The Final Countdown
My time in China has been a revolving door of visa issues. Like clockwork every 30 days, another renewal came about. After maxing out my possible tourist extensions, I thought of two options. 1) Overstay my visa and pay “hefty, hefty, hefty” fines 2) Hop on a Spring Airlines flight to Hong Kong like the rest of the many expats illegal residing in China. I chose the later and found a cheap flight on China’s classiest budget airline and made my way across the East China Sea. Hong Kong was a breath of fresh air, literally. Clean, crisp air (relatively speaking) and blue skies with actual white clouds. After heavy delays leaving Shanghai (factor this in on ANY travels with Spring Airlines) I arrived in Hong Kong at just after midnight. After some troubles finding my suitcase (which I borrowed from a friend) it clocked in around 1am. Side Note: Make your bag unique in some way for easy identification. I laughed at my dad when he told me to strap a piece of duck tape around the handle but hey, it works. I do wish I had done this because after rounds and rounds of conveyor belt watching for a black suitcase, it struck me I had borrowed a blue suitcase. Fast forward through some Baggage Claim banter and a new travel friend finally saying “Yo, I gotta go”, I found it. I question Asia’s effect on my memory at times…
My hostel’s front desk was closed between 12am to 8am and I was well into that window. I had the choice to grab a taxi into Wan Chai (missed the last bus) and gamble on the fact that I could bang on the door loud enough until someone answered or get comfy with the rest of the in transit travelers in the airport. And because I can fall asleep almost anywhere, I chose to shack up in the airport. After a quick snooze and spruce up in the bathroom, I grabbed the first bus for HK$40 saving myself oodles on cab fare. The hostel still wasn’t open though and want does one do at 7am in the morning? McDonalds breakfast, baby!
The Hong Kong trip was filled with minimal city sightseeing for me. I wanted to capitalize on being somewhere near nature not to mention I was still sporting my boot. (see below) There were a lot of ferry rides, many bus rides, plenty of beach moves, and a couple solo dinners filled. I took ferries I didn’t need to and longer bus routes just to see more sights. I’m slowly growing more aware of my serious obsession with transportation.
But the real reason for this trip was not to soak up the sun, it was to get a visa and get back in China, fingers crossed. I had a contact for a visa agency through work but my current passport showing 3 tourist visas and now an application for a business visa was a little suspicious. One agency actually turned me down and said “no way jose” while another agency took my application and I just hoped for the best. A couple days later and I had my passport in hand with a new granted visa….just 30 days this time. I was hoping for 90 days but 30 days was all I got. At least it wasn’t 10 days like some friends. The 10 day visa can be translated as “get your stuff and get out. We know what you’ve been up to”.
Party’s Over, Folks.
Now 30 more days was not in the mix for me. I had a best friend coming on July 22nd, making the move from Vietnam and reuniting us at last. There was no way we could overlap for a mere 10 days before I would need to skip town. It changed her plans as well and she canceled the move. It could be seen in two ways; my time in China being short cut and I was a victim, deprived of another month in the PRC or that this was just a curveball in life and a chance to sort of the next leg, unpredictably but necessarily. Sure the situation of visas in China is frustrating but who can I be mad at? Can I tell the visa agency to let me stay? No, I am not quiiite your most legal traveler here. I made a decision to not take another chance and trip to Hong Kong to get another visa extension but rather put everything into an extended stay somewhere new.
With July 31st approaching suddenly, there was no way I could hop a plane and be back in America on the 1st. It would be so abrupt that I’d touch USA grounds and think “what just happened?”. The timing just wouldn’t allow me to go home yet. Another best friend would be in South East Asia August 25th and it’s in my twp duty to be here. And so the upcoming weeks until September 13th will be spent in Indonesia. I have found (what seems to be) a wonderful workaway opportunity off the coast of Bali, on an island called Nusa Penida where I’ll volunteer my time and get room and board and then soak up my final days in a reunion with two Jersey girls until hopping a flight back to Shanghai. Using a 72 hour transit visa option, I’ll collect the rest of the clutter I left behind here and then board a flight back to the States September 15th or 16th.
And now it’s the Final Countdown – one week left in Shanghai. It is a scramble to fit everything in and wave goodbye from the plane, looking down below from the window seat and feel complete with the city but NO WAY. I just scratched the surface here in Shanghai and DEFINITELY in China. Maybe one day we will meet again.