...isn't always a way out.
19.05.2012 16 °C
If my travels hadn't started already, they started today. Hong Kong refused to let me go with clear skies, so I find myself all packed up riding the East Rail Line of the MTR, one of the furthest reaches of the independent tendrils of Hong Kong mobility. The points beyond this line are no longer "special" in the administrative view of the Middle Country; I'm inching closer to China, faster than the rain inches it's way up the canals on the outskirts of the New Territories.
As the MTR approaches Lok Ma Chau, the border crossing, it seems to vein through less and less urban spaces. The station before Lok Ma Chau, Shang Shui, seems desolate under the silver lining of today's storm. An insidious feeling lingers in me. A lonesome excitement that refuses to show outwardly; it's my own refusal to let my mixture of fear and excitement be seen by the already curious train occupants, to remain cool, to be less of a laowai, an outsider.
Lol Ma Chau halts the train and my heart skips a beat. It's not that I don't know how I will get through, the means are already all around me. Phrases declaring where I'm going, who I am, how to get where, all linger confused in my mind, and can be promptly clarified by reaching for the Mandarin phrasebook. I'm not scared for being denied, or of being ruthlessly screened. My heart skips a beat because I'm unbelievably, without a doubt, finally here.
The formalities and procedures, they rival any port in the world. So the question isn't if the Chinese standards are up to par, it is if I am up to them. In some way the Chinese models of architecture endow every arrival and departure point with unequalled magnificence. Likely stemming from Maoist ideology, the building of the Shenzhen train station towers with grandiosity that speaks loudly and makes every chinese proud. A modern day coliseum of sorts, but in which the prowesses extolled here aren't athletic, but industrial ones.
My first attempt to buy a ticket ends with a quick realization: travelling in the People's Republic isn't an easy treat. The automatic teller asks everyone travelling for a required travel id. Movement across China is tracked and tried over and over, at least by public means of transport. Neither of two options for id in the automatic ticket booth apply to me, so I head to the counter. Of course having this face here means a lot fo things. The man behind the ticket counter isn't uncouth, but not kind either. After I spell out my destination (using my guidebook, of course) he asks in plain English: "First Class?". My quick spurt of bu shi's must've sounded convincing; I am charged the standard 75 RMB (~12USD) and issued a ticket. I'm on the fast rail to Guangzhou, a fast way (306km/h or 190mph at its fastest!) into mainland China