No ATM's, i guess i better start begging...
Tanggu Travel Blog› entry 307 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip:
The ferry ride proved to be relatively comfortable, apart from the fact i was starving for the whole journey! After parting with most of my money at Incheon terminal, i was left with 2500won ($2.50) and was pretty surprised that there was neither an ATM on board or anywhere that i could exchange US Dollars. I therefore rationed myself to 1 pot of instant noodles per day and just lay in bed with a stinking hangover, trying to focus my brain on doing crossword puzzles. I was the only westerner on board and they had kindly decided to put me in a cabin with the only baby on board, who although reasonably well behaved, did still like to give its lungs the occasional airing.
The journey took 28 hours from boarding and as we approached the port, i realised that we weren't actually going to Tianjin like the ticket said, but to a place called Tanggu, some 60 kilometres away.
At this point i began to explain my predicament and i think they could see by the panicked words and look on my face that i was a man nearing despair! Hungry, unshaven, smelling and penniless, she decided to hand me 2RMB ($0.30) and give me the bus number that would run me to the town, where she assured me i could find a bank. I don't think a homeless person could have been any happier to receive that cash!
Passing off the boat i hoped my troubles were all over, but this was misinformed optimism on my behalf. 'Sir, have you died your hair' said the immigration officer, 'No' was my reply. 'Why is your hair brown and in the photo its black?'. This stumped me a bit, 'The suns bleached it maybe, or it was wet in the photo' was all i could think to say. 'Sir, is this you in the photo?' 'Oh crap' was what i wanted to say, 'Yes' is what i blurted out in a begging tone. After double taking 6 times or more between the photo and me, she repeated the question. 'I was a lot fatter back then', i said, which i accompanied with my best pleading smile, as she started looking through my passport... please don't ask about the Taiwan stamp, please. 'You've been to a lot of countries'... 'mmm, yes'. 'Can you tell me which visa this is Sir', i peered over the desk, my heart in my mouth 'Laos, Laos, Laos', i said rather too enthusiastically. She then began asking about numerous other stamps, this didn't feel normal and had me feeling almost guilty, even though id done nothing wrong! After the worst grilling that id ever been subjected to upon entering a country, i was eventually allowed entry into China, hurrah!
My 2RMB got me into the town centre and from here i set off in search of an ATM. Everywhere i walked, i received a host of gaping mouths and staring eyes... who was this white man and what was he doing here?! I went into a shopping mall and pointed in my book to the sign saying ATM and showed my visa card. The first girl looked dumbfounded but the second eventually managed to point me down a hall to an ATM. Even though the ATM had the visa sign, it wouldn't work, so i found an information desk and went through the same charade with another lady and this time got pointed out of the back of the building, which led to a shopping strip that also contained several banks. I ended up trying half a dozen ATM's before eventually striking lucky and ending my poverty, by acquiring some nice reed 100RMB notes, which feature Chairman Mao on the front and his mausoleum on the back.
I was close to passing out having not eaten any food in 12 hours and only 2 cups of noodles in the last 48 hours, but i knew that time was ticking by, it was already 20.45 and i still had to get to Tianjin, before even thinking about making it to Beijing! I therefore darted into McDonald's and ate like a wolf, i was literally shaking as the food began to register with my body. Having scoffed it down in record time i headed for the main road to try and catch a bus.
After speaking or trying to speak/charade/point at Chinese characters in my book to some locals, it dawned on me that the last bus to Tianjin had already left, oh dear. I couldn't make any sense if there was going to be a train or even where the station was, this was my worst fears really coming true. Then all of a sudden 2 people came to my rescue, and i sadly don't even know their names. A Chinese woman and her husband (who was actually born in Australia, but to Chinese parents) saw me and inquired as to my dilemma. I explained in brief and luckily for me they were also looking to get to Tianjin and had missed the last bus too. We therefore agreed to split the cost of a taxi and were soon on our way.
It took just over an hour to reach the city along a decent highway and en route we chatted about a number of things including work, travel, Tibet and photography â�¢ they were carrying a HUGE camera and tripod! It seemed like obstacles were been thrown in my way but every time there was someone to help me overcome them, thank the Lord! Arriving into Tianjin station and the lady came with me to help buy a ticket and show me to the entrance, as the station was undergoing refurbishment. It was lucky that she did as i had a mad dash across the station to catch the 'bullet train' to Beijing.
I arrived a little before midnight, completely exhausted, but still not home and dry. I found the subway station was already closed and the taxi's were asking 80RMB ($12) for a 3KM ride, even though the 60KM ride earlier had only cost 100RMB! I wasn't succumbing to the pressure and vowed to walk it, even though i knew that this could prove to be the death of me!
As it turned out one of those helpful characters was on hand again, some hundred metres or so from the station. As i was walking away i needed to ask directions to make sure i wasn't going the wrong way completely and with some more sign language and charades, the man managed to get me a taxi for 20RMB, which was still probably more than it was worth, but i didn't care at that stage.