Where The Wind Takes Me – Day 21

Where The Wind Takes Me Series - Table of Contents

EntryNotable Places/EventsStart of DayEnd of Day
Day 0 - Apr 21-22 2024Plane (Edmonton > Tokyo)Edmonton, CanadaTokyo, Japan
Day 1 - Tue Apr 23 2024Akihabara, Sensoji, Tokyo Sky Arena, Taiwan Food FestivalTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 2 - Wed Apr 24 2024Nezu Shrine, Tokyo National MuseumTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 3 - Thu Apr 25 2024Akihabara, Ginza, Yurakucho, Bocchi the Rock! Exhibition (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 4 - Fri Apr 26 2024Craft Gyoza Fes, Niku Fes, Odaiba, Kameido Tenjin ShrineTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 5 - Sat Apr 27 2024Niconico Chokaigi 2024Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 6 - Sun Apr 28 2024M3-53Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 7 - Mon Apr 29 2024Train (Tokyo > Osaka)Tokyo, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 8 - Tue Apr 30 2024Tsurumibashi, Expo Commemorative Park, Osaka Station (with Miyu)Osaka, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 9 - Wed May 01 2024Kyoto, Takenobu Inari Shrine, SaiinOsaka, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 10 - Thu, May 02 2024Train (Osaka > Tokyo)Osaka, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 11 - Fri May 03 2024Reitaisai 21Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 12 - Sat May 04 2024Japan Jam 2024 (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 13 - Sun May 05 2024National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 14 - Mon May 06 2024Haneda International Airport, Plane (Tokyo > Taipei), Liaoning Night MarketTokyo, JapanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 15 - Tue May 07 2024Taipei Main Station Underground Mall, Ximending Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 16 - Wed May 08 2024Shilin Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 17 - Thu May 09 2024Raohe Street Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 18 - Fri May 10 2024Songjiang Market, Guang Hua Digital Plaza, Shida Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 19 - Sat May 11 2024Dihua Street, Huaxi Street Night Market, Guangzhou Street Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 20 - Sun May 12 2024Gongguan Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 21 - Mon May 13 2024Plane (Taipei > HK), Train (HK > Guangzhou), Stayed with KelTaipei, TaiwanGuangzhou, China
Day 22 - Tue May 14 2024Zhongfu Square, Alpaca Sighting (with Kel), Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 23 - Wed May 15 2024Panyu Square, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 24 - Thu May 16 2024Nancun Wanbo (with Kel), Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 25 - Fri May 17 2024Train (Guangzhou > Xiamen), Zhongshan RoadGuangzhou, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 26 - Sat May 18 2024Xiamen Railway StationXiamen, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 27 - Sun May 19 2024Mingfa Shopping MallXiamen, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 28 - Mon May 20 2024Train (Xiamen > Guangzhou), Stayed with KelXiamen, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 29 - Tue May 21 2024Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 30 - Wed May 22 2024Tianhe Computer Town, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 31 - Thu May 23 2024Comic City, Shangxiajiu Square, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 32 - Fri May 24 2024Train (Guangzhou > Hong Kong)Guangzhou, ChinaHong Kong, China

Monday, May 13 2024 (Day 21)

Today was a transition day because I was leaving my Taipei lodging, transitioning to Hong Kong via airplane, and then taking a high speed train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou to meet Kel there. I was also sick, with a giant headache that developed in the morning from blowing my nose too hard and too frequently, and throughout the day the left side of my head kept throbbing and pulsating on and off like something was trying to escape. I also lost my senses of smell and taste today, which was fun, and everyone yelled at me that perhaps I had COVID-19. The COVID-19 test I took (that tested for the 2019 variant and involved poking my nose with a narrow thing until I sneezed) came out negative, but that’s not exactly conclusive or too reliable at this point.

(Spoiler: my smell and taste were back by the next day, the morning of May 14, though.)

Also, a bookkeeping note from May 15: My laptop seems to be having battery troubles and keeps shutting off now and then, if it charges at all, which is obviously not conducive to blog-writing, never mind my work. Whether this can be fixed or what my alternatives will be is something that I have not yet determined.

