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We're idiots!

( or at least the two big ones are )

sunny 27 °C

September 3rd

( Jenn )

Omg. (That's oh my god for those are you not familiar with netspeak)

We had a lovely 6:40 bus (2 hours) from Hong Kong to Shenzhen Airport set up for this morning, followed by a 1 hour flight to Guilin and a 90 min taxi drive to Yangshuo. We talked to the front desk and they advised taking a taxi in the morning because the MTR only opens at 6 am and we had to be way up town for where the bus picked up. We thought we had things made.


We left a few minutes early (my usual paranoia kicking in) and lo and behold, the first taxi driver didn't know where we were going at all, despite our tickets with the English /and/ Chinese writing on them. We waited a few more minutes, got a second driver who spoke no English but the first driver assured us he knew where to go. And he did! Yay! We arrive with major time to spare. Finally a driver showed up, looked at our tickets, said "you wait here" and boarded the bus. We assumed (oh how wrongly) that he was our driver. Minutes pass as we watch him eating his breakfast, fixing his tie, making his seat nice and cushy with his special padded cover. Finally, with five minutes to spare, Rob asks him when we're going - and he announces that he's not our driver, we need to go to the ticket office on the corner.

We run to the office, get stickers stuck on us and our bags, get shunted onto another bus around the corner and it whips off. We congratulate ourselves on a crisis narrowly averted.

Hah! (Part 2)

At the Hong Kong border we get off the bus and run through customs. We're the only Westerners on the bus so we're racing, our bus driver looking rather peeved that he has to wait for us at all.

We get back on the bus, drive another few minutes and it's off the bus again. Now we're really racing because no one's given us the proper immigration forms and we know we need to fill them out and get back on the bus.


It's not the same bus on the other side and we're supposed to take all our bags with us but since we're the only Westerners no one else has bags and no one else mentions that to us.

Off we run, fill out our forms, race through customs, get directed to our NEW bus when we all of a sudden go "what the hey? what about our bags?"

  • facepalms* (again, for those of you not familiar with netspeak, imagine that kid from Home Alone - yeah, that's it)

So... now we're on the Chinese side, our bags are back on the Hong Kong side (not our daypacks, not our important papers, but our clothes, toiletries, etc) and almost no one speaks English.

We seem to have a really difficult time communicating that our bags are still on the old bus and that we did not bring them through customs like we should have. Conversely, it takes forever for them to be able to make us understand that the new bus company is not connected with the old bus company and they have no clue where our bags are. We call Siu Ling, my cousin Mike's wife, in the hopes that she can help us and she's able to find out that they were taken back to Hong Kong and the bus company is bringing them back to Shenzhen on the next bus. We talk to Customs, who ask if we can prove the bags belong to us - we provide helpful descriptions, the combinations to our luggage locks and point out the name tags with our names on them. Customs tells us the bags will be there in 30 minutes. Of course, lost in translation is the fact that they'll be on the Hong Kong side with the police there.


Finally, someone catches wind of our dilemma, another passenger. She's about to get on another bus, but she lets both us and the bus company know that somehow, someone is going to have to bring the bags across the border through customs. They will not magically arrive. Not in 30 minutes. Not in 30 years. Suddenly, our single-entry visa isn't looking like enough. Could we get another visa on the spot? For how long? (As far as we know, they only grant ones for a couple of days at the border) Are we going to lose the cost of not just one flight, but all our Chinese travel plans? We start to write a letter of permision for somebody (a Hong Kong resident) to carry our bags across, but soon that idea is kiboshed. The helpful lady leaves, but now things are in motion. We go with the bus guy back to the customs desk itself and they seem to know what our problem is. The duly empowered immigration officers for the People's Repbulic of China make us a miraculous offer: one of us can go back to the Hong Kong side and retrieve the bags. We think, briefly, Anica! But no... They actually cancelled Rob's entry stamp, sent him on a bus back to the Hong Kong side (without explaining any of this to him, leaving him fearing he was being sent all the way back to Hong Kong with no way to tell us). On the Hong Kong side, he had to say his name, show his passport, they showed him the bags and put him back on the bus to Shenzhen.

