Many people’s preferred route on crossing the border from Shenzhen, Guangdong, China into Hong Kong is by public transport. I undertook this route myself, in order to save about 1,000 RMB in airfare, and also to witness first hand the crowds of Chinese, who cross back and forth in order to make a better living buying and selling on different sides of the border for vastly different prices. I had to go into Hong Kong to exit and enter China before overstaying a 90-day period, but also to get some much needed duty free shopping out of the way. Cosmetics and high-end beauty products cost a fraction of the price in tax-free shopping centers like Sun Plaza, just off stop Tsi Sha Tsui on HK’s MTR Tsuen Wan Line (red).
I’ve lived in China for about two years now, and working in model management, have mastered the art of short-term cheap travel in order to bypass the increasingly strict Chinese visa laws, which have been rapidly changing over the last years. I explain different methods of extending visas, quick one-day travel in and out of Hong Kong, and the benefits of applying in KL versus Jakarta or Bangkok, for individuals who may have too many Chinese visas in their passports. I can go on and on about what to do, and how to do it, but going there myself allowed me to broaden my perspective. I flew in through China Eastern Airlines from Shanghai to Shenzhen, which takes about two hours. When I arrived, I asked how to get to the metro, and took bus M13 to LuoBao line 1 (green), Huoru station. This took about 5 to 10 minutes. I had learned from telling multiple models before me, that I’d have to go into Hong Kong merely one stop, at Shang Shui station via the terminal line stop, Luohu.
Some of the logistics I did not consider prior, however, was that fact that I’d need some Hong Kong dollars to purchase a ticket, and exactly how much transport would cost. It costs about 40 HKD, or roughly $7 for just one stop into Hong Kong, which after arriving there realized I’d have to go into HK much further. At a mall across the station, I asked about the duty free shopping zones. At this point I was calculating everything against CNY, the currency I’ve measured against for some time now, and every penny counted when considering steep tariffs and relatively meager Chinese wages. When they informed me I’d have to go toward Harbor bay, I had no clue the 11 stops would take about an hour and a half, or that it would cost another $13.
On a crowded metro line, this means standing, surrounded by a lot of people. And so the day began. After running around, recounting in my mind when I had first visited Hong Kong with the boy in 2011, I realized how much smaller the world had grown in my mind. Hong Kong no longer held a magical aura of exoticism for me. Talking to my colleagues before I headed out, I knew where to get cosmetics and perfume duty free- now small luxuries I only buy at airports. The difference in prices astounded me!
A Korean collagen mask that I pay 18RMB($3) for in Shanghai, I could get for 3RMB($.50). I acted like a kid in a candy store. From Mac makeup to my signature scent, I left no shopping stone unturned. As the sun set, and I glanced at the time I had left, I rushed back to the MTR toward the border of HK and China. This ticket cost me $14. Again I stood for the hour and a half back toward Luohu station, on a tight and seatless metro, watching the mass exodus of Chinese people buying Nestle coffee and Ferrer Rocher chocolates in bulk, just to stand outside the Shenzhen side and sell for a premium.
After coming back to Shanghai, retelling the tale to one of my students, he explained to me why Chinese people do this. These entrepreneurs don’t just do this to turn some profit, but also because the quality of mainland products pales in comparison to HK items. He explained to me that many name- brand foodstuffs and toiletries in China are actually bad copies packed with dangerous chemicals and cheaper substitutions.