I had a slight cough and congestion through the day, and hopefully they dissipate within the next couple of days. It didn’t help that everytime I did cough, my entire head exploded in pain. That acted as a good deterrent to not cough too much. I told Kel later that night that I even knew pretty much exactly when I got sick, it was at the night market on Day 19 when I accidentally rubbed my nose with my hand after a long day of travelling and night marketing, something I usually am careful to avoid doing.

Anyway, this post will be short because it was a travel day, because I was sick for part of it and thus not really “looking outwards” much, and because I’m now in Kel‘s Guangzhou place and trying to figure out the Great Firewall of China.

I checked out of my Taipei place at around 10 am, and it thankfully had stopped raining so all I had to contend with were slightly wet floors. I carried my bag most of the way to a nearby bus stop, about half the distance to the nearest train station that I had taken advantage of on the way in. That bus stop had a bus that went all the way to Taoyuan Airport Terminal 1, where my flight was headed out from, and I barely caught the bus to avoid another 20 minute wait. I stuffed my big luggage into the luggage compartment built into the side of the bus, then went up and vegetated in the bus itself, which was more like a tour bus than a public bus. Also, the electronic signs never come out well on camera (the last digit is missing below) but the digital bus clock was set to some random time near midnight and both the hour and minute portions were way off. Not sure what the point of the clock was.

I checked in without much of an issue and wandered around the duty-free area until it was time to board.

My flight was UO 111, scheduled to take off at 1:40 pm from Taipei and to land at 3:35 pm in Hong Kong. The pilot later said that the flight was going to take 1h36m or something like that though. Boarding also started early, at 1:00 pm instead of 1:10 pm, and apparently both takeoff and arrival were about 10 minutes ahead of schedule too.

I had elected not to pay an extra $10 for seat selection, since it was a short flight and I was a cheapskate. I also checked in right away after online check-in opened, so I got auto-assigned an aisle seat and not a center one. But it was the one right at the very back of the plane:

And with the turbulence on the plane, my headache flared up again, and along wih the usual blocked ears from altitude changes, the blood vessels in the right side of my face started to pulsate during landing. Some swallowing and yawning and temple-rubbing later though, everything turned out fine and we landed in Hong Kong, one of those airports where we had to take a monorail to even get to customs and immigration.

I only had a couple hours in Hong Kong, but had a side quest for Kel to pick up a mouth guard from a dentist while there if possible. To get from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, I’d first have to take the train from the Hong Kong airport to Kowloon train station, and then take the high speed rail from Kowloon West Station to Guangzhou South Station. To do that first part, I would have to take an Airport Express train (or a slower Tung Chung line train) from the airport directly to Kowloon Station.

For Kel‘s side quest, I found that I first had to take the Airport Express train one stop further, to Hong Kong Station, and then walk about 10 minutes or so to the office. Once I retrieved it, I then would return to Hong Kong Station, and take the regular Tung Chung line one stop from Hong Kong Station to Kowloon Station, and then catch the high speed rail from there. I had not booked my high speed rail ticket yet, so my time was flexible, and Kel wanted to pick me up from Guangzhou South station but was working late that evening anyway, so those two things did line up, but the dentist office closed at 6 pm, so that was the limiting factor.

This was a little tight, but not overly so, since my flight arrived at around 3:20 pm in the end but it was about 4 pm before I was past immigrations and customs with my luggage. I found an ATM to get some money from, as I calculated that it was much cheaper for me to eat that fee than to use a money changer, and then went to buy a visitor’s Octopus card, Hong Kong’s transit card, from a machine that turned out to accept credit card for the initial purchase and value on the card anyway (though it seemed like subsequent top-ups at the regular transit station machines required physical cash).

I learnt a little later on that the initial top up value from different locations is different, though the physical tourist card itself always cost $39 HKD (about $7 CAD). I could have used a free virtual card/app, but I like having the physical cards as potentially reusable souvenirs from the places that I visit. At the airport the physical card cost $150 HKD and came with an initial value of $111 ($150 minus the $39), and that’s because the longest trip on the Airport Express, to Hong Kong Station, took $110 HKD. That’s the trip I took, and I was amused to see that I had a single dollar left on it after checking out of the gate. (I still had to top it up with $100 for the return trip and future extras though, though the non-express line was a lot cheaper).

