Truth be told I’ve already booked our trip for Christmas at the end of August.  What can I say except that I like to plan and be well organized, but of course you already have guessed that part.

On our drive back from dropping Zach in Montreal at University it was Sam who asked what we were going to do for the Christmas break this year, as they are with me for the first 10 days then with my ex in Florida.

My typical response is “what would you like to do?”  Her eyes gleamed and she said, how about Nicaragua?  I said “sure”, but that seemed too easy for her so she said “well, what about Japan?”, I said “okay, fine with me!”.  I could see her thinking before she finally asked inquiringly “China?”

I just smiled and said you choose.  We talked about the merits of each, especially given that she is planning on going to Ecuador for March break on a school service trip she ruled Nicaragua out cos it’s in the same direction as Ecuador.  🙂

So now it was down to Japan or China…  I was game I told her, in the end after much discussion and tooing and froing Sam decided on China.

When I got back to Toronto after our road trip back from Montreal I booked our flights and hotels, including a big surprise for Sam on our last night in Hong Kong which is now all arranged.  When I asked Zach about his plans he was non-committal  in terms of his time off at Christmas, and as it worked out he doesn’t finish his last class until Dec 21, which is three days after we leave.  So his holiday will be house sitting with some of his new friends from McGill, as they’ll catch the train down after school is done and he’ll be the tour guide here in Toronto.

Next up was to check if we needed a visa to enter China.

Hhhmmm – yes and no was the answer…I guess it depends on what you consider China.  Hong Kong, although reunified with mainland China in 1997 is surprisingly still considered a separate country and as such you don’t need to get a visa to visit if you’re Canada even though theoretically it’s part of mainland China.

So we’re good to visit Hong Kong and can stay up to 90 days without a visa as long as we visit for either business or tourism reasons. 🙂

Not so with our visit to Shanghai.  For that we need a visa!

Interestingly it is a big and expensive process to get a one visit visa to go anywhere outside Hong Kong.  Yes, the government requires that you get passport photos, complete the application form (four pages) including a fully itemized list of countries that you’ve visited since January 2016.  Wait it gets better – you also have to submit you last passport and any other passport you may hold, citizenship card, hotel bookings and photocopies of your flight details.  It was one fat package with all of our documentation.

That runs you $145.20 per person for the visa, plus you have to courier it to the consulate and also provide a courier package for your passport return which is costs another $40.00.  Seriously it’s like a cottage industry!

Not only that, but it took Sam and I a few weeks to pull it all together.  A classic example was when we went to get our passport photos for the visa.  We found a local store that advertised “Passport Photos”, so Sam and I went over one Saturday afternoon, she went first with me following.  Pretty routine stuff…

My photos turned out as always (frightening when you have to have no expression on your face), but Sam had redeye, which is strictly forbidden in the visa instructions.  So she sat for another one…still the redeye, one last time…nothing but redeye!

By this time the woman taking the photo was getting extremely frustrated with Sam…like she’s doing it on purpose.  So I paid for mine and we left.  The next week after school Sam and I went to another place and they turned out just fine first time around.

This past weekend I bundled all of the documents together and sent it off to the Chinese visa services which is part of the embassy here in Toronto.  They said 7 – 10 days minimum, so I suppose it will be a couple of weeks from now when we get it all back.

My guess is that they’re going to go over everything with a fine tooth comb so fingers crossed that we get our visa’s without any issues.  Clearly no guarantee!

I’ve done my part, now it’s up to Sam to begin the fun part and draw up our list of activities and itinerary.

The last time Sam was in Hong Kong was when she was 6 and on our way to Australia.  Unfortunately, she has no memory of her visit.  During that time I’ve made a number of visits and loved every one of them.  This time I also want to do a day trip to Macau the old Portuguese settlement which is only about an hour by turbojet boat, supposed to be incredible for photography.  We’ve also agreed to visit Tian Tan Buddha (the world’s largest bronze buddha) that is located on a mountain top at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island.

For all my traveling I’ve never been to Shanghai but am definitely looking forward to it, especially since we’re staying in the Old International settlement area on the Bund overlooking the Huangpu river which is a major tributary of the Yangtze river. Talk about history, this area has been a hot spot since time immemorial!

So much to do, see and explore and another memorable trip with Sami for sure.

The holidays can’t come fast enough!  🙂