I decided at the last minute to test out the newly opened high-speed rail connection between Hong Kong and Guangzhou South on the day it opened – Sunday, September 23rd. I logged on to the MTR website and was (surprisingly) able to buy tickets the night before.
The next morning, I ended up being a little late leaving home and was a little worried whether I had time to get to the station, pick up my tickets, get through both Hong Kong and China immigration – and still make my train. In the end, I made it with just 6 minutes to spare!
Picking up tickets (just like booking them) was a little overly bureaucratic. But if you have your credit card, your booking number, and identification, it’s a fairly painless event. But you still have to queue up to do it.
As a Hong Kong resident, the exit from Hong Kong was typically speedy – with just a swipe of my HKID and revealing my thumb-print to the Hong Kong security machines.
I turned out to be the second person in the foreigner queue on the Chinese side, so was all done in just a few minutes. I read afterwards that there had been quite a few delays/problems.
The train was surprisingly empty. I was in first class on the outward journey to Humen. I hadn’t realised that the tunnel out of Kowloon West station goes all the way to Shenzhen. The train emerges into daylight over the border in China – just over ten minutes after pulling out of West Kowloon. We picked up quite a few other passengers in Shenzhen – in fact, the train was almost full.
I was rather intrigued by the food app on the train. It said that you could order food via the app and get it delivered to your seat. Though I wondered how I could order a snack and get it delivered in time to my seat, given the speed of the journey. I decided to give it a go – but the app wasn’t working! I look forward to trying this again sometime!
The journey really is very, very smooth. We reached Humen, the next stop after Shenzhen North in just over another fifteen minutes. It felt good to just get off the train and leave the station (without having to face more security checks) – though, as is often the case in China, that also proved a little challenging.
I will do a separate post on the day in Humen, which proved surprisingly busy! Though I will comment a little more on transport in Mainland China. I decided to try the local bus number 8 to get to the centre of Humen. For 2 RMB, I ended up squeezing onto the second bus that arrived, and we trundled along towards the centre of the city.
I then decided to try one of the bike-sharing schemes that are ubiquitous in China these days. My bike for the final 2km of my journey was a yellow Ofo bike. It was a little small and clunky – but it did the job! I paid via the app and WeChat – and it was a fun way to get around.
To get back to the station later in the day, I decided on the more civilised Didi app to book a taxi straight to the station. That was very easy (though you will need to get the English version of Didi, if you can’t navigate the Chinese app).
On the way back I was in second class, which was also very comfortable – and not completely packed either. Once again, the train journey was fast, smooth and comfortable. I forgot to check the food app (!) – but made it back to Kowloon West after what proved to be a very do-able one day trip to Humen.
The security procedures on the way back were even easier – and I was done in a few minutes. It was interesting to see people taking pictures of the line that separates Hong Kong from the Mainland. A few pics below of the walk through from the train back to Kowloon West station itself.
Overall, the new train system seems great. Though with regards to all transport services from Hong Kong to China, what service you pick really depends where exactly you are going and what your purpose is. The MTR to Shenzhen, the ferry services to China, as well as the Guangzhou “through-train” to East Guangzhou – and even the cross-border bus services, all have a role to play in making access to Mainland China easier for everyone.