Anyway, I wasn’t here for long, but I did snap some pictures. Firstly, I really liked how the train had a progress bar showing not just what the next station was, but how close the train was to the next station.

Next, here are some pictures I took while crossing the streets of Hong Kong to get to the building with the dentist. This was a commercial district with lots of people walking around, except for a little segment right around Hong Kong Station which was not very used because most people used an underpass that I did not know about until my return journey to get into said district. That being said, due to taking that weird route, I did also find a paid luggage holding area at Hong Kong Station itself, but I was a cheapskate and decided to lug my things around.

I liked the vibes though. After Taiwan, Hong Kong seemed a lot “cleaner” and less hmm.. struggling and on the verge of collapse (and this would be true for Guangzhou later on in the evening as well), although I only did see a very small portion of the city. I did see lots more high-rise residential and commercial buildings on the way in on the train too, though.

Also not all buses were like this and some buses were indeed regular-sized, but these particular buses, powered by an electric power line above them, seemed really narrow to my first glance.

I had no steady internet as I did not have a SIM card or portable WiFi or roaming network or anything like that here, since I was only here for a couple of hours, so Google Maps was not always accurate for me as I made my way across the three or four streets toward the dentists’ office. I managed though, plus I managed to sync my phone to the free WiFi of a bank that I passed by along the way, so that helped too.

I reached the dentist office at around 5:30 pm, and was surprised to still see easily 3-4 groups of patients, mostly foreigners, still waiting in the lounge area on chairs for the tooth fairy only knows what, that late in the day. There were two girls at the receptionist desk too, so I walked up and demanded that they handed over Kel‘s ultimate artifact, and they did so.

After that, I went down to an eatery on the ground floor of the same professional building, because Kel suggested that I eat something in Hong Kong before I came over to Guangzhou as it would be late by the time I arrived. I still could not smell or taste anything, but I did still have my appetite, and I could judge “taste” by whether which part of my tongue something was triggering, and this meal apparently tasted mostly good, except for the vegetables, which usually aren’t part of a Hainanese Chicken Rice meal anyway, so it’s a bit weird that it was in this one. It came with a side of coconut milk too.

I could actually taste a very little bit of the chilli but nothing else. It was a weird meal. After the meal, I wandered back to the Hong Kong Station, and caught a much more crowded “regular” train to Kowloon Station.

Actually getting from Kowloon Station to the high speed rail facility, confusingly and similarly named Hong Kong Kowloon West Station, involved first walking through a mall located at Kowloon Station itself.

That mall, among other things, included an unexpected ice hockey rink. Some kids were playing a game on it. It looked lika a pick-up game rather than a tournament but I didn’t go near enough to watch.

I reached Hong Kong Kowloon West station at around 6:30 pm and bought a ticket on the next available train to Guangzhou South at the counter there, which turned out to be the 8:01 pm to 9:06 pm train, with a train number of G6588. Kel had said that they close seat sales for a train 30 minutes or so before a train leaves, but this one was 1.5 hours out, so the one or two intermediary trains must have been sold out too. That or their policy is actually 1h/1.5h instead of half an hour. I read online to arrive 1.5 hours to be safe anyway, because, as the ticket counter attendant told me, I still had to go through two layers of security on two different levels to actually get to the train platform, so I should go do that right away.

As a side note, apparently if one misses the train due to being stuck in security for too long, there’s a counter after security and customs too where one can swap their ticket for a later one. Either for free or for a small fee.

As another side note, I was curious on how long it would have taken from my plane touching down in Hong Kong Airport to getting on the high speed train to China, if I had bought my ticket beforehand. I now roughly know this value, which is about 45 minutes to get from the plane to the arrival lounge and figure out currency and transit cards, up to a 10 minute wait time for an Airport Express train, about 30 minutes to Kowloon Station via the Airport Express (it’s timed for 24 minutes to Hong Kong Station but I think that is overly optimistic), about 10 minutes to walk to Kowloon West itself, and about an hour and a half (I think an hour is fine but not always) to get by all the customs and security. So if I ever do this again in the future, I would book a train ticket from Kowloon West for about 3 hours after my incoming plane to Hong Kong to be safe. 2h 30m if I wanted to be risky. 2h 45m or so and up would be fine probably though.

