I'm writing this at 5AM on Day 4. I'll try to record as much as I can remember. The trip hasn't been entirely eventful so far:
We landed in Hong Kong almost an hour early, which was great because I had had my fill of sitting in coach for the time being. The views as we flew in were spectacular, with all of the little islands with steep, abrupt-rising hills and mountains and skyscrapers crammed in wherever possible.
The airport looked like any other airport I've seen. Immigration was easy and uneventful. I met up with my driver on the other side of customs.
When we stepped outside together I got my first taste of the heat and humidity. The air was much denser and wetter than what I can ever remember feeling, but I'm sure it was skewed by the fact that a) I came from dry southern California, and b) I had just spent over 12 hours on a plane with recycled air.
The driver shuttled me toward the Chinese border in some kind of Toyota van that they don't sell in the states. He was friendly enough. I think he said his name was Willie. We talked about Shenzhen and how he was from Hong Kong. Willie looked quite young.
The route from the airport to the border snakes around a few different islands, with great views of the lush Hong Kong countryside. We arrived at the border, where I had to get out of the van, go through an immigration line, and meet back up with the van on the other side of the building, all the while Willie taking my things through customs. It was a 15 minute, uneventful affair.
On the other side of the border, we were immediately immersed in urban Shenzhen. We drove through the Futian district, toward Nanshan, where my hotel is. The streets were nice and clean and everywhere was packed with cars, bicycles, and pedestrians.
Willie dropped me off here at the Crown Plaza. I had no trouble checking in. I went up to the room, showered, and looked around for something to eat. The only things in the minibar were candy bars I wasn't interested in, and a bag of "mixed snack" that had some prawn sauce crackers in it. Instead, I got dressed and went across the street to the 7-11, where I found some cucumber flavored Lay's potato chips. I got those and a Carlsberg beer and took them back to my room as a little dinner. The chips were very strange tasting. I don't think I'll buy them again.
The little trip to 7-11 was my first taste of Shenzhen. I don't know why, but I had imagined I'd see a bit more English on signs to help me through, but there wasn't any. The streets were packed with people and I had no idea what shops were what. At 7-11 the girl behind the counter gave me a strange scowl when she discovered I didn't speak the language.
I went to bed at 10PM and slept like a rock. I thought my ploy to stay up all night might have helped me avoid jet lag, but here I am typing a post I started at 4:30AM. I'm sure my body will adjust to the time zone just in time for me to go back to California, in the less forgiving direction (losing time rather than gaining it).