Today is the big day! The day I finally make it to mainland China!
I left my hotel room in Macau an hour later than I had wanted to because I was playing on the internet. Stupid.
I took the free hotel shuttle to the Macau Ferry Terminal and caught the 12:30 ferry to the Shenzhen airport. Or so I thought I did.
The trip was pretty simple. There is a monitor at the ferry terminal that shows gate numbers in English. You simply go to your gate and wait for the pairing of someone barking in Chinese, with everyone getting up. That is your cue that it is time to board the ferry. Easy!
Since Macau isn’t part of mainland China, they have a duty free shop inside. I stocked up on cigarettes (I know, gross, right??)
First up, passport control. I didn’t have a form I needed so to the back of the line I go.
From there, you go through customs.
I have never In my life declared any items, nor do I even really comprehend exactly what that means or why you need to do this. But on the ferry was a looped video about declaring items. Although this was not in English, It kept showing pictures of cameras. Given my difficulties with China, why take a chance. I had a new fancy camera, a ton of cigarettes and cash from my casino winnings on me.
I attempted to go to the counter where you declare things, but just got waved away before I even got to the actual counter.
Next up, entering the terminal. A lot of Chinese men ran up and began yelling in my face in (I guess) Mandarin. Honestly, my immediate thought was that they were calling me fat. That just goes to show how my brain works. Turns out they were taxi drivers. I figured this out when one approached me alone outside. See, that makes more sense.
I was at the very small ferry terminal a good 20 minutes before I realized the ferry terminal is not also the airport. No wonder I couldn’t find the luggage storage. Now that I finally figure out I am not at the airport, I realize I have to take a free shuttle bus to the airport. Which of course, I have missed since I thought I already was at the airport. Sigh.
I wait outside under the English sign for the airport shuttle that I might have seen earlier had I not been looking around what I mistakenly thought was the airport, for luggage storage. I melt. Shenzhen is hotter right now than Macau and Macau was HOT. It is so hazy. I feel like I am going to pass out standing there but I don’t want to leave because I am where I need to be.
I just stand and sweat for a good half hour, waiting for the shuttle that aligns with the ferry after mine. Everyone is staring at me. I feel like it is less that I am Western, and more than I am dripping with sweat while refusing to walk inside and sit in air conditioning.
Finally I get to the airport for real. I am surprised that it looks so modern. Remember, this is my first time on mainland China and all I heard before arriving were horror stories.
My original plans were to store my luggage and go see the Windows of the World, which is a pretty cool looking park type place where you can see miniature versions of all of China’s huge tourist places.
I got the luggage storage down but could not at all ever let it go about how I am starting about two hours later than I had intended. I have just enough time to go but I don’t like having JUST enough time, especially when I am an idiot. It is amusing to me that I am less concerned with being in CHINA by myself without speaking the language, than I am with me being an idiot.
I decide to go find the bus to the metro. Because having the metro at the airport would just be too easy. I’ll give me credit for trying but after waiting for the bus for fifteen minutes dying burning, I decide maybe leaving may be a bad idea. So I opted instead to go to Starbucks and type this out on my phone. You know, since my netbook is in luggage storage for no reason since I never left the airport.
As an added bonus, my phone is on the long list of things I own that I do not know how to work so I don’t even know if this will be saved when I am done.
I used the last of my HKD change on a lemon iced tea that was both too lemony and too tea-y. Weird, right?
At Shenzhen airport I spent:
70 Yuan ($11.40) to store my luggage for no reason
36 Yuan ($5.86 USS) for a Frappucino
4 Yuan ($.65 USD) for a bottle of soda
35.50 Yuan ($4.75 USD) for McDonalds.
I find it weird that McDonalds has American music playing in China. I also loved that the second I walked in, the cashier pulled out a picture menu, before I even got to the counter. Shih shih.
Everytime you enter the airport, you are checked for explosives.
Some first impressions of mainland China, all made at the airport: that spitting thing is true. They all hack up a pound of phlegm and spit. This is actually something I am very used to because my neighborhood has morphed from all Italian to mostly Chinese. If I had followed through my plans of a blog post of all the signs in a ten block stretch from my apartment, you would already know this. But I didn’t so you don’t.
Every person I have spoken to so far has seemed way to excited to speak to me. Like almost giddy . I’m positive one was legitimately giggling. I wonder if at any point during this trip, I will stop feeling so self conscious and just accept that this is how people on mainland China react to Westerners.
I got more sunburned today, being outside really only when I was waiting for the airport shuttle, than I did in either Hong Kong or Macau. Imagine if I didn’t use 100 SPF sunscreen?
I still have 25 days left in China and I am already upset that my trip is almost over and I have to go back home. I really do not want to ever do that again.
When it was time to check into my flight, I was a bit nervous since this was the first flight I was going to be checking into in China. China is a weird place. If you are planning a trip to China, you will find yourself sending money to complete strangers in order for them to book your flights and train rides. Sure you can check the validity beforehand. But with who? I went with gut instinct and other bloggers. Flights were booked via http://www.travelchinaguide.com/ and trains were booked with http://www.china-diy-travel.com/en .
When I tried to check in, the kiosk let me get all the way to the end before deciding my ticket was not valid. Oh no! OH NO! As I was standing there with my entire trip flashing before my eyes with all the public transport I relied on strangers to book for me, someone came up and told me the kiosks all were not working. THANK YOU.
A quick trip to the airline counter got me my boarding pass. Whew.
Boarding a flight in China is a bit different than anywhere else I have been. You do not get assigned your seat until you check in. None of this United States crap where they charge you insane amounts for the privilege of picking your own seat. Also, every flight I took had a full meal served. Even the flights that were under two hours.
I went to my gate to wait. I was on display with everyone staring at me. At some point, it became time to board. There was no English so I just waited a bit and then went to get on, figuring I would get yelled at if I were trying to board too early. I did not get yelled at so I was all set.
Next stop: Guilin!