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My next journey to Shenzhen was to be my final one from Riyadh. I’d finished my notice period, cashed out my bank account and turned the pitiful amount remaining into Euro and had booked a night flight on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong.

Last views of Riyadh, this airport is a fantastic piece of architecture both inside and out. By and large all the people who work in it are friendly and helpful, despite the ridiculous amount of bureaucracy they have to live with.

The flight was lovely, the little I saw of it, in order to escape a hideous excess baggage charge (if you go a few kilos over you’ll end up paying rather more for your luggage than your own flight) I was travelling in business class (for some reason they don’t like to ask business travelers to cough up extra cash and you can quite often take double the stated luggage allowance and pay nothing more). The leg from Riyadh to Manama (Bahrain) was uneventful and sadly dry too. So I sat and waited impatiently for touchdown and a beer.

The lovely stewardess fetched me a glass of champagne as soon as the doors were closed in Manama, and in my usual style I downed it on the runway and then fell asleep. I woke up in Hong Kong, so I have no idea what the food or service is like on Cathay’s flights but the chairs are very comfortable indeed.

Alright the Grand Mercure is not the best looking hotel from outside but it is lovely inside.

This time my wife was waiting for me at the airport as we had to spend a couple of days in Hong Kong while I arranged my Chinese visa through CTS (China Travel Service). This was a mistake, CTS not only massively overcharge for the visa in comparison to just going to the Chinese consulate, but the service is terribly inefficient and I had to wait 5 days just to get a two entry visa in my passport. If I’d known better, I could have gone to an agent and had it done in four hours for the same money. While the ladies of CTS were lovely and helpful I wouldn’t recommend their visa service to anyone.

I’ll come back to our time in Hong Kong in a later post and skip forward to Shenzhen. We were going to Shenzhen for two reasons, one so I could leave all the luggage I had brought with me from Saudi in my wife’s sisters house. Moving countries without removal men is hard work. And two so that Zhang Min could apply for a visa to Malaysia and we could finally get the honeymoon we’d been denied after getting married.

This time we stayed in the Grand Mercure, in ZhuZhilin, which is just outside of Futian one of the three main centers of Shenzhen. The hotel was brand new at the time, and came with the little service quirks of new hotels around the world. This is mainly confused staff wondering how to achieve things that nobody has ever asked them for before. Nonetheless overall it was excellent and a huge improvement on our previous stay.

The rooms were of a good size, and much larger than the one we’d stayed in in Hong Kong. The bed was massive and comfy, and while the views were nothing to write home about that’s true for pretty much anywhere in Shenzhen. The staff at least tried to make everything nice, and even ran to the local shop to buy Western cigarettes for me instead of trying to force local brands on me instead.

This wasn't our room - but imagine one with one less bed and it's identical. Very nice aren't they?

The only disappointment at the time was that there was pretty much no-one else there, the rather fabulous sports bar was deserted – despite having not just big screen action and a pool table, but also Nintendo Wii consoles set up for competitive play between drunks. The beer in there is fantastically cheap too coming in at 18 RMB for a buy one get one free deal that runs almost all night long. You can’t beat 90p a bottle in a five star hotel can you really?

In retrospect it wasn’t the best location to choose to get to know Shenzhen, but as I hadn’t seen Zhang Min since the wedding nearly 5 months before I wasn’t all that interested in exploring Shenzhen if you know what I mean.

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