Hong Kong – Welcome to China!

Hong Kong is a really unique place. It’s a very compact city that is a “Special Administrative Region” of China. What does this mean, and why? I’ll sum it up for you:

  • Hong Kong used to be “leased” to the UK back in the colony days. The lease expired in 1997. Prior to the expiration, the UK and China negotiated a smooth transition for Hong Kong back to China in 1997
  • Even though Hong Kong is part of China, it’s much easier for Westerners to travel to Hong Kong. As a Canadian you get 90 days. To access mainland China, you need to have a pre-aproved visa and do much more paperwork
  • Hong Kong has much more access economically to outside markets, especially in finance, than mainland China
  • Hong Kong has a separate political system than mainland China and is based on a democratic model. There have been recent issues, however, in that mainland China is said to select suitable candidates

Our hotel in Hong Kong was the most bizarre place we’ve stayed in the whole trip. The hotel was on the 16th floor of a massive complex called the Chung King Mansion. There is a chaotic swirl of activity on the first floor with shops, hawkers of “genuine fake” watches, restaurants, and almost everything else you could think of. There were 4 different elevators, so we hopped in the first one. We needed to get to the 16th floor, but this elevator only went to odd-numbered floors! We got off on the 15th floor and wandered through 2 different blocks, or sections, and finally found our hotel. It was really nice, but so tiny! Very bizarre, but it did the trick!

Getting the visa to mainland China was more work than we thought. For Canadians, the normal route is to get a multiple entry visa that is good for the life of our passport, and allows as many trips as you want with a limit of 30 days per trip. The problem is that they wanted $350 Canadian ($280US+/-), and it was a lot of paperwork. We would have had to book all of our hotels and have an exit flight. I guess this is usually done before travelling to China at your local Chinese embassy.

We found one visa agency that had a group visa for mainland China. So long as there are at least 2 people and you are in Hong Kong when applying, you can get this and only pay $80 Can ($65 US) each. Oddly, we didn’t have to do any paperwork – NOTHING! The next day we picked up a piece of paper with a visa sticker, and we were good to go! At first we thought it was fake, but it got us in!

During our time in Hong Kong, we wandered around the city and checked out the fantastic sky line, and took a tram (cable car) up one of the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, the weather was not very good, so we don’t have the best photos. I threw some in, but apologize for the limited selection.

Next stop is Guilin, a city that is about 5 hours north of Hong Kong. Mainland China, here we come!

Cheers, Shawn

Photos by Jon Lang

Asia Trip – Early 2016

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