Monday, 2 May 2011

Flashing scenery

Sunday 1st May 2011 (White rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits)



30 days left traveling the world.




MP3 track of the day: Moonriver - Andy Williams





Weather: Thunder and lighting filled the skies of Chengdu with, strangely, little rain. As the train traveled further south the storms subsided but the weather looked cool.














I awoke to the sound of thunder outside my dorm window; it was only 8:30am and I had four and a half hours until my train departed. Knowing how bad Chengdu's traffic can be I decided to leave my hostel by 10am, at the latest, giving me two hours to reach my destination (it had taken one hour, by car, to get from the station to my hostel four days ago). This would still allow for an early lunch.




Impatient as I am I couldn't wait any longer; at 9:30am I'd decided that it was better to wait at the station than at the hostel. I left and walked to the bus stop, just to the right of the hostel, to catch bus fifty-seven. One 'fifty-seven' was departing as I approached; I let it go as, firstly, it was packed with people, secondly I wasn't in a rush and thirdly another would be along shortly. Just as I predicted another came within ten minutes; after showing the driver my desired destination, written in Chinese on a piece of paper, I boarded the bus.




I'd forgotten that today was a Sunday and so I found the traffic to be light; unfortunately the same couldn't be said for the amount of people on the bus. It was packed and quite a few times, I think, I annoyed the driver with my massive bulk and my inability to move down the jam-packed isle. I stood, holding onto a hand rail above me, presenting my sweaty armpit to some other poor passenger … at least they had a seat. People were leaving the bus, from a set of doors located in the middle of the vehicle, but the people in front of me were reluctant to move down. After repeated cries from the driver people gave way and, once we got moving, I could see why they were holding their ground; two windows, behind me, were open creating a perfect through draft which dried my sweaty shirt.




All of a sudden it seemed everyone alighted at the same time; just before this I'd found myself a metal railing to balance my bag on which, until the middle doors opened, was a great relief. Once the bus had stopped the middle doors, as usual, opened inwards. This action pressed my bag between the door and a metal pole; I pulled, and I pulled eventually breaking free from the buses grasp until I could walk freely to where the driver was located; he took one look at me and stopped the bus, indicating that he had forgotten to tell me that I had reached my stop. Once off I was hungry; with all my baggage the last thing I wanted was a busy fast food joint. The thought of having to queue up, with millions of orientals, before trying to find a space which had the capacity for me, and my luggage, was one I dreaded and I wondered if the food was worth the hassle. What I really wanted was a coffee shop; a Starbucks where the food was a little expensive therefore the crowds would be minimal.




It would appear that Chengdu's train station is the only transport complex, within China, that hasn't got a coffee shop. Resultantly I went to one of the three KFC's present; the queues were too bad and neither was finding a seat. It felt strange tucking into a meal at 10:30am.




The journey into town hadn't taken as long as I expected; I dragged my meal out as long as possible to take up some time. At 11am I couldn't draw my meal out any longer; I took the last sips of Pepsi before putting my rubbish within the bins provided and heading to Chengdu's 'soft sleeper' lounge.





I had forgotten that today marked the start of the Chinese holiday; the station was packed and I wondered if more people than usual would be assigned to my cabin. Once through security I moved to my gate where the seats in front had just become vacant, due to another service announcing it's departure. Due to the disgusting Chinese habit of spitting on the floor (yes even in buildings) I was reluctant to put my luggage onto the floor; I felt little guilt as seats became full and people had to stand. If they didn't practice such a vulgar act then I would have gladly taken my bags off the seat next to me. I had an hour or so before my train departed; I couldn't think of no better way to spend it than reading my book about Julius.




My service was running on time and, half an hour before departure, I was allowed to board. The crowds, swarming around the entrance gate, were huge and I wondered just how big the train was. Gladly, as I entered my cabin, I noticed that only three other people were allocated to it. As I looked at my other three companions I noticed that they were all women; this wasn't as great as it sounded due to one being pregnant (well I think she was … she could be fat … better not ask encase of upsetting her), her rather older friend looking very much like an old school matron and the third being asleep. I sat down and opened my book to where I had got to before boarding.




The trip was pleasantly quite; all three ladies, mesmerised by my presence, were asleep and I was reading my book as I ate a tube of inferior 'fruit pastels'. The view was, well, annoying to say the least; once out of Chengdu the mountain should have come into view however, with the Chinese choosing practically over pleasure, they'd decided to travel through the mountains instead of around, or even over them. This meant that 'teeth looking' limestone mountains, with green vegetation pouring over them, would appear and then, in a flash, disappear as I travelled through another tunnel. After a while I gave up trying to look at China and concentrated on my book.




The time was 5pm and a Chinese woman could be herd, wailing, from six carriages away. Even though I could hear her it took her an age to appear at my cabin door; she was pushing a rather old looking metal container on two wheels. This, apparently, was the food trolley and two, of the women within my cabin, purchased a meal of rice and … err … something else. I declined the offer as there was no way that I could work out what the food was. As the women ate - noisily with their mouths open - I switched my MP3 player up to loud and concentrated on my book conscious that, already, I was one third of the way through.




The skies had darkened and the curtains had been drawn. I continued to read, more engrossed with Julius trying to reclaim Rome as a republic than I was in China. I decided to opt for an early night which my fellow cabin members, having slept during the day, decided not to follow. I arrive in Kumming at 11am tomorrow; I hope it's nice as I have to spend a while there as I wait for my Chinese visa to be extended.




Toodle Pip!

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