The general consensus on the best (and cheapest) way to get from China to Hong Kong was the sleeper bus to Shenzhen and then on the MTR…”It’s really easy and low cost. So straight forward you can’t go wrong.” Yeah right!
Collected at 8pm from Monkey Jane’s by a tiny Chinese lady in a pink and white golf buggy, we travelled the short distance to Yangshou bus station and the sleeper bus.
From the outside it looked like a luxury coach. Inside was lined with three rows of stainless steel bunk-beds with thick fleecy blankets. I’d never been in a bus with beds before – an ingenious design, but pretty cramped for anyone not of Asian build. Any luggage not stickered and stowed underneath detracts from bed space, as I found when I tried to pack boots, backpack and both legs into the tiny foot well!
Wedged in, I curled up to watch Jackie Chan’s “First Strike”. Managing to get a few hours sleep in between noodle stops and fretting about where to get off, I shivered my way through the night (the blankets do take up room, but don’t put them on someone else’s bed as you won’t get them back!)
Around 4.30am I was ushered off at a desolate bus stop under a flyover in the middle of nowhere. I had seen signs to the port (you don’t go there apparently) but none to the railway station (as I had been advised to go to). I asked the three other non-English speaking passengers how to get to Hong Kong…nada, so I flagged a taxi and hoped like hell I would arrive at some kind of border crossing!
Driving through the pitch dark (and reportedly dangerous) streets of Shenzhen with a driver who could not understand me, my dictionary or my guidebook, I was totally aware this was the most ill-considered stage of my travels to date (despite having it all written down and even seen iPhone maps of how much of a smooth and easy station transition it is!).
Thankfully we arrived at something that resembled an immigration checkpoint. As I passed through Hong Kong side I realised I was at the wrong place (the one you don’t go to) and the promised ATM and money exchange didn’t exist, so I couldn’t “just hop straight on the MTR” as I had only Chinese money; the trains were not yet running and no-one could tell me how to get where I needed to go.
I got on a shuttle bus to another bus station, then caught a second bus and then wandered around with all my kit for an hour looking for the MTR.
With no cash, mobile, knowledge of Cantonese, English speakers, cashpoint, nor useful map and it still only 5.45am I was starting to panic (as well as turn puce from the heat and the weight of my bags). From out of nowhere a well-dressed Hong Konger appeared and asked me where I needed to go. He packed me onto the right bus, spoke to the driver and gave me 35HKD to get on with my trip, accepting nothing in return.
Twenty minutes later I was at the MTR station, ticket in hand and en route to my new destination – exhausted, panic subsiding, adrenalin pumping and amazed at the kindness of strangers.
That unknown man is an absolute legend…wherever and whoever you are, THANK YOU from an eternally grateful traveller.