The one thing that affects this timing as well is that I learnt once I reached the train platform gates that the entire “train station” was very much like an airport (or rather, it’s similar to something like the New York Penn Station that I had previously been to with Nak, but with a stringent, double-layered airport screening system wrapped around it. This includes the gate “opening” 15 minutes before “takeoff” and “closing” 5 minutes before “takeoff”. So the window of time to actually enter the gate and go onto the platform to board the train was not very long at all, though in practice they probably make sure that everyone that is there on time does get onto the train. So that 2h 45m or even 3h number would include the need to be there at least 15 minutes beforehand if not more.

Rewinding a little, something else interesting did happen before I ever go that far. Immediately after buying the ticket, and before I had left the vicinity of the counter, I was ambushed by a girl in a red shirt who wanted me to answer a few questions for her. She was working for the Hong Kong Tourism Board, she said, and either she or the tablet that she was holding with the survey questions also name-dropped Ipsos somewhere in there. Her questions were about what I did in Hong Kong and what I thought of it in general. I told her that I had only been there for a couple of hours and so my answers would not be very useful, but she said that that was fine — poor girl must have had some sort of quota to fill. She still had a handful of fridge magnets or something left and said that I could pick one after I finished the survey. So of course I agreed! About five minutes later, I walked away with my new magnet. This is the girl in question, in the red shirt in this picture:

And this is the magnet that I received.

Getting through both layers of security and then getting to the train gate/waiting area took me slightly under 30 minutes even though there were basically no queues, notably partially because the fingerprint scanner at one of the identity checkpoints was weird and kept requiring only the tips of my fingers to touch the reader and not the entire finger, and it bugged out a couple times until the person told me to wipe the machine, wipe my fingers together, and then try again. I basically had to do that one twice. That station also had a machine where you could speak English into it and it would translate it automatically into Mandarin Chinese or whatever for the border guard to understand. I understood enough to do that part in the native tongue though, more or less, with some pantomiming on the part of the guard.

Once I reached the platform, I settled down on some chairs to do some people-watching for about half an hour or so before the train arrived. Stuff like this, a group of four officers carrying some sticks or something, and marching by towards and into another gate for who knows what reason.

Even though the gate was not opening until 7:46 pm, 15 minutes before the train was to leave, there was a queue forming by it from just after 7:30 pm or so, probably from people who by that point could not find a seat anyway. I joined them about five minutes before the gate opened, and by that time the columns were many rows deep.

The trains were sort of similar to Japan’s shinkansen bullet trains, but the seats were smaller and had less leg and luggage room. Not by much though, it was still easy enough to feel comfortable for most of the ride. The luggage racks were full by the time I boarded though, and the woman conductor minding the racks said to just leave my big suitcase in the connecting corridor between the two trains instead. That seemed worrying, especially since in theory someone who was leaving a couple of stops before mine could just take and make off with the suitcase and no one would be ever the wiser. I also had a window seat rather than an aisle seat, and so I couldn’t see the suitcase from where I was seated. Somehow the suitcase made it though (it wasn’t the only one relegated to the corridor in the end).

The only thing of note that happened on the trip was that there was a free water dispenser in the train, but it blasted out hot water for anyone trying to use it. I filled a water bottle with it, but it took half an hour of letting it cool before I could actually drink from the bottle!

Finally, I arrived at Guangzhou South Station:

I met Kel by the Starbucks there, and she gave me a transit card before taking the two of us onto another train line that took us to the station right by her apartment. It turned out that that was just one station away from Guangzhou South Railway Station, so in no time at all we were at her apartment. We dumped my luggage off there, I gave Kel her ultimate artifact and her plushies from a couple of days ago, though we agreed that I should keep the jellyfish for myself, and then we went downstairs for a Linlee lemonade and Tigey‘s first rubber duck from it, which made him very much confused.

We stayed up to chat a bit after we returned home and had both freshened up, and I took the COVID-19 test that I talked about at the start of the blog post before retiring to bed for the night and trying to sleep off my headaches.

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Where The Wind Takes Me - Day 22

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