Meanwhile, Anica and I were amusing the customs officers. She brought out her photo album and they crowded around to see. "How big? How much?" they asked about our condo. "Why are you coming to China? What do you know about it? Are those your sisters and brothers?" pointing to the pictures of William and Lauren.

Finally, Rob returned. And contrary to what we'd been told earlier, he did not have to get a new visa. They simply gave him a new entry stamp. We thanked them profusely, went through customs /with/ our bags this time and got another bus (at no charge) to the Shenzhen Airport. And once there, we were able to book a new flight for 11 tonight with only a surcharge of 40 yuan (roughly 5 CDN) even though we'd missed our scheduled flight completely (and were carrying non-refundable non-changeable tickets).

Anyway, so now we're at the airport. We have many many hours until our flight but after this morning, we aren't budging an inch. We've found ourselves a nice cosy corner at Starbucks with internet, Rob and Anica are reading, and we're all looking forward to getting into Yangshuo at 2 in the morning :P

Posted by jennrob 23:48 Archived in China

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Oh guys I feel for you! We had a similar situation at Johor Bahru crossing the bus border from Malaysia to Singapore, only westeners etc, but at the last minute the bus driver vaguely said 'Oh, but you have to take your luggages with you..' Crisis averted! Thank goodness it's all worked out OK. Thanks for packing tips BTW and one more thing - how do you manage your internet - do you have a dial up global ISP too, or just rely on wifi hotspots?
Happy travels in the PRC!
Love Rachel xx


Hi Rachel-
The internet is hit and miss. We've had wi-fi in some hotels, even hostels. When that's the case, we do lots when Anica's gone to bed. We've also paid for connection at internet cafes. Not every hour of every day can be sightseeing, so that makes us sit down. Right now it's free wi-fi at the airport. Only 7 more hours until our new
flight! I've never been more stressed than I was this morning, so all this time just to loiter in a Starbucks is fine. Anica's happy because she's getting McDonalds and lots of Starbucks goodies for her patience.
- Rob

by jennrob

I bet Anica's happy to have 'normal' parents back again! It's always embarrasingly comforting to see the symbols of the western globalisation at times like that isn't it - lots of comfort food and cheap plastic to keep you busy!
Take care
Rachel xx


Welcome to China! I'm sure your blood pressure was soaring during this experience. The next time won't be so bad since you will have a bench mark to measure it against ~~ AND your confidence in dealing with this sort of thing will be higher. Over the next few weeks, you'll even develop an attitude of "here we go again"! It's never enjoyable but it is what travel is about.
Anica, enjoy the Starbuck and McDonalds. ;-)

by Mom-Momma

By the way, you're not idiots.

You're in the airport with your luggage! Give yourselves a pat on the back!

Happy ending! Well, for the moment. :-)

by Mom-Momma

Congrats! You have lived through quite a crisis with flying colours. No wonder Jenn was stressed. The language in that area of the world really is the biggest problem, but you got help from some nice people. Hope the rest period went well--Good ol' Starbucks & McD's! Warm hugs all around. H&D

by hdbutters

  • hugs you all* the most important thing is that you came through the other side all okay. :D And believe me, when I was travelling I did some /truly/ idiot things. At least yours was due to the language barrier. I hope you have a relaxing few days in Yangshuo. :)

by Eirien

Anica - Hi everybody. Thanks for putting all the comments on. We were up pretty late but we got to our hotel in good enough time. Worst day of our trip so far, but I'm sure we'll find another one. Our hotel has one rooster and three chickens who wake up the sleepyheads (not us) and we like it here and we know we're going to have a nice stay here love anica (typed by daddy)

by jennrob

Oh my goodness! Well, at least you have an interesting experience you can share. Hehe! Hooray for Starbucks!

by abartley

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