20 February 2019

Train to Chenzhou

Crispy fish skins
Easy morning around Mong Kok. I would like to try a snake soup again but my friends are not so enthusiastic so we opt for a traditional family restaurant of Cantonese cuisine. Fun to walk around this part of town, lots of peculiar shops, selling goldfish, cats, rabbits and all kinds of food, of course. This time I tried noodles, bovine pancreas and fish skins.

In the early afternoon we take a taxi to the sparkling new West Kowloon Terminus, the final stop of the newest fast train coming directly from the mainland. One more step toward the integration of Hong Kong with the motherland.

It is all very new and impressive. For some reason we foreigners are charged 30 Rmb to collect our tickets even though we had already book and prepaid online. Perhaps because we must show our passports to a human teller. (All tickets are nominal.) Chinese can do this at an automatic teller and for free with their electronic ID cards. Anyway, we are lucky to have seats at all. It is still the end of the CNY celebrations, lanterns day festival was yesterday and millions of Chinese are still on holiday.

Second class tickets are the equivalent of about 40 Euro each, fairly reasonable at European prices for 2 and a half hours ride on a superfast train, but quite expensive for the average Chinese. And yet the train was long fully booked. My wife was smart to catch tickets for us and our visiting friends via a special app which somehow manages to snatch tickets as they become available (one month before the trip) or when there is a cancellation.

Pass Hong Kong passport control first and enter a duty-free area, just as if we were leaving the country although Hong Kong is an integral part of China, if with a special autonomous status. I bought some whisky to share with my family in Guiyang.

Then, before we get to the PRC passport control positions, we walked over a thick yellow line on the ground and passed from the "Hong Kong area" to the "Mainland area" on the other side. Landing cards must be filled and we were at the Chinese passport control checkpoint. The officers did not smile much but are polite and very fast to let us all through.

The ride is quite smooth. We arrive in Chenzhou and it's dark and very cold. We have to get off fast as the train stops only for very few minutes before resuming its run to Wuhan.

Taxis are readily available, 100 Rmb to Chenzhou. We tried Didi, the company that bought Uber out in China, but could not get one. We don't trust some illegal taxi drivers who approach us and offer a discount.

Pile up our suitcases in the truck at the back of the taxi but they do not fit, so the driver just leaves the lid open and ties everything together with some strong belt he always carries with him.

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