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Friday 15th October - Hong Kong
By Claire
Saturday, 16th October 2004 04:40

We moved back to the Alisan Guesthouse this morning, but I think we might have woken Tommy up in the process - he was dishevelled and not nearly as talkative as before. Our new room was even smaller than the one we had last time, and the bathroom is barely four-foot square, but it's clean and it's our own, so it's not really a problem.

We went straight to the visa place and picked our passports up without a queue. The visa, which was just black and white, wasn't as pretty as any of the other full pages we have, but it does mean we can go to China, so that's a good thing. We then went to the tourist office to get train tickets.

We didn't have to queue here, either, and we were able to get tickets on the train we wanted to Beijing. We will be in a sleeper cabin with two other people, which will be strange, but I've never slept on a train before so it should be interesting too. That accomplished we tried to find a cafe that we'd passed a day or so ago but couldn't find it. So we went back to Causeway Bay, had breakfast and unpacked our bags a bit in the hotel. We have six days until we go to China.

A bit later, we went to the internet cafe and, having read a bit of the India guidebook, I looked up whether or not we'd need a visa. The news wasn't good. We should ideally have obtained one before we left the UK, but as they are only valid for six months from the date of issue, that would have been no use, and I vaguely remember some of the nice people in Trailfinders explaining something along those lines. I even think they suggested getting on in Australia, but I can't be sure, and we forgot all about it anyway. So, failing that, we looked for an Indian embassy in Hong Kong. Apparently they only issue visas to citizens of Hing Kong, China and Macau. As foreigners, we would need a letter of permission from the Indian Embassy in the UK to request a visa from Hong Kong. The letter would take about six days, and the visa, should one be granted, another six or so. We were stuck. So we ran to the Indian Embassy in Admiralty district. It was just before five, and we had half an hour before the office closed for the weekend.

We found the office on the 26th floor, and an Indian lady in the lift asked us what we were doing. We explained our plight, and she shook her head in comiseration. The queue for the visa office exended well into the corridor outside the lift, and was full of people anxious to get to the front of the line before the office closed. The lady from Bombay explained that her 'idiot countrymen' were officious and bureaucratic and that we'd be lucky to get a visa now. Other people in the queue expressed similar opinions, one even going as far as to say that he was glad he was in front of us - there would be a room of unhappy people behind us. With such sentiments around, and suggestions as to which official to avoid if possible, our hopes fell.

I caught the eye of a man behind the counter and left the line to talk to him. I explained that we needed a visa, had no letter of recommendation, we weren't residents and we didn't have very long. He gave us a bunch of forms, told us to come back on Monday and we'd have a visa in two days. This was all suspiciously easy, and I'm not convinced that he was either telling the truth or that he understood what we were saying, but there is nothing we can do about it until Monday.

We went out for supper, taking a leisurely walk along the escalators and walkways, clutching our visa documents very carefully. We had an excellent dinner again, I had two starters and a huge pizza, and could hardly move afterwards. We took the metro just a couple of stops and walked the rest of the way. We stopped briefly at the internet to see if we can upload our diaries - the webhost had been playing up for days now. No luck. Back in the hotel, I watched Anna and the King, interspersed with freaky Hong Kong adverts such as "Prevent mosquito breeding. Maintain clean cemeteries," before going to sleep.

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