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Another sleeper train.....

Chengdu Travel Blog

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Going through the mountains on the train

The train from Xi'an to Chengdu was not quite as nice as the others we had been on.


The soft sleeper area (we won't brave hard sleeper again!) was abit old and not very comfortable. The dining cart was even worse! We boarded the train at 1.20pm and managed to survive on or snacks until dinnertime.

Our new train family
We sat down in the dining cart on some rickety folding chairs and waited for someone to give us a menu....and waited...and waited. After trying us with the Chinese one and rumaging around in a cupboard for 10 mins, we were presented with an English menu. Unfortunatly when we came to order, nothing we pointed to was available. It wasn't a menu for the train, just the only thing they could find in English! The only thing we established they had was egg fried rice, so that was our dinner (with a small bowl of what we think was just salt water). Not the best experience in the world, so we thought we would drown our sorrows with a beer. Until the waitress shook her head and walked off, even though other people were being served. After our gourmet feast we found the snacks cart and asked for a beer from there, we got a funny look but were given them.
We took them back to our cabin and were subjected to more stares from men, and filthy looks from the women. The only thing we could guess was that women were not expected to be so vulgar as to drink beer. Oh well!


As Lisa went for a walk down the train, I realised that I was once again being the subject of attention. A family had stationed themselves on the other side of the door and were walking backwards and forwards over and over again, staring inside. I was getting pretty cross so I moved into the corridor too, and gave them a look, hoping they would stop. As Lisa came back they were just summoning up the courage to speak to me, by pushing forward the young boy (as always, the only one who speaks any English). After the usual amiration of tattoos, height and comparing of skin colours the snack cart came round again.

Mmmmm, cockerel for tea!
I asked for another beer and was refused. The family didn't really have a clue what I wanted, but were eager to please, so started opening up all the compartments to find what I wanted! They came across the beer and I said 'yes, you DO have it', at which one of the men bought 3, and the family invited us into their cabin to 'cheers with them'.


The next few hours were an exhausting mix of very broken English and some quite skillful charades. Only the boy and one of the women spoke any English, and the dissapointment of the others to not be able to speak to us was obvious. The man who bought us the beer kept 'cheers-ing' with us to make up for it! It was getting quite late and the boy said 'you want sleep?' I wasn't sure if it was hint to leave them alone, so asked the same back.

Our hostel
He seemed horrified, 'no no, we listen to you all night!' The highlight of the exchange was when we were asked to sing English children's song. In my panic the only thing I could think of was '*blink, tongue out*, went the little green frog one day......' so I sang that....to a group of middle aged Chinese people and a 12 year od boy. I got to the end and they were completely enthralled and insisted I taught them. So we spent the next few minutes blinking our eyes and sticking our tongues out to the frog song.....how bizzare!


Our hostel is down a gorgeous alleyway and dates back to the Qing Dynasty. A lot of buildings from this time have since been destroyed, so there are people taking photos of everything! It is probably the nicest location of a hostel we've stayed in.

Dancing ladies
We had to move rooms once n the first night as the heavy rain had caused flooding in our dorm (I was quite glad we moved as a HUGE spider was in there!). We ended up in an 8 bed dorm where we were almost the only girls. The bathroom door was partly see through, and the lock didn't work. The absolute worst thing however was the other girl in the room. Ok, picture the scene... The bunks are arranged in an 'L' shape in the corners. My head is therefore quite close to the head of the girl in the adjacent bunk. To get a little privacy I drape my towel over the bars at the end of the bed. So I'm lying in bed in the morning, eyes still closed, lean my head back, have a little stretch and open my eyes a bit to see how the morning looks. The girl behind me has the towel pulled to the side with her arm and is staring at me, less than a metre from my face.
Mao
.... cue 'LISA, WE'RE MOVING ROOMS AGAIN'!!


We are a short walk from People's Park, so we walked down in that direction. On the way we heard the faint sound of 'Happy Birthday', which was getting louder and louder? Intruiged we looked round and saw a road sweeper lorry as it went past, that was playing Happy Birthday 'ice cream van style'!! We had just about recovered ourselves (it was funny at the time..) when we heard 'Eidelweiss' playing. We walked round the corner into the park and saw a large group of old women dancing away while another lady was warbling down a microphone! We stayed and watched the spectacle for a few minutes (and bizzarely bumped right into someone we had met on the train to Shanghai?!?) before moving on. We turned into the main area and there were hundreds and hundreds of women, all in little groups, all dancing to their own little tunes.

Gardens of Wenshu Temple
Some people were just dancing by themselves, walking down the paths doing a little turn here and there! What an extraordinary sight for a Tuesday lunchtime!


Just down the road from the park is a giant white marble Mao statue. Quite a bit of the Wild Swans book is set in Chengdu, and it has been really interesting to walk around and see things which are mentioned. Apparantly the statue was built using stone that was quarried by hand, as to use machinery would have detracted the workers from their dedication to his name. Absolute madness, this whole thing. The site of the statue was one of the places used to burn all books except Mao's teachings during the Cultural Revolution, as to read anything else indictated disillusionment in Mao.


As usual we have been struggling with finding vegetarian food (Lisa may well turn INTO vegetable fried rice), or in fact anything that looks like an edible piece of meat.

Lucky dip dining!
So we went to Wenshu temple, which apart from being a lovely place to relax, has a well publicised vegetarian restaurant. We went in and looked at the menu, seeing it full of entrails, necks and other gross things again. However, these were FAKE entrails, oh yes, VEGETARIAN entrails! Why on earth you would want to replicate something so foul I don't know. So we opted for a tofu dish, something with brocolli, and wanted to have a third too, but didn't know what a pick. We have constantly listened to other travellers boasting about doing a menu lucky dip when there is no English translation, but we are too fussy to do it. Here however there was a dish on the menu with no translation, and it had to be veggie so we gave it a go! The food arrived in stages as we have got used to, so we spent a while picking at some brocolli before our rice (in a bucket) arrived. I have to say that it was very nice! Our magical mystery dish was slightly spicy, and full of bits of stuff.... I really don't know what it was but it tasted good and more importanty, no entrails in sight!

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Going through the mountains on the…
Going through the mountains on th…
Our new train family
Our new train family
Mmmmm, cockerel for tea!
Mmmmm, cockerel for tea!
Our hostel
Our hostel
Dancing ladies
Dancing ladies
Mao
Mao
Gardens of Wenshu Temple
Gardens of Wenshu Temple
Lucky dip dining!
Lucky dip dining!
Chengdu
photo by: spocklogic