Final Exam: Yunnan, Part 7: Seven Legs of Transit – Lijiang to Shenzhen to Hong Kong

This is part 7 of a 7 part series on our recent travels in the Yunnan province of China:

  1. Introduction
  2. Good Night, Vietnam – Hanoi to Nanning to Lijiang
  3. Biking Around Lijiang
  4. Tiger Leaping Gorge
  5. Relaxing in Dali
  6. A Step Back in Time – Shaxi
  7. Seven Legs of Transit – Lijiang to Shenzhen to Hong Kong

Our last day in China was likely to be our most trying. We had 7 legs of travel to accomplish to get from Shaxi, a small town in Yunnan, to Hong Kong, all the way across China. We set off from the hostel after spending a morning at the market, and managed to catch a shuttle back to Jianshuan, where we caught another bus to Lijiang, and bargained a taxi ride to the airport (3 down!).

Our biggest concern, other than missing our flight, was money. We rely almost exclusively on ATMs, but in Shaxi our card didn’t work (unless we joined the Yunnan Credit Union). We figured we could get money in Jianshuan (nope, no ATMs), Lijiang airport (same), or the Lijiang airport (it serves 1.5 million people, but nope, only Yunnan Credit Union again). We bought fast food to save money and caught our flight to Kunming and the connecting flight to Shenzhen (5 down!) with about 80 RMB ($15) left in our pockets.

None of this probably sounds like a big deal, except our next and most challenging leg was ahead – the transfer from Shenzhen airport to Hong Kong at 10:30 PM. Shenzhen is in mainland China, and Hong Kong is an island. Although technically part of China, HK has a separate visa and immigration. We flew into Shenzhen instead of directly to HK because it’s way cheaper to fly domestically (like the US). There are several land borders you can cross, but only 1 is 24 hours, so we were racing against the clock. There was also very little info on the Internet about how to go from Shenzhen airport into Hong Kong. We actually came up with a set of four options that we printed out because there was so little info. Our options were:

  1. Take a bus transfer directly from the airport to HK. Duh – but we couldn’t find any info about times, and the ones we did find ended at 10. Plus we would need money to buy this ticket.
  2. Take the Shenzhen subway to the border crossing and connect to the HK subway. This would be a race, as that border (and the HK subway) closed at midnight.
  3. Take a taxi to the 24-hour border and hope to find a way to HK from there. Requires money.
  4. Spend the night and cross the next morning by ferry. Requires money.

All airports we’ve flown into in China aren’t very “western” – there are no info desks and poor signage. We expected the same in Shenzhen. Sara took the bags and Kyle dashed off the plane to try and make option 1 a reality (and find a working ATM). Stepping into the airport, we were clearly in another world. Massive signs in English, western stores and restaurants, and modern facilities all indicated the Chinese had pumped a ton of money to attract rich Hong Kong shoppers and businessmen to fly in. Despite my initial panic, it was easy to find an info desk with English speakers who helped us purchase a direct airport transfer with a credit card, a first for us in China! We were thrilled to get to throw options 2, 3 and 4 out and take a relaxing, comfy bus ride all the way to HK.

We arrived in HK (6 down, 1 to go!) and figured we’d at least need to find an ATM to catch a taxi to our friend’s apartment. It tuned out the bus dropped us off only a few blocks away, so it was an easy walk there thanks to some pre-mapping. We arrived around 1 AM after a long travel day, but happy we were able to accomplish seven legs of travel through China, and proud that we had passed our final exam!

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