Sometimes it makes me feel like writing a blog almost nobody will ever see feels redundant.
However, China can be a daunting country to visit. Between the cost of a plane ticket, contamination, hurdles to get a visa, the HUGE language barrier and a lot of partial misconceptions steer a lot of people away.
I was in fact going to Canada and the Philippines for vacation, but a last minute change of dates for my vacations screwed me big time and I had to purchase a different plane ticket. I already had my mind set at visiting Shanghai as a layover en route to Manila, and couldn't miss out on the interesting things the country has to offer. I therefore bought a round trip via Aeromexico.
I've traveled Mexico's flagship airline to Tokyo once and they are a good airline for these long haul flights. Usually these tickets costs around a prohibitive 35,000-40,000 MXN, but either I was just really lucky or it was still low tourist season last May and so I got a very good deal for 17,000 MXN. Only bad part of the deal was that both flights left at 5 am. Spending the night in two airports isn't all that great, but getting to China and back was sure worth it.
First step, the visa.
I have two citizenships which come with the perk (and curse) of visa free travel to different countries. Cool because I can easily enter Bolivia as a mexican without hassles, but enter Chile as an American without paying the entry courtesy tax for mexicans. The bad thing is that certain countries are cumbersome to visit as a mexican. I can visit Cuba without a fuss, but I can't enter Puerto Rico with my mexican passport because as an unofficial part of the USA, I'd need a US tourist visa which I can't get for obvious reasons). I have to be picky with travel routes which can cause a few headaches sometimes.
For these reasons, of all the years I have ben traveling abroad, I've never had the need to get a tourist visa until now.
China has a consulate in Mexico City that has a very hassle free tourist visa process. Just go online, print the form which asks you to write your port of entry, around 50% of your itinerary with hotel (hostels are ok too) reservations, your address, job title, job address and phone and a suitable passport sized photo. You must bring a copy of your hotel reservations, passport plage with your photo and email confirming flight or ferry reservation as well. You leave your passport with them so that they glue the visa on it.
The office opens Mon-Fri between 9 am-1:30 pm. I showed up on a Monday and the place was almost empty. I was probably waiting in line 20 minutes at the most. Since I had all of the required forms filled out, the consul simply asked me if I wanted a single or multiple entrance visa. As much as getting a 2 entrance visa would be great, you have to use it within a 6 month time frame. Since I don't get vacations every 2 months, that would have been pointless. I also told her it had to be the urgent visa that is ready in 24 hours. She looked at my papers, retrieved the ones she needed, returned everything else and gave to me a voucher to pay at any HSBC bank for 700 MXN. I had to return tomorrow after 9 am at the express line to pick up my passport with the visa, pretty much confirming I had an approved visa.
Everything went smoothly the next day and there was no going back!
After flying over a good portion of Japan (I got to see Nagoya, Osaka and Hiroshima from above), the plane crossed the sea for around 90 minutes and I finally got my first glimpse of Chinese soil. Lest to say, it was very swampy with a lot of freight boats bussing around. I don't know why the photo ended up looking so clouded. While smog is a true issue in China, the view was a lot clearer than this image.
Staff sprayed the cabins with some really nasty pungent aeroseol to ward off mosquitos that was pretty awful for a few minutes, but otherwise, the plane made a smooth landing and my heart was pounding nonstop with excitement that I had just officially landed in my 9th country!
I'll be uploading more entries about my trip and some tips so that you have as much fun as I did!