I can't believe today actually happened. It was so intense the fact that I'm back at the same hostel I started at in China - in the same room - is kind of lost on me. I'm back. For the second time I can say I'm back in Shanghai. Incredible.
I shouldn't have made it. Taxi was picking me up at 4:30 AM in Saigon. Set my alarm for 4 AM and found an online alarm clock and set that too. My alarm is too quiet and only lasts about 15 seconds so I've only been waking up to it 50 percent of the time. So 50 percent of the time it works every time.
I woke up on my own and could tell it was the middle of the night. Looked at my watch. 4:26. Shit.
Somehow my computer shut off during the night. Still can't figure out how.
So much for taking a shower. I scrambled to get my things together and made it downstairs by 4:38. The driver was agitated for having to wait 8 minutes.
So I almost missed that flight. I got in to Shenzhen around 10:45 and immigration wasn't too bad. My big plan was to run into Hong Kong on my nine hour layover, so I started asking around for left luggage stations. Had to check all three terminals before someone could point me in the right direction. Then I had to figure out how to get to Hong Kong. Bus seemed to be the best option.
Hong Kong may be part of China now but crossing the border is a pain in the ass. The bus trip was about an hour and a half but half that was just standing in lines. But then lo and behold the buildings got denser and the bridges got bigger and I was in Hong Kong. Amazing!
The bus stopped in a mall. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to escape the concrete commercialism but could not FIND AN EXIT. Not even joking. I only had three hours in Hong Kong and I was stuck in a mall.
I finally got out after asking like five people and realized I wasn't where I thought I was. I had to walk a ways to a metro stop and after wasting one of my hours I was at the ferry terminal at last.
Totally worth it. I rode the ferry across causeway bay on a perfect day in Hong Kong. It rained most of the time during my first visit. I found a great kebab place in the ferry terminal on the island and ate at a table with a great view of the entire harbor. I did some writing. It was awesome.
I went to the IFC mall nearby and ate a McDonald's ice cream cone (it's only 30 cents!). Then I headed over to the old stomping grounds around the BP (not British Petroleum) Hotel where my Dad and I had stayed. The hotel was all spiffed up for Christmas and looked great. I got some photos of the surroundings since I had forgotten to do that the first time. And then I headed back to the mega mall via the metro.
Luckily I found the bus lounge (across from Starbucks) easily. But I didn't count on the buses being full. The next one available was at 6:15... my flight was at 7:45. They put me on a standby list and I got right on the next bus.
THANK GOD I DID. Exiting Hong Kong at the border was easy, but on the Chinese side they had one damn line for all foreigners. It took twice as long as it did on the way there, meaning I didn't get to the airport until 7:20. I raced to terminal B. I asked how to get to the arrivals level and found the escalator. I grabbed my baggage from the business center. I raced back up and couldn't find my flight listed on the board. I didn't know what gate I needed to get to since my boarding pass had been printed in Vietnam. A woman at information helped me. I had had to check my big bag on the flight to Shenzhen since - ta da! - I had bought a guitar in Saigon the day before. But I didn't have time to check anything. I just went through security which thankfully only took 10 minutes. I made it to my gate in time. I tried to relax.
The plane was boarding but when I handed over my boarding pass the girl told me there was a problem. "Wrong one!" I noticed everyone else had a different looking pass since they no doubt didn't have theirs printed in Saigon. "How do I get another one?" I asked. She didn't understand so I had to wait until every single passenger boarded before she dealt with me.
"Flight 1894" she said, pointing at a sample pass.
"Yeah, 1894, that's me" I said, pointing at the number on my pass.
She took my ticket, made a call, then apologized. She had looked at a different number and thought it was the flight number.
So I made it on that plane too and even found space for my guitar.
And then I was in Shanghai for the second time on my trip.
But this time the maglev was closed. So was the metro. It was only 10:15. What the heck?
I saw a sign for the airport bus. One went to LongYang road, which sounded familiar. It must be the one by my hostel.
Got on board and paid for travel to LongYang (although the woman couldn't understand me at all). I didn't have a seat but it was fine. Exited the bus and found myself in the middle of nowhere. This was not what I had expected.
Again I was lucky, and I was right next to a metro station. Should be easy enough. But as I was trying to buy a ticket a guy came over and told me the metro was - you guessed it - totally closed. Apparently it had been open late my first time here due to the world expo. Not anymore.
I was screwed, but I got lucky yet again as there was a taxi right outside the metro. He used the meter and I directed him straight to my hostel.
And then I went to bed. It was one of the longest and most stressful but greatest days in my entire life. I still can't believe I made it happen.