The train from Guilin to Hong Kong was a strange journey, everybody wanted to be up beat as it was our last overnight train as a group, but most of us were feelingcrappy from the stomach bug, the rest were just tired from the hike and the lack of sleep over the previous few nights. Poor old Jaap had to say his goodbyes at 6:30am, a couple of hours outside Hong Kong as he had mis-read the visa information and only got a single entry Chinese visa, he had to spend a couple of days in solitary confinement for his school boy error!
We arrived at the border for Hong Kong and said our good byes to Ditte & Jonas who were visiting a friend before travelling to Hong Kong a week later. - A very emotional good bye, lots of tears etc.I got on really well with them both, hopefully get to catch up with them when we're back in Europe?
The border crossing from China to Hong Kong was a very strange affair,I hadn't really appreciated the geography or the politics of Hong Kong until this point.There are two separate borders one to leave China and another a hundred yards ahead to enter Hong Kong.And boy were they strict, along with the hundreds of 'arrival & departure' cards we had to complete, there were lots of security, CCTV and strangely a thermal imaging cameras to check your body temperature! As Wade found out, if you are a bit poorly with a temperature they get the thermometer out to double check - apparently it's to do with bird flu???
The other strange one, is the separate procedure for Terry, our Chinese tour guide and his wife who had joined us for the last few days in Hong Kong.They have a full interrogation, why, who, where . when etc. which took nearly an hour!
But strangest of all was the mobile phone reception, my China Mobile phone worked perfectly with full reception at the China border but as soon as I stepped in to the no mans land section between the two borders my signal was scrambled!(not to return until, I stepped back on to Chinese soil 2 days later!).
My naivety regarding Hong Kong didn't stop with the geography and the politics, the radical culture change between the two borders really shocked me.There arestrictly enforced rules about spitting (thank god, I've had enough of the Chinese hocking up pretty much every where), the traffic is orderly, although it is a huge bustling city, it was so much easier to get around than any of the other Chinese cities - definitely my favorite city so far!
We spent the first night having dinner together and then went to see the light show on Hong Kong Island. Having seen the lights at the Bund in Shanghai I was expecting more of the same.But it wasn't, it was absolutely amazing every building had a light show, choreographed with music and lasers it was fantastic!It only lasted 15 minutes but it was an impressive 15 minutes - the photographs wont do it justice.
Unwilling to pay 65 Hong Kong Dollars (6.50) for a local beer, Terry took us to the Temple Street night market, where a street restaurant sold us the same beer for 10HKD or a one pound, as it was our last night together and we could now afford to we got quite pissed!
The next day we had arranged to go across to Hong Kong Island on the Star Ferry, most of us made it, although we were hindered again by fog so the view was pathetic and not really worth the effort!
We had another teary good bye and went our separate ways, James & Kirsten to Thailand for their final leg of their tour, Aaron & Gracia to Dubai before heading to Morocco and Europe, Wade was just loitering in HK for a few more days and Johana & Kasser were catching a train down to Halong Bay - those girls like their trains, they took the Trans Siberian from Sweeden to Beijing!
I spent a good hour and a half in the post office trying to send a small parcel and a letter back home, god the effort, anyone would think I was trying to send home 12oz of crack and a couple of nuclear weapons!
We met the new group that evening, did all the formal stuff and then went for dinner at the Temple Street Night Market, the food was really good and as it was basically a market stall you could see everything being cooked, which was both good & bad!
As we were leaving the following day at 8am, we all went our separate ways after dinner to sort out food etc. for the overnight train.The new tour guide Amy, told us that we would need to pack a bag for 4 nights as we were to leave our main packs at the station when we did the next trek.As my only other bag was my small Camelback I had to buy another bag to carry a change of clothes etc. - Not impressed, even less so when I had bought bag only to find out that it wasn't really necessary as we were only trekking for 2 nights!!!
After scouring the night market for a cheap bag, I headed back to the hotel only to bump in to James & Kirsten who were having a beer with Anna & Dave and Wade.So Naturally I had to stay for another 'good bye' beer!
The new group is a lot smaller, it consist of four more Brits, James & Fran (a married couple from Wales) and two girls Sarah & Claire.James & Fran are really nice, the two girls are quite young for 23-24 so I don't really have much in common with them but they seem nice enough.
It came to light that I dropped a bit of a clangor with regard to my Vietnam Visa, I got the dates wrong so my visa basically starts one month after we actually arrive! w***! Still Amy says I'll be able to sort it out in Kuming but it's going to cost me 600Y so about$55 - I'm quite pissed off about it, but I only have myself to blame!
Some of the group that had travelled down from Beijing (me included) weren't tookeen on returning to the cold weather in Kali/Xijiang, so morale was a bit low.Compounded by the fact that we had said good bye to some good friends, we felt HK was a bit rushed and we really didn't want to go back to the cold weather….