Hong Kong Visa Run

Despite the highly efficient visa services offered in Hong Kong, we had no success getting a long term Chinese visa. Even worse was the fact that with a 14-day Chinese visa in our passports (from our failed attempt in Armenia) we were warned that we might only be granted another 14-day visa in Hong Kong. This meant the safe route was to apply for a 30-day group visa that would be issued on the same day but that was un-extendable, quashing any hope of a longer time in the country. Worse than that, the visa's 30 days begin on the date of issue. Having not had this important fact explained to us ahead of time, we only realised it when the group visa was in hand. It was our first day in Hong Kong and every day we would spend in the city would mean one less day in China. Our idea of taking it easy in Hong Kong was scrapped, as were much of our plans for touring Western China. We had to settle for a flight to Kunming, in southwestern Yunnan Province. We hoped that from there we could cycle to Laos without overstaying our visa.

In four days in Hong Kong, we managed to get three visas (China, Laos, Thailand), replace our water filtration system (sending home the useless Steripen), send home 4kg of baggage, eat dim sum at city hall, visit the Big Buddha on Lantau Island and hike on Hong Kong Island with our hosts. Despite being exhausted, we were grateful to have something forcing us to get our shit together. Hong Kong is a city that could have sucked us in much longer.   Dim sum at Maxim's Palace City Hall, a place for overeating and overspending

  Lantau Island, a peaceful oasis just a subway ride away from downtown. The amount of green space is what makes Hong Kong such an incredible place

With such an efficient airport and public transportation system we got way more done than we might have in any other place. Our favourite travel service was the downtown airline check-in counters. We didn't have to lug our bicycles and luggage all the way to the airport, we loaded them for a short taxi ride to the city centre where we checked them and got our boarding passes a full day early. We were then free to take the 20-minute airport shuttle, bicycle-free, whenever we wanted. Genius!

We landed in Kunming in the evening and had no problem finding a cheap unlicensed taxi to take us and our luggage to our hostel downtown. We booked a stay at the same hostel that we had stayed at seven years earlier and were pleased to see that it hadn't changed much. It was a bit busier than we had remembered, although maybe we're just getting old. Another sign of our ageing was moving on from the 8-bed dorm room to the double-the-price private room. Our seven-years-ago selves would be ashamed.

December 2006 at the Kunming Cloudland Hostel

October 2013 at the Kunming Cloudland Hostel

All we had to do in the city was re-assemble our bicycles and plan our route through Yunnan province. The bikes had survived the two flights (we reinforced them with lots of packing tape after the first flight from Tehran). Yann's basket took a bit of a beating as did one of his wheel skewers, but both were easily fixed. We did have to spend an entire morning unsuccessfully trying to fix a problem with one of the front wheels, unrelated to the flight, a rotor bolt stuck in the hub. We borrowed a drill, hoping to be able to dislodge the bolt, but after almost an hour of attempting to grind away the bolt with very little progress, it seemed that we were risking greater damage to the hub by continuing. So we opted for me, the person carrying the least luggage (and “the amateur who rarely uses her front brakes”) to use the wheel with the damaged hub.

  A smooshed bicycle basket

  The hostel staff helped us locate tools and were eager to help, but to no avail

  This rotor bolt isn't going anywhere

The weather in Kunming (known as the City of Eternal Spring) was perfect. The best weather we'd had in 4 months. The city, as far as Chinese cities go, feels extremely laid back. Especially on the weekends when seniors gather at the local parks to socialize, usually involving singing and dancing. We could have easily gotten into a routine of eating delicious Chinese food, lounging in the hostel courtyard and strolling around town, but the mountains of Yunnan were calling us!

One of many Kunming seniors listening to music at the park on a Sunday afternoon

Partially sponsored by Mountain Equipment Coop  Expedition Support


mom said...

Your seven year old selves would be delighted that you haven't lost your love of travel.

mom said...

(Your seven years ago selves)-your seven years old selves would be amazed.

Sonya said...

You're making me want to go to Hong Kong! Looks / sounds tranquil and awesome.

Antonia said...

I love the beautiful seven-year- apart photos! Cuteness across the ages.

paradiso(angry) said...

how did that bolt get in there???

Laura Bush said...

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