Guangzhou to Hong Kong by rail

I spent the new year holiday seeing the sights in Guangdong and Hong Kong. Probably the most interesting sights came from the 2-hour train ride from Guangzhou to Kowloon.

Haze and chaos give this away as a mainland Chinese city scene.

The cross-border terminal at Guangzhou East Station, used exclusively by the through service to Kowloon. The other option when navigating this corridor is to take a newer high-speed train from Guangzhou Station to Shenzhen, walk across the border and take the Hong Kong metro into the city center. The difference is really a wash in this traveler’s opinion, and depends largely on whether you want to see central Shenzhen (you won’t be missing much if you skip it).

A seemingly abandoned industrial facility near Dongguan. Not sure whether it’s supposed to process grain or cement or what, but it wasn’t processing much of anything as we passed by.

Guangdong seems to be full of railway construction workers who don’t actually construct anything. I give the working fifty percent full credit, but the others need to hop to it if they don’t want to get beaten out by Vietnam.

Near Shenzhen the high-rise construction gets increasingly out of control. Most of these properties seem to be residential.

Hong Kong - China border fence
A narrow river and high fence separate Shenzhen from Hong Kong at Lo Wu. You can cross the border by foot here, or ride straight through on a nonstop train.

Final stop: Kowloon, with the famous Star Ferry the only thing separating this traveler from the economic capital of Greater China.

Highly general flame-baiting conclusions: My opinions about China haven’t changed much since Shanghai two Novembers ago. As for Hong Kong (which I personally do not consider to be part of China; it’s in its own little world), it’s a cultural and sensory blast, has a legitimate claim to be Asia’s premier “world city,” and I would probably move there if I intended to remain single forever. It’s something like a miniaturized and internationalized version of Tokyo with better topography and more boats.

13 thoughts on “Guangzhou to Hong Kong by rail”

  1. Well, I moved out of Tokyo and the megacities of Japan as soon as I could, so there is no way I would want to live long-term in HK, but why should life in HK preclude getting hitched? No nice girls there?

  2. My thought exactly,Where’s the flame-baiting conclusions?
    HK girls are hot,more so than the Japanese,you know.
    Problem with HK is the price of the rent.Even more expensive than Tokyo.

  3. I went to HK when I was 17 in 1999… I remember it was cool that the word for “New World” was the same in Japanese and Chinese… had my first taste of disgusting syrupy Chinese alcohol, there was a santa with a dragon for the new year… an Indian man in a suit begged me and my Japanese co-traveler for “school money” very aggressively… Many many Indian suit sellers, also aggressive… Lots of weird Chinese medicine. Good food, bought a Faye Wong CD at HMV and freaking loved it. they use bamboo for scaffolding. Kowloon bay is really nice at night.

    Thats about all I remember from 2 days.

  4. Actually what I remember when I visited (back when it was still part of the British Empire) was the way that Chinese wrote the “centre” of “shopping centre” as 中心. How very logical. Ever since then I have appreciated how the Chinese, thanks to a lack of katakana for one thing, will often actually translate foreign words rather than give us a slew of katakana muddlings. I also was impressed (and this dates my visit) by seeing “Jurassic Park” rendered as it should be:
    ジュラ紀公園 would be the Japanese equivalent, but 公園 would be wrong: it was not a public park. ジュラ紀園 alone is better. 遊園?

  5. Reading back on your old entry on Shanghai, I don’t understand why you (and some of the commenters there) were exepcting Shanghai to be like Tokyo at all. If you guys do any research or bother to be familiar with the history and culture at all, China is still a developing country and Tokyo has been a modernize cities since much much much much earlier. Why the comparison and set yourself to be “disappointed”? Calling it a “shithole” is like saying why India isn’t up to your 1st world Tokyo comfort standard.

  6. Syrupy Chinese Alcohol at the age of 17? Hmmm…
    But didn’t also you write the post about drinking a cocktail just like that before you go to bed when you were still in Bangkok?

    I was there for seven days in 1997,a month after hand over.
    Got kinda bored after the third days so I even went to MaiPo marshes in New Territories for bird watching.
    Hong Kong is a nice place to visit,or good place if you are constantly travelling around greater China and SE Asia,but living there with boots on the ground?
    No way.I’d prefer Bangkok or Seoul instead.
    Things might be different if you are from English speaking world,though.

  7. “Why the comparison and set yourself to be “disappointed”?”

    Probably because of how China and the tourist industry like to promote Shanghai. As this hypermodern hyper-developed neon fantasy with a few quaint old carefully gentrified nooks.

  8. I was in Albany yesterday getting sworn in to the New York bar. There was an extremely well-traveled young lady next to me in the waiting room who had never been to Japan but wanted to know if Tokyo was anything like Shanghai, where she had worked for several months. I don’t know where these expectations come from but they’re certainly out there and not limited to the clueless.

  9. Actually I think Yokohama is the more obvious comparison, but that’s just from their shared history as port cities. Mind you, they both have a touristy Chinatown….

  10. Yokohama is way more boring city compared to Shanghai.
    Partially because we kicked out gaijins far more quicker than Chinese.All the great buildings in Shanghai are designed and used by foreign expat community and only Chinese involvement was throgh providing work force.While Yokohama’s were designed and built and used by the Japanese and that somehow made modernization easier,but totally lacks touristic value.
    Never go to Yokohama China town for meals.It’s total rip-off.Too expensive and not exaclty tasty.Rapidly growing China street in Shin-Okubo is offering better deal.

    While I love Hong Kong for it’s freedom and openness toward foreigners(something that is lucking here in Tokyo,I admit)still Shanghai could be the place to be if you are young and ambitious,for the best days of Hong Kong is over and the wind is now blowing from Shanghai.

  11. @Aceface, what kool-aid you been drinking? Shanghai lags way behind HK in every conceivable way. I don’t really get why anybody would actually WANT to live in this toxic shithole of a sprawl. Sure it’s great with a fat expat package, eating at foreign restaurants every night, drinking at Bar Rouge and Attica before being chauffeured back to your serviced apartment…in other words have zero contact with real life here. Shanghai has no class and the Shanghainese are crude and for the most part openly hostile. Foreigners are by and large white single guys who are such losers that China is the only place in the world where women won’t openly laugh in their faces. (No my gf isn’t Chinese!)

    Harsh? Perhaps, but I just find Shanghai extremely overhyped. Certainly no competition for HK. HK is world-class. You think it’s days are numbered? How’s the Shanghai stock market doing these days? 🙂

  12. I recently took the same train from the GZ East rail station to Hong Kong – I was amazed at how nice the train was. I paid a couple of extra bucks to upgrade to first class, but it was really unlike anything I’ve seen in the American public transportation system. I wish we had something like that here (and not only was it comfortable, it was fast too).

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