Shenzhen, Hong Kong, LSAT, Beijing
What a pain-in-the-ass date they chose though! It is during one of the biggest national holidays in China, and with the country becoming more affluent, that means more people able to travel, which means more demand for a limited supply of tickets. Maybe I should have just waited for the December test, which I can take right here in Beijing. Well, at least if I am not happy with my score I can retake the test in December, right? Anyhow, in order to try to minimize traveling expenses and time, I am taking a train straight from Beijing to Shenzhen, a 24-hour ride with a hard-sleeper ticket, which costs approximately $55, one way. The frustrating thing is that you can only buy train tickets four days in advance (I think this policy is changing soon, if not already, though the rules are unclear) and only in the city from which you are leaving! This considerably limits my options and chances of even getting the ticket. Plus, you can imagine waiting in the half-mile-long lines for buying such a ticket with the possibility of not even getting it.
Shenzhen is seemingly a very interesting city. In order to understand why, you have to understand that Hong Kong is a special economic zone (we all know that, I know) and that for a Chinese mainlander (that is, all Chinese living in China excluding those in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macao), a special visa, or some permit, is required to go there, which severely limits the number. For us foreigners, you have to have a single entry visa either as part of your current visa or separately. Shenzhen is interesting because it is the border town, the buffer as it were between Hong Kong and the mainland and therefore, I would imagine, is a kind of an amalgam of both: cheap but with that unique Hong Kong energy and express. From Shenzhen it is apparently quite easy to go to Hong Kong for foreigners. The trouble is coming back. It would be comparable to a US citizen going to Tijuana: you just drive across the border without stopping but upon return you need a valid ID and are subject to inspection. For those from Hong Kong entering the mainland, I am not exactly sure but I would be highly surprised if they can't come and go as they please.
So what I decided to do was buy an earlier ticket to go down thus enabling me enough time to buy a ticket from Shenzhen to Beijing. But I soon realized this is impractical since there is no guarantee of a ticket no matter how early I arrive to buy tickets and the day I would like to return is the busiest traveling day during the vacation! Well, then, what to do? I settled on buying a one-way plane ticket from Shenzhen to Beijing, leaving on the day of my test. It is a 2hr 50min flight and cost $150 (and will be delivered for free any minute now). That is a hefty price to pay being inflated for the holiday and I could have gotten a ticket two days later for $105, but I figure I can skip the lines, the chances of not getting a train ticket back, and the 24-hour ride back thereby eliminating all of the ambiguities, expenses involved, and time issues. Plus, I have a good Chinese friend in Shenzhen that I will be staying with (Thank You WangWei!!!) so I don't mind arriving a bit early. And, this will give me about day to explore Hong Kong a bit before I head back to Beijing to prepare applications and get ready for a 9-6 workweek.