Anyone who comes to China on a one-year tourist visa is required to leave the country every 60 days. If someone does not make this mandatory trip, they would be subject to a penalty of 500RMB (approx. $75) for every day past 60 days. So, that means that every two months we are forced to take a vacation (sigh) outside of China, which includes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. We hope to use these trips to see more places in the region, but this time we headed for Hong Kong.
The city of Shenzhen is part of the Guangdong Province in mainland China, but it borders Hong Kong to the north. We decided it would be a little cheaper, and a lot more fun, if we took a plane to Shenzhen and then ride the train down to Hong Kong. We had a friend of ours book a hotel for one night. Since she speaks Chinese, we think she might have gotten us a better deal than if we had tried to book it ourselves. When we arrived in Shenzhen, we had a few hours to look around and walk the streets. As one of the designated Special Economic Zones in China, it is a big-business city that only started "developing" in the late 1980's, yet it is clearly still on the rise. With an estimated population of over 10 million and a recorded 2009 GDP of over $120 billion, I think Shenzhen is the type of city that China will become known for in the 21st century.
After we walked around for a while, we started getting hungry. We looked around and stopped in a couple restaurants, but none had English menus or pictures that looked appetizing (to put it politely). Then Tiffany looked up and found a gem. We had dinner atop the Shenzhen International Trade Center, which has a 360-degree revolving restaurant!! I'm happy to report that they had an English menu, and that the tab came to a very reasonable $50!! Great food, phenomenal view.
We emerged from the Metro onto Nathan Street in Kowloon and I found myself completely breathless. The only thing you could see on the streets were people, cars, and advertisements. Every few steps we took there was a new person vying for attention, shouting “Lady: Tailor-made suits, hand bags, watches?” Honking horns, shouting people, and loud music streamed from every direction. In my head I thought, “Now, this is China.” I felt like I had finally found what I always pictured China to be like. Amazing. Kowloon, the area across the river from Hong Kong Province, is a hustling area full of eastern medicine pharmacies, fake markets, hostels, and Indian food.
As we made our way through the throngs of people over to the bund, the skyline started to appear. We stood on the Kowloon side of the river enjoying the view of the skyline in every direction. It seems like the tall buildings go on forever. Taking the boat over to Hong Kong Province, the glitter and beauty of Hong Kong became more apparent. Hong Kong has a Prada, Gucci, Tiffany’s, or Coach-type store on just about every block. The entire area is filled with beautiful buildings, shops, and cars. Hong Kong Province shines just like the Swarovski crystal Christmas tree in the center of town. It’s beautiful.
The highlight of our trip was our first time at the Hong Kong Disneyland. Now, in general, many Chinese people have no shame about cutting in line. And normally I wouldn't care if a couple people in the grocery store want to cut in line and pretend like they're talking on their cell phone. But at Disneyland, REALLY?!? Anyways, I was surprised at how many people did nothing about others cutting in front of them.
A few years ago, when Tiffany and I were both at SC and had time between our classes, we would go to Disneyland every Tuesday. We went countless times using our annual passes. But, even though we've been many times, I have to say, it never gets old.
As always, Disneyland was magical. But we were exhausted after being on our feet and standing in lines. At the end of the day, Tiffany told me that she wanted to sit down, relax, and take a shower. Luckily, we had a room where she could do all three things at the same time.
Things To Do in Shanghai
Maybe It's Just Me
For those of you who don't already know, smoking is rampant in Asia. Coming from the smoke-free-in-public-places state of California, I have been reminded of how uncomfortable one can get in a restaurant where people can smoke freely. Without dismissing the global health problem of smoking, it seems like people here smoke unbelievable amounts of tobacco. But as we were walking home from dinner in Shenzhen, we saw something that explains a lot: