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Friday, December 26, 2014

Welcome to China!

On Thursday, the 25th of December I met Anita and Waji at Kowloon Tong Station and the pushing began. First, we pushed our way onto the crowded train to the border. Then we pushed our way into immigration. It was here that we got in the line for "Chinese Nationals" because there was no other option presented. As it turns out, we were supposed to go to the last line (also for "Chinese Nationals") and present our foreign passports there... So, already late for our train and having waited in line for half an hour, we got into THAT line. At this point we had no chance of catching our train so the tenth security check that they then put us through didn't make any difference nor did the unusual token system for boarding the subway. What DID leave us feeling hopeless were the endless lines at the train station for picking up and changing tickets!

What was really AWESOME was when we realized, after an HOUR of waiting in line, that we were, in fact, in the WRONG line... What's more, we had to wait in two other lines because the people who exchange tickets don't give the refunds for the old ones nor do they give you tickets which you have already ordered. Needless to say, our whole day was spent standing in lines...

After FINALLY sorting out our tickets, we went to get something to eat. Unfortunately, my bank was locked because Hong Kong banks, unlike my American bank, won't allow you to use your card outside of Hong Kong unless you tell them first. Thankfully, the place we went for food had wifi so I was able to skype my bank back in Hong Kong and have them unlock my account for use in China. The fun was not over yet though! No no, I still had to order my food and use a toilet before leaving and in China, of course, these things are not as straightforward as you would expect!...

See this food? This is sweet and sour chicken... kidneys. Of course, it couldn't just be normal chicken meat. No, not in China - in China, it has to be strange like ORGANS. In Hong Kong this happens as well, but not without you knowing it. Rather, somebody would ask you in English, "are you sure you want kidneys today, sir?"

Okay, so I tried my best to finish what tasted like, well, kidneys, and then went to use the toilet before going to catch the train. Of course, this being China, they don't put toilet paper, or even soap, in the good ol' WC (in case you're wondering, that's European for "water closet" AKA toilet). Luckily I had some tissues in my bag that I had forgotten about and was able to finish my business without incident. After that we ran to our train and continued our journey to Xiamen.

Well, if you're tired of the complaining you'll be happy to know that this is where it stops. After arriving in Xiamen we to the BRT and then a taxi to our hostel for 39 yuen (about $5 USD). At our hostel a nice Taiwanese lady helped us plan our trip to Tulou for the following day without the cumbersome and time consuming, yet rushed, tour companies. Also, our hostel was super nice and clean with all the comforts of a upscale hotel room and, at about $10 USD a night, it was a pretty good deal.

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