Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tropical Storm Bilis

Little did we know, we were leaving Shanghai bound for Hong Kong as tropical storm Bilis was making its presence known in southern China. Our 26 hour train ride turned into a 37 hour ride as it was 11 hours late on arrival in HK.

We boarded the train at 11am on the 15th totally oblivious and excited to be heading to HK again. The day went fine and off to bed we went thinking that we only had the next morning to kill as we were supposed to arrive in Kowloon at 1:10pm on the 16th.

As sleep is often disrupted on overnight trains, we were both awake on and off throughout and Ian thought that the train had been sitting still in spots throughout the night. In the morning, Ian pulled out his GPS and it said that we were half way between Shanghai and Kowloon. Not a good sign at all as we had been travelling for about 17 hours by then and we were only HALF way!!!

I went to ask one of the train employees what time we would get to HK and she said she didn't know. Hmmm.. not a good sign. 1pm on the 16th came and went and HK was no where to be seen. Ian started hearing people on the phone saying that we might arrive at 7pm or 11pm ... all different times. Great, just great. Finally, at around 6ish, I asked the train lady again and this time she said 1o'clock. Since my mandarin really stinks I thought maybe, I didn't hear her right. So I repeated the time and she said that was right. Holy smokes, that is 12 hours after we were supposed to arrive! She mentioned something about the bad weather, we still had no clue how bad it really was. We were wondering why we never thought of flying instead.

We found some travellers who had a cell phone handy so we could call Mona (Ian's sis in HK) to tell her that we were going to be REALLY late and now to come down to the station to meet us, we'd find our way to her place.

At 12:23am on the 17th, we finally arrived in Kowloon. Poor Ian had a rough start to his birthday, I felt terrible. Everyone was exhausted and really happy to be there. After going through customs, we were surprised to find a whole crew of tv cameras filming all the passengers departing. There were also people there directing us depending on where we wanted to go. They had chartered buses going into different parts of HK for free. What service! Never expected that. Somehow, we made it to Mona's safe and sound in the middle of the night.

The next day, we saw the severity of the storm on the news and on the paper. The storm had flooded many parts of central and southern China, right along the route our train was supposed to take. There were boulders on the tracks and many landslides. Apparently, we had taken many detours to avoid the flooded areas which explains our much delayed arrival.

We realized afterwards how completely lucky we were to have arrived at all and most importantly, in one piece.

These are clips we cut out from the paper which talks about our train delay (they said T99 but it's K99) and the many delays everyone else was experiencing.


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