Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hong Kong Day 5 & 6: If we're Chinese and we were confused in China...

Quick update: Day 3 now has a photo of the private room.

My overnight stay in China began with a two hour trek via the subway and railway station to the China border, followed by us navigating through immigration and customs.  Contrary to what most non-Asian North Americans believe, there is a difference between Hong Kong and China even though they both belong to the same country now.  Even The Chantastic Blog can be educational once in a while.

It didn't take very long for me to experience the infamous mainland China culture of etiquetteless-ness (if you didn't think it was possible for me to make up a word with two suffixes and have it make sense, you clearly haven't read enough of this blog).  In fact, I hadn't theoretically even stepped foot into China - it was right after I had left Hong Kong immigration and was lining up for my luggage to be scanned before entering China.  There was a lineup of about 10 people to the metal detector that we all had to walk through, but there was a corner right before the X-ray machine, so the line formed a haphazard L-shape, with five people on either side of the corner.  That is, until person #11 came along and walked in a straight line from the end of the L (person #10) to the front of the L (person #1) even though there was clearly a single-file line.  No regard for the line whatsoever.  No regard for the other ten people in line (which included me).  Just a whole lot of "I'm looking out for #1 and I don't really care about anyone else".  It was jawdropping, even for someone like me who is well aware of how mainlanders are known to act from time to time.  Fortunately, everyone in line did a collect "WTF?" and essentially shamed the person back to the end of the line.  This was high comedy to me.

We ended up taking a train and a subway to our destination, the Chime-Long Hotel, but not without some incidents along the way.  First, I was nearly trampled coming off the subway.  In China, they do not wait for people to exit the subway before boarding.  Oh no, that would make way too much sense.  Remember, the general motto is "I'm looking out for #1 and I don't really care about anyone else".  So instead of an orderly exit and entry from and onto the subway, the people looking to get on just surge in when the doors open, while I'm trying to exit with a suitcase.  I may or may not have a dropped an F-bomb as I fought my way through.

Second, the subway system in Guangzhou makes no sense at all.  Go to their subway system map and I'll walk through what we were trying to do.  Got it?  Good.  Let's see if this makes sense to you because it sure as hell doesn't to me.

We started at the Guangzhou East Railway Station in the middle of the map on Line 3 (orange).  Our destination was south at Hanxi Changlong, which is also on the orange Line 3 (third last stop).  So this seems to be easy, right?  Hop on the Line 3 going south and get off when the subway reaches our stop.  How hard could that be?

Ah, but that would make too much sense.  Take a look at what happens two stops south of the Guangzhou East Railway Station at Tiyu Xilu.  Specifically, look to the right of that intersection.  Notice that Line 3 goes both ways.  Apparently, there's the Line 3 that starts at the top of the map (Airport North) and ends at Tiyu Xilu, and then there's the Line 3 that starts at the Tainhe Coach Terminal Station, meets at Tiyu Xilu, and continues to Panyu Square.  Essentially there are two Line 3s, with nothing in common except that they cross at Tiyu Xilu.  Why they didn't rename and color code one of the two Line 3s separately, I'll never know.

We get to Tiyu Xilu, which is the final stop on the first Line 3, only we didn't know it at the time, so we're completely confused.  When the subway stops, we're told to get off (since it's the end of the first Line 3)...only the doors on both sides of the subway open.  Again, WTF.  We're already confused because we must exit, only we don't know which way to exit.  We pick one side, and we're told that that platform is the second Line 3, only it goes north to the Tainhe Coach Terminal Station, and we were supposed to exit the other side to go south towards our destination.  We're told we should just cross through the subway car that we had just exited, but just as this is told to us, the doors start beeping to signify that they're about to close, so we don't get on for fear we can't cross over in time.  So what we end up doing is going up this huge escalator to the entry area, walking over, and then taking another escalator back down, so we're finally on the correct side of the second part of Line 3.  It was like a scene from a Mr. Bean movie or something.

Worst.  Designed.  Subway Naming System.  Ever.

Finally, we arrive at the hotel, which is pretty sweet (it is five stars, after all) since it's embedded within this huge animal safari, along with a waterpark, an amusement park, and a bunch of other stuff.  Our room had an interesting view, which would probably appeal to a very small subset of the human population.

The view of the waterpark and amusement park from my balcony: a pedophile's fantasy
That evening, we watched a circus show that happened daily on this huge property.  Note that I said circus.  Not that Cirque du Soleil crap.  We're talking old school circus - trapeze, clowns, guys on stilts, horses, bears riding bicycles, monkeys playing drums, dancing elephants, giraffes, all that jazz.  The politically incorrect, PETA-already-has-this-show-on-their-hitlist-and-it-makes-you-wonder-if-you-should-be-enjoying-it-as-much-as-you-are type of classic circus.

When we went back to the hotel, I discovered that what they say about the Internet in China is true: no Facebook and no Twitter.  Fortunately, is not banned.  Crisis averted.

Day 6 began with a breakfast buffet at the hotel, an afternoon return to Shenzhen, followed by watching Betty put on a bargaining clinic with some local merchants over a few belts I wanted to buy.  Anytime you can knock down prices by over 50% and say "I could have gotten it even lower, but I didn't feel like wasting my time", I assume you're doing pretty well.  The night ended with my mom having a mini-freakout because my dad was having a mini-freakout because I had to take a separate line at Hong Kong immigration.  I'd go into greater detail, but this is par for the course for my parents, and Chinese parents in general.  I just sit there and laugh and make fun of them most of the time.  And if Betty gets upset that I'm laughing, then I just start laughing at her even more.  And then I start making fun of her because she's trying to treat me like I'm 12, then she finally realizes how absurd the whole situation is, and starts laughing.  And then I've diffused the situation.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

On deck for Day 7: trying out my tailored suit from Day 2, more applications for passports, visas, or something (I've stopped trying to figure out what I'm applying for anymore and just show up as I'm told), a visit to my uncle's business, and some final preparations for my upcoming weekend trip to Macau.

Actual hugs 3, Non-hug greetings 19

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