Ben and I woke around 7:30 am - or at least we think it's 7:30. It could be 6:30 or 8:30. I feel 50% better today. We got dressed, packed up our things, and decided to see a bit more of HK before check-out at noon. Our hotel is right next door to the biggest mall in HK so we decided to head over there to check out their options for breakfast. Everything was closed because, obviously, it's early in the morning. But there was one saving grace - STARBUCKS!!! As soon as I saw it, I literally yelled out a little joy and relief. Something that I could eat that didn't contain uncooked food. I got a vanilla latte and chocolate chip muffin. Ben got a carmel frappuccino and cinammon roll. They were sooooo good. We ate like it was our last meal. Afterwards, we walked around the mall and then headed out to Canton Road. Canton Road was already buzzing with traffic, pedestrians, and salesmen (the Indian men passing out their cards). We saw a few stores that you may recognize:
Picture
Dior on Canton Road in Hong Kong
After walking around, we decided to check-out and head over to Hung Hom train station. The taxi ride was quite interesting. There was a strange smell. I had never smelled anything like it in my entire life. I can't really even describe it. It was just very unpleasant. The cab driver was funny. He was silent until a phone call came in. Instead of speaking in a regular voice, he started talking very loudly to the caller. I recorded some of the conversation. It's really funny b/c he was so loud. Unfortunately, I can't upload the video due to the slow internet.
We arrived at Hung Hom and had a few hours to kill before boarding the 14:47 train to Guangzhou. We stored our luggage and ate lunch at Maxim Express. It was our first real Chinese meal. Not really. It tasted exactly like Chinese food back home except the meat still had the bone. We walked around and walked around and walked around. The station was fairly small and we had to wait a few hours. Eventually we got our luggage out of storage and headed over to the queue for our train. We were the second family in line. We boarded the train. When I started looking around at the other passengers on our car, I realized that we were the only Caucasian folks on board. An Indian couple sat across from us but everyone else was Chinese. Ben put our luggage in an unsecured rack above our head and we sat down. As soon as we did, the same thought came to our head - this is a communist train. It was old, worn down, and nothing like we've experienced in Europe or North America. Ben said it reminded him of the cold war and East Germany (he lived there for 2 years right before the Berlin Wall fell down). The colors were gray and blue-gray. Ben kept whispering "this is exactly like what East Germany did to their people - no colors".

The train started and we were on our way out of the free zone and into the mainland. I figured with a 2 hour train ride that we'd see some empty land, maybe some farms, or countryside. Nope. There was never a break in buildings, people, or human civilization for 2 hours. Sure, there were sections blocked off for little gardens maybe 1-2 acres. And there were areas where the beautiful trees and vegetation had not been clear cut but there was just mostly buildings. Many brand new buildings, many communist style buildings, and many metal shacks. No individual homes. All towers with many apartments except for the shacks. What's funny is that the shacks had, in my opinion, the best living conditions. I mean sure you're in a shack but you had very few neighbors, space to yourself, and you didn't have to worry about noise level from your neighbors b/c no one wanted to live near you!

We arrived at the Guangzhou train station and had to pass through immigration into mainland China. Wait, let me back up to immigration leaving Hong Kong. I think I must look like a criminal. Both Ben and I went up to the immigration officer at the same time. The guy took one look at me and said where's your exit form. I say that I don't know what he's talking about. He points me back to a wall full of forms that I must fill out. I sigh and head back to fill out the form expecting my husband to soon join me. Nope. The guy let Ben pass right on through - barely looking at his passport. Ben didn't have an exit form either but I guess he just looks friendly and non-criminal. I quickly filled out the form, handed it to the same guy, and he scrutinized every single thing. After what seemed like forever, he finally waved me through so that I could board the train. When we went to go through mainland China's immigration, I again was scrutinized. The Chinese immigration officer kept looking at me, my passport, and my visa - flipping through the photos. It was then that I realized why there was such scrutiny. My hair was long in the photos and I didn't have on braces. Now, my hair is chin length and my mouth is filled with braces (something that is very uncommon in China). They must think that I'm an imposter. After the intense scrutiny, he let me pass on through. Ben whizzed by like normal. We collected our bags and headed out to the lobby. We passed by a money exchange place and Ben asked if we should stop and exchange money. I told him no let's just find our guide (this later on becomes a mistake!). We found our guide, Wensi, and her driver picked us up in a very nice minivan. She seems very nice and professional. They drove us to Shamian Island and dropped us off at our hotel - Guangdong Victory Hotel (west building). She checked us in and we agreed on a meeting time for the money exchange on Monday before we had to be at the adoption center.

The bellboy took us to our room. It's about 4 times the size of our HK room and renovated in 2010. I am so freaking thankful! The room in HK was a step above a motel 6 and the same price as this wonderful spacious room in GZ (short for Guangzhou). The bellboy unloaded our luggage and was waiting around for a tip. Literally. He waited for Ben to get out of the bathroom. We had no Chinese money so Ben gave him some HK money. I was starving so we headed out to see if any restaurant would accept a credit card instead of cash. Eventually we found one that did - the famous Cow and Bridge thai restaurant that every adoptive parent staying on Shamian Island raves about. They accept Mastercard and luckily that's all we have. I ordered chicken and rice and a Heineken. Ben ordered a Coke and chicken, rice, and vegetables. The food was brought out quickly and was heavenly! Mine was bland but I was thankful b/c I didn't want an upset stomach. Ben's had some kind of spice to it - very good. We ate all our food, paid our bill, and walked the 100 ft back to our hotel. By this point, it was about 7:30 pm. I was exhausted and fell asleep on our super king size bed. The bed was comfortable compared to the HK bed but not as comfortable as the bed at home. Still as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out.

Ben stayed up til after 11 pm trying to figure out the internet. Mainland China blocks most western websites, like Facebook, Blogspot, Youtube, Google, etc. He figured out how to access our websites and now here you are reading on our blog! It's too slow to upload videos. I may not be able to do that while here in GZ. We have one night in HK before flying home and I have a feeling that we'll upload a few videos then - like the one meeting Meili for the first time and of her orphanage.

We're glad to be here on Shamian Island and will be meeting Meili at 2:30 pm on Monday. That's about 1:30 am on Monday for folks back in Arkansas! But, by the time you wake up you'll get to see Meili!
Kelly
10/8/2011 09:06:30 am

That's funny about the hair and braces! I'm glad the trip is getting better. Can't wait to hear and see all about Meili!

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Karen
10/8/2011 03:01:52 pm

Loving your blog!! So excited about you meeting Meili very soon!! Can't wait to read all about it.

Blessings, Karen

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1/25/2012 04:35:34 pm

Great info, thx

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nice post

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3/22/2012 06:00:50 am

nice post

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3/22/2012 09:04:45 am

Fine info bro

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9/3/2012 03:08:48 pm

nice post

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Richard
2/11/2013 09:16:16 am

I feel sorry for your kid.

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