Ah, the Big Bay Area beckons! It takes no more than an hour to travel from Hong Kong to that part of China that holds so much promise.
That may be true, but I happen to be on the “wrong” side of Hong Kong.
You see, I live in Tseung Kwan O, the eastern part of Hong Kong, while the latest multibillion-dollar infrastructure for fast cross-border connectivity – the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) and the West Kowloon terminus of the Express Rail Link (XRL) – are on the western side of the city.
So it took me an hour to reach the point where I would board the transport to Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Foshan or Guangzhou, the Big Bay Area, which was supposed to be just an hour’s ride from Hong Kong.
On Sunday, I took the first train on the high-speed rail from the West Kowloon station at 8:05 a.m. I deliberately delayed my first bullet train ride a month after the XRL opening to avoid the crowds.
I had also thought that more people would prefer the HZMB to the bullet train because of the view and the lower fare. But as it turned out, I only managed to get a business class seat at HK$389 (compared with HK$243 for the ordinary seat) after all the cheaper tickets were sold out.
Ensconced in a two-seater (aisle side), I relished all the space and comfort that only a business class flight can offer, and the nice thing about it is that I was traveling on the ground. I arrived at the Guangzhou South station at exactly 8:55 a.m. as scheduled.
Only 50 minutes, about the same time it took me to travel from my home to the West Kowloon terminus.
On to my next destination: Foshan. I last visited the place six months ago on a flat-hunting expedition.
I went to the same spot I visited before: a duplex serviced apartment only available for non-Chinese residents like me.
I distinctly remember having been told by the estate agent that it would only take 20 minutes from Guangzhou station to Foshan.
Guess what, it took 16 stations with two changeovers before I reached Qiandenghu Lake Station. I didn’t have much to complain about, though, because the ride was as smooth as changing trains on the MTR in Hong Kong.
I figured it was also a 50-minute train ride, same as the time I spent on the XRL and the commute from home to West Kowloon station – for a grand total of 150 minutes, or two and a half hours.
Sad to say, my flat-hunting trip again proved futile. The price is affordable and the location is good, but I don’t think I am ready to spend that much time traveling across the border.
After a leisurely and satisfying lunch, I boarded the bus for my return trip at 2:30 p.m. The fare was 100 yuan. I slept most of the way from Foshan to Shenzhen Bay as the traffic was smooth, and made an easy transfer to another bus ride from Shenzhen Bay to Kwun Tong. I made it home at 7 p.m.
And so I can conclude that the XRL plus train trip was two hours faster than the bus ride – but it still was a long Sunday journey to the Big Bay Area and back.
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