Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Wednesday 27th April 2011

MP3 track of the day: Big big world Emilia

Weather: Even hotter than Xi'an; the humidity has risen too and I feel like that I'm back in Cambodia.

I can't quite remember the time but it was dark; the birth opposite me had exchanged occupants and, instead of a middle-aged man, I saw a young lady. It took a few moments to realise that there was another person with her; I cringed knowing that my lie-in was now in jeopardy as the lady had a young child. I rolled within my birth to face the other way.


It wasn't the child that awoke me but the scruffy looking Chinese man in the bunk above. He was shouting down his phone at 6am; as China's within one time zone I asked myself why he needed to make a call now (and why he was using a phone; surely the person could hear him, no matter where they were, without it). Luckily his conversation didn't last too long and, as I was shattered, I fell back to sleep.


I was planning on sleeping in longer than 8am however, I suppose, this wasn't a bad time to get awoken. Once again it wasn't the child that awoken me (The child had been as good as gold) but a group of middle-aged men, just outside my compartment, shouting at each other. I awoke to see a very young face staring at me with a blank expression; I couldn't work out the sex of the child however I did find it amusing that the expression on the child was the same as every other Chinese person, no matter how old, used to stare at me. I stretched a little and looked around at my surroundings; it was a shame that the woman had a child, plus didn't speak a word of English, as she wasn't bad looking. She offered me a tub of, what looked like, baby sick for breakfast; I politely refused and got on with my biscuits as she was forcing a tub of this stuff down her child's mouth. Even the child didn't want it and he/she was Chinese!

I sat within my compartment looking out at the view; China had certainly become a lot greener with huge hills coming ever closer. China also looked hotter than before and I was contemplating whether a return to shorts was needed. I then concentrated on the view even harder than before as I noticed a pungent smell starting to fill the carriage; why she couldn't change the child in the bathroom I do not know.

All was quiet for a while, as I finished my book; with the slave rebellion crushed I could sit back in my chair satisfied that Julius Caesar would live to fight another day. It was at this point that I put my novel back within my bag - knowing that I now had the job of seeking out another - and I took out my guidebook; as I flicked through the many pages I must have stumbled across the 'Chinese translation' section. The 'yummy mummy' perked up at this and she grabbed the book off me. She then used said translation pages to quiz me about my job status, marital status and where I was off to next; it was quite difficult to reply in some instances as the books translations were pretty limited, however it did seem to be drawing an interested crowd.

The train eventually stopped within Chengdu one hour late. I said goodbye to the 'yummy mummy' and was relieved to see my 'free pick-up' standing outside, waiting to take me to my hostel. The ride was the usual scary trip of almost being killed numerous times however I tried to not think about that, instead I peered out of the window and looked at Chengdu. My first impressions weren't that positive; it seemed to lack character and was a maze of skyscrapers, underground passes and fly-overs. What's more the traffic seemed horrendous meaning that it took over an hour to reach my hostel.

The hostels a little out of town however it seems nice enough; yet again there didn't seem to be to many travellers around. I had a busy afternoon in front of me; first of all I asked the receptionist how I would get to Dafo – the place with the worlds biggest Buddha statue – before asking how to get to see the Pandas near Chengdu. The receptionist helped me with both aspects, making me feel confident enough to go without booking onto a tour. Next up I wanted the Chinese translation for 'I would like to book a soft sleeper train to Kumming on the 1st May' so that I could book my ticket today; the Chinese holidays are coming up and I need to make sure that my transport is sorted early. Finally I asked about mundane things like how does the laundry facility work and where is the closest bank and supermarket. Once all my questions were answered I thanked the lady, smiled, and then departed hurriedly into town.

Chengdu didn't improve whilst I walked around it's busy streets. The skyscrapers, underground passes and fly-overs were still there it's just, when walking, they seemed a little bigger. Actually walking was worse as I got the full effect of the blistering heat; I dived into any shade available as I moved through town to complete my jobs. The train ticket was a lot easier to complete than I imagined, so to was finding a bank. The next task was to find the 'English book' stores my 2008 guidebook had located for me; the thought of having another twenty hour train journey, and no adventures of Caesar to fill them, was unthinkable. Unbelievably the first book store my guidebook listed was where it was supposed to be; I went in, merrily as a school boy, and tried to located their English novel section.

The only problem was that they either didn't have an English novel section, or that I couldn't find it. I looked through the books on both floors but I couldn't find any book covers that I could read; when I inquired at reception their English was so bad that they thought I wanted a 'English translation' book. As I enquired, for the final time, an American girl with a Chinese friend came through the door; I stopped them to ask if they could translate my request, which they did so, only to tell me that this store didn't have any English novels. They did however circle two other places, on my map, where an English book store should be. Off I went to find the closest; this meant that I had to rush through crowds of hundreds of Chinese people, try to cross roads that were almost impossible to cross and work my way around heavy road improvement schemes. All-in-all it took forever and, after getting lost a number of times, I gave up. I checked my guidebook for the second book store it recommended. Happily it was just around the corner from where I was but, sadly, it had been closed down; there were signs saying where the store had moved to but they were in Chinese. There was one last hope however, as it was quite far out of town, I decided to abandon seeking it today; the sun was setting and so I hurried along to my hostel knowing that I still had plenty of jobs to do when I got back.

Before arriving at my hostel I purchased 4ltr's of water, two packet of biscuits and tube of Pringles for tomorrows trip to 'the great Buddha'. I burst through my hostels doors and went up to the fourth floor. After putting my washing on, to do a cycle, I went to have a shower; It seemed both I, and the washing machine, were working as one. After taking a shower I returned to the washing machine to find my cycle only had three minutes remaining; once complete I hung my clothes to dry before heading into the hostel to find, once again, that my laptop couldn't connect to the internet. Once again I found myself having to pay for a service I should be able to access freely; I needed to go online as I had to book accommodation within Kumming. Once this was complete I had a light tea before retiring to bed, without a tale of Julius Caesar to send me off to sleep. Tomorrow the Buddha … I need to be up by 6am!

Toodle Pip!

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