25 February 2001

Hong Kong : N22 E115

17 February 2001 : Troopie has arrived in Hong Kong !
We had planned to leave Hong Kong on February 18th. This will not be possible and we are happy ! The "Yokohama Senator" arrived in Hong Kong with a delay of several days. We got our car back a few days ago and now drive what is probably the only foreign number plate car in Hong Kong (excepting number plates from mainland China) and .. the Chinese People's Liberation Army.


Paperwork, paperwork and paperwork ...
Working at a shipping company...                            and the Hong Kong Customs Department
We had been in touch with the Transport Department for nearly a year concerning bringing in a car with a foreign number plate. All was set : we needed to be visitors to HK, have our car registered and insured in our home country and bring the car in temporarily. One day after our arrival, we presented all documents to Hong Kong's Transport Department and ... were issued our ICP (International Circulation Permit) in 15 minutes ! We should have known.. this was too good to be true. A few days later, our shipping line contacted us to have papers prepared in order to take delivery of our container. We had a shock when they asked us for an import license from the Customs Department. This meant two problems. First : one needs to be a resident to import goods into HK (whereas we needed to be a visitor to obtain the ICP). Second : importing you car means paying import duties of more than 120% (in Hong Kong first registration tax) which seems rather expensive for 2 or 3 weeks ! We spent a tense evening. All of this happened on a Thursday. Our boat arrived the following Tuesday and we were asked to book a time to unload the container 24 hrs in advance. Friday morning, 9 o'clock sharp, 1st visit to the Transport Department, 10.30 visit to the Customs Department who, in a very pragmatic or Chinese way, help us solve the dilemma of the 2 documents. 11.30 We sit down in a small restaurant to write a letter explaining our project and asking for an exemption to the rule. 12.00 We make photocopies of all required documents. 12.20 We rush back to the Customs department to hand in our file ! Although they usually require 14 working hours, we can come back on Monday afternoon ! If all goes according to plan, we have succeeded in importing our car into HK without paying the first registration tax. We are happy !


Hong Kong's container port
The following Thursday, we head for the CFS container terminal in Kwai Chung hoping the discharge paper we have obtained from the shipping company will do the trick. We learn that "CY" containers are trucked out of the port whilst "CFS" are emptied on the spot and wonder how hundreds of containers can be emptied in Hong Kong where space is so limited. Here is the astonishing answer : a 10 storey building where trucks hauling 40 feet containers can drive up each floor. It's hell on earth : it's dark, noisy and diesel fumes are horrendous...


Truck will reverse and dock their containers against a 1.5 meter wall from where they are then emptied by an army of non-English speaking but very friendly Chinese workers.


We hand over our paper to several people before something happens. We are told to go to dock number 61. Here's our container ! People are quite surprised when the doors open and a car appears. We are excited like children. The battery is reconnected and the engine fires immediately and the the car is driven out. One man with a forklift splits the wood that held the well packed tent at the end of the container and it is lifted out (not so gently, as we will later see). We had wondered how we were going to be able to lift the tent back onto the roof of the car but we find exactly the man we need ! Another forklift driver places palettes alongside the car to make this easier.


As we want to leave the building, we are asked for the paper we received when we "drove in". We have no paper. What is our number plate ? BMF 650 ? Doesn't sound good. The wise man at the gate wants no problems and waves us away. As we drive out we are surrounded by much bigger vehicles than ours but we are ecstatic. Jumping in the car and singing along with the Supremes, the only tape in the car. *This* is the start of our adventure !


In 5 years in Hong Kong, I have never seen a vehicle with a foreign number plate. That afternoon, we add our "B" sticker to the car as well as a little Belgian flag. 


Party time !
Our last weeks in Hong Kong have been busy with farewell parties with our friends. First we had a party with Sam, then a party with some Belgian fellows, then a boat trip out to Sai Kung. We think we need a holiday !    Here are some pictures.

  Party with Sam 

  Belgian party
  Boat trip

All is well !

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