China Hong Kong 2002.06.25 - 06.27

New Laptop

Although Hong Kong was transferred from Britain to China in 1997, the city remains much the same. Currency, visa requirements, capitalism, foreign business and staff presence, and the tax free zone are all unchanged. Hong Kong is the perfect place to exit China proper to apply for a China visa and receive packages from abroad that would have import duties levies if received in China.

Our main reasons for exiting China to Hong Kong were to apply for another China tourist visa and receive a new laptop shipped by our friend in Tokyo. (Thank you Ki-ko!) In addition, we wanted to find information on Kazakhstan at an English language bookstore, get a replacement pair of Oakley sunglasses for the pair Wes broke in his backpack, pick up new international medical insurance cards mailed by Mom to the American Express office, and watch the new (for us, that is) Star Wars movie in English. We had lots to accomplish.

Checking into a hotel at noon after a long overnight train ride from Guilin, the receptionist asked if she could help with anything. For a HK$30 service fee, she could get us a 3-month double-entry China visa in 24 hours, even though it would take 3 full business days if we were to apply on our own. (Her service fee is HK$10 for a 3-month single-entry China visa.) She showed us a nearby travel agent that would issue train tickets from Hong Kong to Shanghai without commission so we wouldn't need to make a special trip to the railway station. In addition, a friend in Hong Kong was holding our laptop at her Hong Kong office, 5 minutes walking from the American Express office. Oakley exchanged Wes' broken sunglasses for a new pair on the spot for a small service charge, and we found Kazakhstan information at a shop 2 doors down from our hotel. 5 hours in Hong Kong to accomplish everything? The pace was so fast we were having culture shock. 5 days ago, we waited a full day just to board a bus!

The next day, our passports with new China visas were returned. We dialed into the Internet from our hotel room to find drivers for our Sony camera and Palm Pilot. After retrieving data from our crushed laptop, we spent the day setting up our new computer. Hooray!

Hong Kong feels light years ahead of China. Many of the things we accomplished in 2 days in Hong Kong are impossible in China. The Chinese government extended Hong Kong's economic autonomy for another 50 years. (Politically, the old Hong Kong government has already been replaced by a Chinese one.) This extension is good news for businesses and travelers in the region.

After 48 hours in Hong Kong, we were off to see a friend in Shanghai.

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