We arrived in Hong Kong after a bumpy flight from the Philippines and as soon as we stepped out of the plane we were literally on the go. Our main priority was to get Chinese and Myanmar visas sorted but with weekend quickly approaching (we arrived on Thursday) and our train to China booked for Sunday night our schedule was tight, as never before. The plan for the next two days was to get to Myanmar embassy before 12pm on the day we arrived, drop off passports, pick these up first thing in the morning on the following day and rush to an agency for our Chinese visa. Surely this could have been done in 24 hours!
Run number one
The marathon begun as soon as we got off the plane. We jumped on a high speed train to Central Hong Kong from where we made our way to Myanmar embassy. We got there just before 12pm, which was the cut off time for visa application, handed in our visa paperwork and were told to come back the day after at 3pm to collect our passports…shock and horror, this was nowhere near the timings we had in mind, but with Tim’s charm the lady behind the counter said to come back at 9am rather than 3pm as our visas may be ready early.
And so they were. We high fived and went off again this time crossing narrow Hong Kong’s streets making our way to the agency that was supposed to organise our visas to China. With all going well and only few misunderstandings regarding what type of visa we were applying for we were asked to pick up our visas at 6.30pm before the agency closes.
After dropping off the passports, we wandered around mainland HK but few hours later the heat and 90% humidity took us back to our room. At 6pm we left our apartment, jumped on a train and made our way to pick up our much-anticipated Chinese visas. The second hi five wasn’t too far away.
Run number two
Maybe it was the Hong Kong’s rush hour or maybe it was my natural tendency to wander off but few minutes after we boarded the train I got off at the next station, thinking Tim is just right behind me. Surrounded by dozens of people I got on the escalators and waited for Tim to appear on the top.
And so I waited. After few minutes, it crossed my mind that maybe Tim was trying to wind me up but as the clock was ticking and the agency was to be closed soon, there was no way he was messing about. I then assumed he must have taken another exit, so I went around the station few times peaking on my toes and looking out for his curly hair but there was no joy. With no phone, no money, no keys (not that I knew where our apartment was) and no sight of Tim I was officially lost.
Being lost was the least of my worries and with few life saving ideas in my mind I was pretty sure about my survival in Hong Kong. It was our passports waiting to be picked up in the next 20 minutes that made my blood pressure peak. So I tried to put myself in Tim’s shoes, he was the one who had the directions for the visa agency, as well as the money needed to be paid for our visas. Would he keep on searching for me or would he abandon the station and head to the agency choosing our trip to China as priority? With little hope for the first option, and even less hope for my navigation/orientation/direction skills I decided it was time to leave the station and make my own way to the agency.
You know, miracles do happen and I actually recalled parts of the route we took earlier on managing to find my way to the agency. I later found out that I got off at one station sooner, but nevertheless I think I impressed Tim with my newly developed internal GPS skills. Second hi five it was! (Note from Tim: we have never gotten off that station before so its beyond me how she found her way!)
With our visa mission completed we now had more time (and piece of mind) to discover a bit of Hong Kong. This being my second trip, I wasn’t particularly hyped on trying to see all the sights, so we only touched on few touristy sites.
Booking tickets to watch Chinese Opera was an absolute hit and possibly one of the best cultural things we did in a long time, so if any of you reading this post are in HK at the moment, I would strongly recommend to do so too! We went to watch Liyuan Opera of Fujian and their performance was delightful (apart from mobile phones going off during the show and damn people actually taking the calls!!!)
Run number three
Our train to Changsha, China was departing on Sunday night from Shanzen, a newly developed financial hub just across the border with Hong Kong. We had to leave HK at 4pm and the Airbnb place we stayed at, agreed to keep our bags in their reception room until we were ready to leave. In the morning we dropped our bags in a so called reception, closed the door and went off to enjoy the last few hours we had left in HK. We returned just before 4pm to find out the door we closed earlier on was now locked with a combination code. We knocked, we rang the bell but no one seemed to be around. We called at least 6 different mobile numbers and tried to engage in a conversation with almost non English speaking Airbnb owners, we emailed the people who I was in contact with but no one had a clue about the code and most importantly no one cared about our bags behind the closed door.
An hour later when Tim was getting ready to break in, a woman opened the door from the inside. Could she possibly be sitting there all that time, ignoring our attempts to burst in?! It was a relief to see our bags, however the moment we tried to pick them up, the mysterious woman stopped us, took out her mobile and made a phone call…the voice on the other side said that there is no evidence to prove the bags were ours and then requested us to pay $200 for the storage…Taking advantage of the lady not speaking English, Tim agreed to whatever was requested over the phone and the moment he passed to phone over to the woman, he said ‘just grab the bags and run’.
As we took the stairs down, the woman was shouting after us, but we managed to exit onto the main street. Thankfully the metro station was only few meters away, so we hidden behind the pillars in the subway to catch our breaths, but we could not stop laughing…we were doing a runner.
We were a bit puzzled about the whole situation but as soon as we cleared our minds it all came together. The AirBnB owners gave wrong information resulting in us leaving our bags in a totally different reception and the other hostel simply saw this an opportunity to make some quick cash… a pre welcome to China I suppose!
People’s Republic of China, here we come!
And here’s how to get Chinese and Myanmar visas in Hong Kong ( in two days!)
Myanmar Visa – we were requested to present completed visa application forms (available from their website and/or the embassy) photographs and a valid passports of course. Application time is 9am to 12pm and collection time is next day 3pm to 5pm, however our visas were ready for 9am. Visa is valid for 30 days from the date of issue. Cost 150 HK Dollars.
Chinese Visa (via Forever Bright agency) – we applied for a group visa (min 2 people, you need to enter and exit together). This visa is valid for 30 days from the date of issue and takes ONE day to be processed, but you have to bring your passports to the agency before 11am. No paper work required at all. Cost 700 HK dollars.