At the end of January, we went on holiday for Chinese New Year, so we decided to spend some time relaxing (aka recovering) in Qingdao, and then head to Hong Kong and Macau for the remaining time.
We set out for Hong Kong and had a pretty uneventful first flight. We had a long layover in Shanghai so we went to the International Departures area and posted up for the long haul. We had a leisurely dinner at KFC, complete with an ice cream sundae, and then began our search for electrical outlets. After not having too much luck, an old Chinese janitor showed us some that were hidden in the floor. Bless him. We read for hours and other than a brief moment of fear (some old man came and sat a black duffle bag down right next to us and then walked away for about ten minutes… we were thinking… is this a bomb??? Do we report this?? But then he came back and left and it was nothing), the time dwindled down. We decided to check-in and head for our gate. We headed that way but the check-in counters were empty. Uh-oh… We milled around for a minute before heading for the information desk to ask about our flight. After spending a while looking at our flight confirmation e-mail, she pointed out that we were in the wrong airport. THE WRONG AIRPORT????? I didn’t even know Shanghai had two airports, so of course that wasn’t something I checked for on our flight plans. So we asked how to get there. She looked skeptically at her watch and immediately my stomach sank. She said, “If you run down the escalator and around the corner, you can catch a taxi. It is about an hour away but if you leave right now, you might be able to make it.” So we took off running… relaxation time was over. We tore down the escalator, around the corner and luckily, caught a taxi quickly. The whole time we were in the taxi I chided myself for not looking closer, for dinking around and lazily passing the time when we should have been commuting to the appropriate airport. I did that… and I prayed. I prayed hard. It seemed like our taxi driver couldn’t have been driving more slowly and I watched the airport signs show the kilometers tick down from 57 to 40…to 32… to 17… until finally we pulled up to the airport. We hastily grabbed our bags and trucked it inside… only to find a line about a mile long. We asked one of the airline workers directing people if we could still check in and she directed us to another counter where the workers checked their watches and exchanged skeptical looks before miraculously accepting our bag and checking us in. They told us we’d need to hurry. Of course our flight wasn’t leaving out of where we were, we had to take a bus to another section of the airport, but luckily we made it that far. Finally we boarded and thought, “Phew! We made it!” Yes we did, and we proceeded to board and sit on the tarmac for more than an hour before we finally took off. Our day thus far had consisted of intermittent rushing and sitting, rushing and sitting.
We were set to land in Hong Kong around 1:30 in the morning and the hostel we were going to be staying at didn’t check anyone in after midnight so we had looked for a different hotel near the airport to stay in just for that night. We got off the plane, went through customs, grabbed our luggage, showed the lady at the taxi stand our intended address and hit the road. We should have known something was wrong when she told us that we would have to change taxis at some point… that seemed kind of strange, but it was nearly 2 in the morning and we just wanted to get to our hotel. We drove for about half an hour and then our driver instructed us (using a mix of Chinese and gesticulations) to get out and pointed us towards a building, so, even though we didn’t really have a clue what was happening, we got out and walked towards where he had pointed. It turned out that the building was immigration. We were perplexed. We just went through immigration… why are we here again? WELL… as it turns out, it was not wise to google “Hotels near the Hong Kong airport” because as it turned out, our hotel was located in Shenzhen… back in mainland China. So there we were, desperate at that point to get to our hotel and get some sleep, so we went through customs again and then walked into a WAVE of people yelling “Taxi?,” “Taxi?,” “Taxi?.” Ironically, right above this horde of screaming Chinese was a sign that read, “Do NOT get into any unmarked taxi for your own safety.” So we tried to avoid these crazed people by heading down an escalator to where we thought the real taxis would be. One very persistent lady followed us aggressively trying to get us to go with her. When we asked if we could get a fapiao (an official government receipt), she promised that she could provide one, however, when we saw her car (clearly unmarked) we again told her no and then frantically looked around for the REAL taxis. When we finally spotted them, we realized why all the crazies had been standing where they had… they had been blocking the actual taxi exit. So after all that, we had to go back up the escalator and back through the horde of mad, screaming people to get down to the actual taxis.
Finally we were in a taxi and on our way to our hotel. We drove for a while and then I noticed… our taxi driver was FALLING ASLEEP at the wheel. Literally I watched his heavy eyelids open for a short time and then fall closed for longer and longer periods of time. It didn’t take long before I nudged him and asked (in English), “Are you okay?” “You’re falling asleep…” He probably didn’t understand a word I was saying but he continued falling asleep. I ended up nudging him about once every 20-30 seconds just to keep him awake. Finally we got to an intersection and he turned around and asked, “Yi zhi zou?” (which means, Do I go straight?). I started laughing because of how ridiculous this whole day had been. In my brain I was telling him, “I have no freaking idea!!! You are the driver, you are from here; I am the tourist. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and all I have is the dang address!” So he went to the only other place that was open at that ungodly hour and asked people if they knew where it was. They didn’t know either, so we just kept driving around and whenever he saw someone, he would ask them if they knew where the hotel was. Finally someone was able to direct him and we made it safely there. The doors were locked and it was dark inside, so we knocked and knocked until finally someone woke up and came to let us in. We checked in and went to our room, thankful to have finally arrived at our destination (despite the fact that it was far from where we thought we’d be).
The adventure BACK to Hong Kong will be our next post… to be continued…