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Hong Kong: Uneasy to Get There
In childhood I very liked to read "Around the World" magazine. Then it was the only window to the world, accessible to the majority of Soviet people. The most interesting to me were articles about the states of East and Southeast Asia. What is interesting, that the magazine wrote repeatedly about Singapore and never about Hong Kong. Certainly, the logic of it is simple for understanding: Singapore was the independent state since 1965, "liberated" from the English sovereignity, and Hong Kong then still was a colony; it was an ideological mistake to write positively or even neutrally about the colony. Therefore Hong Kong in our press, and "Around the world" in particular, was always mentioned in negative aspect. If to collect everything written about the British colony at that time in Soviet press, and also in translated detective fiction, it seemed that the territory was occupied entirely by spies, murderers, prostitutes and narcotrafficants, and it was surprising how they managed not to kill each other.
Clearly, it could not be true, therefore Hong Kong for me became mysterious and consequently attracting country.
Time had come to carry out the dream of childhood. There were no urgent matters for period of my vacation; there had been collected sufficient sum on my card account, and the multiple visa to People's Republic of China appeared in my passport (as I live in Chita, it is cheaper to go to Hong Kong through China). Certainly, there was a regret that I had failed to visit Hong Kong prior to July, 1, 1997; in order to escape similar feeling with Macau, I had decided to go immediately to get before transferring the territory to China.
There was one unsolved question - the visa. Applying for Chinese visa, I had not thought about Hong Kong. The problem should be solved in China. I knew that it was possible to get visas, including multiple ones, at provincial administrations of public security. Having thought, that the Hong Kong visas are the same matter, I calmed down.
As appeared, I had calmed down too early. Chinese authorities do not grant visas to Hong Kong on the territory of China. Only Immigration Department of Hong Kong SAR is responsible for this. Its representation's address is 21/F 1st Tower, Henderson Centre, Jianguomen Neidajie, Beijing. For those who knows Peking: Henderson Centre is located to the north of the Peking railway station, on the main street of the city, opposite International Hotel.
To receive visa, it is necessary to present the passport and two photos of passport size (or a bit less), to fill in the application form in English or Chinese language, to hand over all this to the clerk and to come again at the time he says. The process takes three working days. If there is no refuse, it is necessary to pay fee of 150 yuans at reception.
Taking into account, that in Russia this fee is 30 dollars, to do visa in Peking is more preferrable. Therefore, if circumstances allow to spend some days in the capital of China, I dare to recommend to do so.
From the Western station of Peking to Kowloon station once in two days departs train K97 which reaches the destination in less than two days. Airline communication is bit more frequent: eight flights per day. Single ticket costs 2710 yuans, round trip 5224 yuans (as of October, 1999).
Having left the passport at HK immigration's and having bought the ticket, I made some steps to book a hotel. Called to one of tour agencies in Hong Kong, has tried to reserve a room in inexpensive hotel (to reserve, as a rule, is more cheaper than to come without warning). In day they sent me a fax: no vacancies. Then I remembered, that once I came to the site of Cathay Pacific airline where read about their Stopover program. As appeared, in Peking there was a representation of Cathay Pacific affiliate - Dragonair, in the same Henderson Centre but on the seventeenth floor.
Of course, I came there. They at Dragonair's were very glad to see me: yes, there is such a program, but to take advantage of it, it is necessary to fly their flight. By the way, three of eight daily flights are carried out by this company. I was told how to endorse the ticket from China Southern to Dragonair, and went down to the central agency of air communications where received a necessary seal on the ticket. Then returned to Dragonair, showed them the ticket, expressed wishes concerning hotel, paid money and had left for lunch with easy heart.
Returning to airline's office for hotel voucher, I saw mad eyes of Chinese girl Maria: it was first time in her life that in Hong Kong hotel there were no places. I told her all right, it is possible to live three days and in more exprnsive hotel. She immediately gone to request other hotels contracted to Dragonair. In three hours Maria had climbed up to Shangri-La, but still uselessly. Upset even more than me, she had returned money, and I have gone to return the ticket where it was bought.
On the way I had thought: generally I want go to Macau too. Having returned the ticket to Hong Kong, I through the same Chinese International Travel Service booked a room in Macau, and have immediately bought new ticket. It had turned out even cheaper: one way 2648, round trip 5048 yuans.
So, not buying a tour, I have organized to myself a trip to Macau and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong I stayed not for long as the lodging was in Macau, and the visa was only for single entry. But I do not regret. It was possible to see the Portuguese colony while the red-and-green flag still fluttered above it. And some day I shall visit Hong Kong again.
Now some practical advice:
To act like me, one should at least speak fluently English. Much depends on correct understanding.
It is necessary to have international credit card. In Hong Kong and Macau person without a card is not a person. And to reserve a hotel without card number is impossible. It is also easier to get local cash through ATMs, which are there at every corner, than to search for branches of banks at which the working day is from nine to six or even less.
The hotel can be reserved through the Internet. On a site http://www.asiatravel.com/ there are the pages, allowing to reserve rooms via https protocol. For Hong Kong hotels the Internet discount is approximately 40%. The location of hotel does not play a special role. The nearby MTR station is the main thing.
Purchasing tickets it is necessary to ask about possible discounts. Probably, you may take advantage of them.
© Dmitry Alemasov
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