I wanted to try and sum up China, or at least my time in China. So I put together an overall, tar brush description of the people and place. The following is a list of fun facts and opinions on this giant contradiction of a country.
So my 2 months in China is up, we have left the country and are back in Bangkok. I have long had a fascination with China, admittedly that fascination was, like most peoples, born of its historical...
I worked out the other day, that since landing in China, I have spent around 70 hours on trains. That is, 70 hours in about a month and a half. And it would have been over a hundred, had I caught the train to Beijing (they were sold out, a blessing in disguise). This truly is a vast place, and it is its scale which makes it so diverse and interesting to travel around. It also makes one a lot more patient when it comes to long journeys, you have to be, or you would go mad and batter the first Chinese fellow to hock up and spit, while you are staring into a bowl of "I can't eat that shit" train noodles.
The next leg of our trip was a train ride from Beijing to Xian, the fast train this time, and only 9 hours. Newer and more luxurious than the trains through the rest of China, this one has individual seats that recline, are soft and comfy, and even rotate 180 degrees for when changing direction (they have some great ideas in China).
Beijing is a marvelous city, there is an unending stream of things to see and places to be. It all costs a bit more than in the smaller cities around China, but then it is a modern first world metropolis of the first degree.
Chengdu to Beijing marks my first flight within China, the extreme population means that train tickets can be hard to come by, especially if like myself you leave things to the last-minute.
All set from the previous days walk, I woke at around 08:30, packed my bags, and went downstairs to check out and meet with our new friends (we had met a Canadian couple the night before and were going to hike with them). leaving our bags with the hotel, we grabbed a few complimentary walking sticks and headed out.
Immediately we were met with a bit of confusion, according to the map, we could start at two points, one required a taxi ride, and the other was a 10 minute walk away. The closer added a bit of distance (how wrong we were), but meant not having to catch a taxi, so we started off for the closer point.
Chengdu to Emei Shan this time, to go and climb another mountain. I am starting to feel the amount of time spent on transport in China. Everything is so far away that to see anything you really have to be prepared to travel, a lot. A word of advice to anyone wanting to travel around the orient, give yourself at least 2 months, or alternatively, choose a few destinations and see the rest another time. Either this or spend half your holiday traveling.
We have been in Cheng Du for about 3 days now, and it is fair to say we have not done very much. There are a few things to do around here, but most are trips to surrounding areas and take a few days themselves. So recovering from our long trip here, and the desire to do very little, has meant that today was the first time either of us had ventured very far.
And our outing of choice? The pandas.
The valley is lost somewhere in the dirt clouds thrown up by our bus and its drivers erratic acceleration. A new curve exposes a town not entirely void of character, but seemingly so after the valleys effect on me.
The houses and shops become more current in their use and wares, and mountains are obscured by the high rises needed to support a burgeoning population. The town is small-ish, and to some degree quaint, but the pollution starts to thicken as I watch towers billowing out cloud mocking smoke.
I wake from a restless sleep, my eyes struggling to cope with the prospect of leaving their dark world. The alarm buzzes again, I ignore it for a few seconds before succumbing to the irritation. At first a dream noise, it slowy brings me into reality. "07:30 already?". I had set my alarm early so as to have time to prepare myself for the days activities. Normally I would roll over and give my mind time to adapt to the onslaught of the real world, but this morning my throat burns from the virus which has disabled me for the last few days, and my bladder joins in the insistent pushing by threatening to release itself where I lie.
The train shudders to a halt, early morning intrudes on a restless sleep, and the call to wake throws my senses into a dream soup of screeching voices and clambering bodies. Apparently the screeching means "Dali! everyone off!", and three bunk high beds are tussled about by departing passengers. Sleeping on a train had so far been quite enjoyable, but this time, the hard sleeper had become my nemesis.
After the disappointment of Shenzhen I was well and truly looking forward to finding something more authentic, it seemed like Nanning (and ultimately Kunming) in Yunnan might be that place. So with ridiculously little planning we headed off to catch the train to Guangzhou, and from there to Nanning. There was a train to Guangzhou at about 15:30, and from there to Nanning at about 17:00, plenty of time.
Shenzhen, China, it's like Hong Kong, but less.
I have been looking forward to China with a mix of excitement and anxiety. I have always wanted to go and explore the place, meet the people, try the strange foods and generally be whipped out of my comfort zone, and now I am here. After leaving Sarah behind (part of the reason for feeling anxious) to go on her journey to Bali, Marty and I caught a plane from the country I called "home" for 2 and a half months, and landed in Hong Kong.