resume my sightseeing excursion, taking in all the sights possible before I had to leave. The tourist information office had provided me with an itinerary that included historic markets, a beautiful garden, and a temple.

Again, best laid plans! The travel agency I'd been sent to wasn't able to sell me the bus ticket I needed. I wasn't quite sure what to do at this point. I considered crying, but that really wouldn't have accomplished much, so I decided to head back to the tourist office. This time, I'm pleased to report that I navigated the MTR almost like a local (Not! but better than before...I think I made it back to the office without any help)

I explained my predicament to a different tourist authority this time, and after bouncing around a few ideas, was sent to another travel agency to purchase a ticket for a different bus. Let me tell you, it was a real step in faith to head out to that office. At this point I'd scratched all sightseeing and decided that I just wanted to get back to the hotel... the sooner, the better!

Fortunately, buying the ticket was not a problem at all this time. In fact, I got lucky and was able to board the bus right away. It was a pleasant 1 hour ride back to mainland China, and the best part was I was able to see some sights I wouldn't have seen if I'd returned on the ferry. Once I got back to Shenzen, I had no problem catching a taxi back to the hotel.

All in all, it was a good day...Not the day I'd planned, but good nevertheless. With out a doubt, the best part was all the conversations I'd had with all the good Samaritans who took time out of their busy day to help me find my way.

P.S. We just returned from a lovely Chinese dinner hosted by the staff at the Shenzen office. The hospitality extended to us made us feel so welcome and the food was delicious! We leave for Shanghai tomorrow morning.

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