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Thursday 21st October - Hong Kong to China
By Claire
Monday, 25th October 2004 10:05

We had to get up early today to pick up our visa. We were first in the office and took up residence on the comfy leather sofas for half an hour. I didn't realise that people had already formed a queue, so that by the time we joined it we were waiting for about an hour in all. But the man took our passports and said to come back at 5 to collect them. Our train left for Beijing at 3... We were told to wait, and by 10.30 we had visas for India and our passports and we had done all the things we needed to do today. Our last metro journey to Causeway Bay left me with less than a dollar on my octopus card, which seemed to work out well. I've forgotten to mention that on the approach to our station there is a series of illuminated images that the train rushes past to give the impression of a moving advert. It's very clever, a little film about a camera or something. I haven't seen anything like that before. Oh, and while we're on the subject of trains, in Tokyo, there were television monitors on the subway that had a variety of adverts and useful information (including a leaf-colour status report). On one of these was an animated dog that asked questions in Japanese. All the answers, though, were in English, and I could not work out the questions that resulted in the answers "A Womaniser", "Something else" and "A fair price."

So we packed our bags and left them with Tommy, went out for more Vietnamese breakfast (my chopsticks must have been broken because they dropped everything I tried to eat, mcuh to the amusement of one of the waitresses), checked our email and bought sandwiches for the train. We took a taxi to the railway station. There had been an accident on the road by the station and the traffic was stationary. The driver promised us we would get to our train on time, though, which we did. We didn't have time to post our postcards though, so we'll do that in November!

We went through immigration quite quickly (and the man noticed my Eagels T-shirt and commented that he really enjoyed the concert last night) and then we dragged our bags onto the platform and into the waiting train. We seemed to have a whole compartment to ourselves - it had four beds in it, two half way up the walls. We were expecting to be joined by heavily-smoking Chinese guys, but after the train departed and we'd unpacked a bit, no-one turned up. And then a steward came to ask us to move to another carriage and we were convinced they'd make us share a room but they didn't. This room was much like the other one - four beds, plenty of pillows and duvets, a big window and a little table. We had it all to ourselves. A man came along and took our passports and caused some sort of amusement among the staff as they investigated this foreign document, and Mikey and I debated for quite a while whether or not to declare our bananas on the Customs and Quarrantine form. I said they were not plants, but Mikey said they were plant products. I thought 'Plant Products' would be something made out of plants not by plants, so I went to ask a steward. No-one really spoke English so I pointed to the bit on the form in Chinese that I hoped would say 'Plant Product' and then at the banana. He mimed eating it. And he'll go home and tell his family that he had to explain to an English girl how a banana worked. We decided to eat them so they wouldn't get confiscated, but there was no need to panic - we wouldn't be clearing customs and immigration until tomorrow afternoon.

We went for a bit of a walk up and down the train, watched Hong Kong disappear and China arrive, and then it got dark. After supper Mikey was asleep by about 7, but I read for a while. The beds were incredibly comfy and had thick duvets and feather pillows and were even long enough for Mikey's legs. It was a really wonderful way to travel.

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