Lijiang saturday and sunday, waiting …
The next day we decided to book the flight of monday evening. There were two tickets left. Got them. It meant that we would show up at the Consulate on tuesday in stead of monday, four working days left until our flight to Europe on the first of august. Via Booking.com we booked three nights in the same nice hotel in Shanghai where we’ve been before. Booking has their servers outside China that’s why the connection is very slow. And then the long waiting began. I missed my iPod with my music. Saturday an sunday slowly went by. We went to town to find a new camera. But my thoughts were not with buying expensive gear and prices were the same as in Europe anyway. We took the bus back to the ancient town and there was a pickpocket sitting behind me. I felt his hand on my left hip, probably searching for my pocket. I turned away and put my hand in my pocket and I normally would have been very upset, but to my surprise I hardly wasn’t. More sad than angry.
Although we were in a nice touristic area we did not enjoy it very much. Our thoughts were not with having holiday. Sunday evening I was surfing the web to see what the Foreign Affairs in Holland had to say about this situation. They showed step by step information about what to do when your passport is lost in China. (…) And there I read two things that worried me. It said that when you have to take the train or airplane to get to the Consulate you need your picture attached on the police report. The second thing was that the processing time to get a Chinese visa is five working days. That meant that we had to go back to the police station for the picture and that we should count on leaving China later than planned and booked. I just couldn’t believe it. I told Hillie this new information and she went rather emotionally on it. Mostly because of my worried face she told me later. I didn’t know what would happen either, but with the confidense I had I tried to cheer her up. ‘I will be glad when we are back in Shanghai’ she said. I agreed.
Lijiang, monday morning, revisiting the police.
So monday morning I asked the hotel for the address of the police station. They rang the police and wrote down the address in Chinese characters. A taxi driver drove us far out of town to a place we’ve not been before. It didn’t feel right. In a compound with many government buildings was a big Public Security Bureau. It was a quiet area with hardly any traffic. I asked the taxi driver to wait for us and so she did. In the big office building we found no English speaking persons, but it was clear that we were in the wrong place. Many office rooms, but no reception or waiting room for the public. However, the red stamp on the police report I received friday has a number in it, which is the code for the police station. I didn’t know that. Apart from the language problem people were eager to help us and someone wrote down the address of that station. The taxi drove us back into town to the station we have been before.
To our relief the officer we spoke friday was still there. I tried to explain what the Dutch authorities wrote, but he was persistent that at the airport I did not need a photograph on the police report. ‘We don’t do that. With this paper all aliens can travel in China, but not leave China. At the airport the police can see your picture in the computer. It’s a big database. And questions at the airport of Lijiang will be easier solved as the passport was lost in Lijiang.’ He gave us the telephone number of his police station and his personal cellphone number. Just in case. I showed him my drivers license with photo. Will that help I asked. He thought that I would probably not need it. To be sure he checked my birthday on the papers with that on my drivers license because the way dates are written is not everywhere the same.
All in all this took us four hours in driving the wrong direction, talking with no result and walking back to the hotel while nothing had changed. We kept feeling uncertain, expecting the unexpected.
Lijiang, monday afternoon, at the airport.
Late in the afternoon we went to the new airport of Lijiang, arriving there hours before our flight would take off. I strolled around the shops and came in the bookstore with only Chinese books. The bookstore-lady spotted me and with a big smile she presented me the English edition of Lost Horizon by James Hilton. As if she knew that I was looking for that book, or was it her nice smile? Anyway, I bought it. Hilton was the first who in the thirties wrote about Shangri-La and the big lamasery there and Lost Horizon was the first paperback published ever. With a huge success. In a way that horizon was our destination. But not this year. I’m happy with the book. When time came we checked in at the airline desk. The police report instead of passport gave no questions, easy. Then to the security check. Not that easy. Hillie went through with her passport and I was stopped. Wait! the security-lady said and went off with my police report. We stood there waiting for some twenty minutes. Looking at each other, Hillie behind the security gate. Fortunately she had a chair. When the lady came back from a police office she asked me if I had a photoID. I gave her my drivers license. Another short while later she came back and told me that I could go through. Off we went to the lounge, relieved that another step was taken. After midnight we arrived in our hotel in a steaming hot Shanghai.
(Next episode on: “Public Security Bureau”)