Friday 22th April 2011
MP3 track of the day: Stop and Stare – One Republic
Weather: The clouds have closed in, even more so than yesterday. The wind has picked up and the weather board, at my hostel, shows that a storm is on it's way.
Recently I seem to be getting up later and later; by 9am I was out, hunter-gathering for breakfast. After another 'McPancake' I went into my local supermarket to purchase snacks for my twenty-one hour train ride; this time I paid more attention to the biscuit prices. Luckily I found a packet of 'butter biscuits' for 70p; I grabbed two of these before picking up chocolate, crisps, coke and a small bottle of water. To get away from my reliance on McDonald's I hunted around every isle for a box of cereal bars; at the same time I searched for a couple of 'ready made' sandwiches but alas, none of the above could be found. Food is still a massive disappointment; I wished I had my local Chinese takeaway around the corner.
Once back at the hostel I checked-out. Afterwards I went onto the internet - to allow my PC to download the many updates I'd been ignoring – before eating a lunch consisting of noodles. By now it was time to leave; I said goodbye to the staff and finally, after nine nights, I headed off to the train station. As I walked I reminisced; a week ago I would have been at the F1 practice session with my Colombian friends; I would have been watching the Mclaren cars fly around the track, eager to see what times they had posted. I would also be looking forward to the race in two days time. I shook my head; I needed to look forward and not backwards, tomorrow I shall be Xi'an and the day after I'll be viewing a very historic site.
The train station operated like an airport; first of all I had to have my bags scanned, before finding the waiting room which tallied up with my train service. K560 was my train number which, looking at the departure boards, meant that I had to wait within waiting room ten. I entered this vast room with four 'gates' located at the rear. Within this room were four waiting rooms; each 'waiting room' consisted of a long row of seats aligned to a specific gate. I took a seat realising that I had a good ninety minutes to wait. People from all angles were staring at me; conscious of this I stared back before opening my novel and transporting myself to ancient Rome. A Chinese guy, sitting opposite me, kept spitting on the floor, smoking and chatting on his mobile; each time he spat, on the 'fake marble' looking floor, I shot a look of disgust over to him before returning to my book. I hoped that he wasn't within my train compartment.
Waiting room eight departed (to somewhere written in Chinese) thirty minutes before my train left. I observed to see what the procedure was; it would appear that, when the lights above the gate turn from red to green, all passengers have to form a 'mob' around the two ticket inspectors. Once your ticket was stamped you would then proceed through the gate to your allotted platform. All seemed simple and, when my gates lights changed from red to green, I picked my stuff up and headed across. I waited for most of the rabble to push through the gate before, calmly, handing over my ticket to receive it back stamped. As I followed the signs to 'platform ten' I couldn't understand why the Chinese were rushing, we didn't leave for another thirty minutes. To complete my journey of 'tens' I found the tenth carriage and showed my ticket to a lady waiting at the door. She smiled and waved me in.
My compartment was the first one within the carriage; this was slightly annoying as it meant that I was next to the toilet and these walls weren't that thick. As I was the first in I quickly but my stuff away, assigned myself a window seat and wondered what my fellow passengers would be like. I fully expected this train to fill, considering how in demand trains are.
No one came; as we pulled out of the station I was the only person within the carriage. As we made further stops still no one came to join me. I was hoping that my carriage would be full of backpackers where we could swap great locations, play cards and generally have a good time. These dreams evaporated at the waiting room, within Shanghai's train station, as it appeared that I was the only western face there. Having my own compartment was the next best thing. I spent the time lazing on my bunk reading my guidebook. I also looked around at my surroundings; the compartment was very similar to the one on the Hanoi to Nanning train. The beds looked the same length, the table was fixed to the wall and I had another flask of hot water, a metal tray and a fake flower. The difference was that there was no chilling music, the carpet was green and the bedding was a slightly different colour. I spent the rest of the evening reading my book; I wished that I was in Rome and not on a Chinese train, on my own, with the sound of Chinese people spitting in the toilet next to me. Thank God for MP3 players.