Monday, January 12, 2009

On the night train

The hectic travelling starts again. First a train out of Hong Kong back into mainland China and back to the hell hole of Guanzhou. It was so humid there and we had to spend most of it on the dirty streets before heading to the train station once again. We had spoiled ourselves in Hong Kong so we had to start pinching pennies again to make sure we would survive the rest of the trip.

So in an effort to save a few bob we got a third class ticket bound for Nanning. These tickets are not given to "westerners" so we had to get a Chinese man to buy them for us. It was an overnight train and all we had were seat tickets. Not too bad you might think...but there is a reason why the tickets are not sold to westerners. These carriages are packed to the gills with people, smelly, dark, damp and pretty dangerous. There were standing tickets too for the people who couldn't afford to sit for 12 hours. The conditions were appauling. We had to tie our bags around ourselves and we had to take turns to sleep as even if we looked away there were hands pulling at our gear.

People got drunk as the night went on and thats when the fights started. There were people shouting and pointing at us. We stayed together. We tried to ignore them. I couldn't. I just wanted to scream...FxxK OFF!!!!!!. But I knew that it would make no difference. The pointing and shouting turned to poking and shouting. I lost it. I will not repeat what I shouted and probably would be locked up if i did. But after my rant things seemed to quieten up. I had beaten China.....for now!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

1st September: Hong Kong Sing Song

I woke up feeling like I was sleeping in a shoebox. But it felt great. Knowing that a good breakfast was soon to pass my lips. I think this is what Muslims must feel like at the Iftar as their fast is broken. The difference was that I hadn't had a fry in over a month! We almost skipped down to Delaney's Irish pub with it's sign outside:

Full Irish Breakfast $99.

The price didn't matter at this stage. I wanted to fill my belly with sausages, rashers, bread and orange juice and all washed down with an extra cold pint of Guinness, well, I am on holidays afterall!

We could barely move after the feast and trundled down the road towards the water. The ferry over to Hong Kong island would have been nice but for all of us fearing of our breakfast reappearing like Jesus did, only this would have been less of a miracle. We fell in love with Hong Kong island. I don't know if it was purely the fact that we hadn't experienced consumerism for a month or the fact that it sparkled like a new penny. We hopped on the tram up to the top of Victoria peak to get a view of the place and were in awe at the cities skyline. Very impressive.
We took a walk around the top of the hill and each of us picked out which mansion best suited our personalities. My one had a pool, a wine rack, a cheese board and a modelling agency! I didn't take a photo.Then it was time to go to the pub. It was the first real session we had been on for a good while.......and it was great. Good food and good beer. There was dancing and singing and jumping and shouting and whispering loudly and even a drinking competition. I was the first to enter and won my round hands down. This is me warming up Richard for his round. Poor Richard got a raw deal though as he had to drink through a straw. As you can see I'm a bit merry here.

When we eventually left the pub we had to get the boat back across the harbour but it broke down half way bobbing in the water for half an hour and for the second time that day we felt like throwing up all over the boat. Once again had all been self inflicted.

I don't remember falling asleep.

Friday, May 30, 2008

August 31st: Out of China, into........well, China

Woke up again this morning to the smell of more pot noodles. It’s just sickening. We tried to stay in bed but had to get up in the end because of our crowded room on the train. The married couple from last night had already had a massive fight and she had gotten off the train somewhere during the night. That’s going to last long!

We exited the train to a seething mass of people in the city of Ghuanzhou. Our train to Hong Kong was not until 7.30pm so we had to arse around in this horrible city. It was really dodgy and very polluted.

The train to Hong Kong lifted our spirits. Lovely big leather reclining seats and a waitress that served us beer on the entire 1 hour journey into the city. Arriving in Hong Kong is like going to some futuristic city……..well, from where we had just come from. The taxi driver spoke English and we were at our hostel in a matter of minutes. It was soooo easy. Our room was on the 12th floor. It was about 5 feet by 3 feet in size and they had managed to squeeze 3 beds into the place. The door couldn’t even open properly without hitting one of the beds.

We went for a stroll around the streets and found a Singapore restaurant for a bit of dinner. It was the quickest service I have ever seen. Our soups were out before the waiter even left the table with our order. No joke. After dinner we headed to Delaney’s Irish pub for a pint. We all got an extra cold Heineken which was a nice change from a month of drinking Tsingtao Beer. We nearly choked when we found out how much they cost. 5.30 Euro!!!! per pint. And here are we trying to stick to a budget. Maybe Tsingtao isn’t that bad.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

30th August: A choo-choo train and a wedding train.

Its time to leave western China behind us and head back to the east. This involves taking a 28 hour train trip along the south of China. We barely made the train as we stopped to get some beer to soften the long train journey. Again we were the height of attention as all the posh travelers take the planes and wouldn’t dare being stuck in a small cabin with 12 people. We of course were on a strict budget.

The smells in the train were terrible again as everyone in our carriage opened their pot noodles as the train took off. This did not bode well with the hangover. A new craze had also started. Eating hard boiled eggs in the pot noodle. As you can imagine it smelled even worse coming out than it did going in.

In our carriage full of strange people staring at us there was what could only be a newly wed couple whose honeymoon was this trip on the train. They spent most of the journey under the sheets tossing around and moaning. Not the nicest thing to be sleeping under.

On the good side of the trip were the views. We passed huge waterfalls, rolling hills, weird rock formations and hundreds of kids washing themselves in the sewers. Amazingly, it was the first time we had seen a paddy field in our month in China.

We cracked open the beers early but the conductor came around at 8pm and literally put everyone to bed. She was really annoyed with us because we couldn’t understand her and I got a bit worried when she jumped into my bed and pretended to sleep. Then I realized that she was telling us to go to sleep.
While bored on the train I decided to get rid of the rough and ready hunter/gather image:

And return to my boyish looks.

29th August: When there’s nothing to do, drink.

We arrived in Kunming at 6, a few hours ahead of schedule. After every taxi driver trying to rob us for a trip to the train station, we decided to walk. Because of this, all of the tickets to Ghuanzhou had been sold out so we would have to spend the night here in Kunming.

As we came out of the train station there were hundreds of people on the square dressed in three different colours, blue yellow and green. They were all doing Tai Chi in perfect unison led by a black cloaked master.

We searched around town and found what seemed to be the only hostel in the 4.3 million populated area. Again we were spoiled with running water that was on the luke warm side of cold.
Rich decided to lay low for a while while Fi and I visited the Bamboo temple which was well worth the trip out of town for. On entry its like every other temple we’d visited but as we delved deeper we found huge halls filled with hundreds of sculpted monks in ‘strange non-monk like poses’. The most impressive was the surfing monk, who was riding the waves on a fish.
With nothing else to do in this town we went and did what we do best. Drink. And drank some more. The session ended by us convincing Rich to get a massage. After an hour he came out looking none too impressed. Three Chinese girls had spent the hour by ‘hurting him as much as they could’. He told us he couldn’t tell them to stop because they had no English and for the most of the time he couldn’t scream because one of the three was standing on his windpipe.
After being in China for nearly a month now, I have mastered the art of squatting. Here's a few tips for budding travelers to areas of the world where sit down toilets are unheard of. Notice in the picture below that my feet are firmly on the ground. If I was not flat footed I would lose balance. Also notice how my hands are placed out in front for extra balance. This is particularly manditory on wet slippery floors.
And thats how you squat.....outside a temple. TaDaaa!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

28th August: Tiger Leaping Gorgeous

We woke up this morning to the sound of lashing rain against the window. We looked out the window to the site of the spectacular gorge as the clouds began to clear across the peaks.
On the second leg of the trek we descended the whole way down to the rapids plunging through the narrow gorge. Once we got to the rapids we couldn’t hear each other talking with the sound of the water crashing off the walls of the gorge. Looking back up, we were dreading the climb back. On the way back up we came to a fork in the path. A lonely sign stood there with two arrows. One arrow leads to the safe but longer path while the other points to the ‘dangerous ladder’. We decoded on the latter. When we saw the ladder we nearly turned back straight away. They should have written perilous ladder, not dangerous ladder. It was an old rusty ladder that seemed to go up and up forever. We couldn’t see the top. We were a bit pressed for time so we decided to chance it. Halfway up the never-ending ladder my legs started to shake. I made the mistake of looking down at the angry waters below as the ancient ladder creaked and swayed. To be honest the rest of the climb was a blur. All I remember was sitting up and looking around. I was at the top and we were all sprawled out on the ground catching our breath as we realised what a stupid thing we had done. By some luck all of us had survived. When we reached the road above we decided to get into a van and get a lift back to Jane’s guesthouse. Halfway down the road we were brought to a dead stop as the road was covered with boulders from a landslide that had happened overnight with the rain. We had to climb over the top and hike quickly back to the guesthouse miles away. There we waited for an eternity for a bus. Eventually it came and brought us back to Lijang.
In Lijang another bus awaited us. A type of bus I had never been on before. A sleeper bus. It sounded exotic and what not but it was an awful thing altogether. The bunks were tiny both in width and length and the smell was out of this world. Our bus contained mostly kids who proceeded to vomit incessantly the whole way. Only 12 hours to go on this bus. Amid the vomiting and opium smoking teenagers I managed to fall asleep.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

August 27th: The tiger went over the mountain...

The Tiger Leaping Gorge is so named from the legendary tale of a tiger leaping across at a narrow patch to escape hunters. Its’ scenery is awesome and would send a shiver up your back. We arose early to start on the trek. We are going to try and walk the gorge in two days. A day less than expected. We headed off and up to the high pass, it is a tougher walk on the high pass but you have less chance of being squashed by falling boulders!

It started out easy enough but a part of the trail called the 28 bends slowed our pace right down. When we got to the top of the 28 bends we came across a man who was just staring into the gorge over a thousand feet below.
I am completely over my chronic diarrhea but as you can see it took a big toll on my weight.

After 5 and a half hours of a trek we stopped for a rest and some lunch. We made tracks as soon as possible as we wanted to make the Walnut Garden before dark. Three hours later and we had made it.
We stayed in a place called Sean’s guesthouse. Sean was a one armed hippie who just loved to preen his flowers. He had a menu which included a “happy food” section. We soon found out that all the food on this part of the menu was loaded with marijuana. Sean also had the only hot shower in all of western China. After a long soak and a scrub we squashed into the tiny room and collapsed into a ball from the long trek. My eyes were closed before I hit the pillow (hard floor).