The only way is up
Shanghai Travel Blog› entry 8 of 42 › view all entries
train didn't leave Hong Kong until 3.15pm but we made our way to the
station straight after checking out of our hostel. We really didn't
want to be late, and there was nothing we could do while we had our
bags with us anyway. After a very dubious meal that proved to be
almost inedible, we stocked up on snacks for the journey and made our
way down to passport control. Even though Hong Kong is part of China,
they follow a 'one country, two systems' approach meaning that we had
to 'sign out' of Hong Kong and then into China when we arrived.
We found ourselves in a waiting room with no free chairs, so chucked our bags on the floor and sat there, luckily next to a guy from the Midlands which was quite a relief as we had no idea what was going on! When the other people started moving, so did we, and soon realised that we didn't know which part of the train we were in. Nick was in a posher class than us so we split up and tried to find our respective places. In China there are 4 main types of ticket, soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat and hard seat. We had opted for hard sleeper for the 20 hour journey to Shanghai. We found where we were supposed to be and we quite stunned, the sleepers were in 6 bed sections, in triple bunks. However there were no ladders and just small footholds.
The corridors were rammed with people and very noisy and smelly so we were glad when we got into the soft sleeper area and no one was in the corridors (they have doors on their compartments!). As we were walking through we bumped into Nick who was coming to find us, so we went to the restaurant car to relax for a bit.
Once we had well and truly overstayed our welcome in the restaurant car we went back to our cabins and managed to get a seat in the corridor where most people were sitting out and talking. We were the only Western people out of the 60 or so people in our carriage so we got a few stares. Unfortunatly for me, Lisa moved away from her seat for a moment and a guy came and sat down in it and started talking. He seemed very nice and friendly, spoke in broken English but with some surprisingly long words intermingled! After discussing the finer points of train travel, the differences in coin shapes and his love for 'Yes Minister', the conversation took a turn for the worse. He started telling me about his 'misadventures' in love which had got him in trouble with the law, namely getting involved with a married woman as far as i could tell. He started getting more animated, telling me that everyone betrayed him, and he would never love again. It was turning into quite a therapy session, so I tried to console him as he said that girls could tell there was something bad about him from the first moment, that he has many things to be ashamed of. Everyone makes mistakes I said, until he started getting rather cross and said 'Do you have any idea how easy it is to frame someone for being a paedo, I am social outcast'....... Right, ok then. I suggested that maybe he move away and start again, but he got more agitated and said that he was not putting himself in exhile and that he should have killed himself. This conversation which had been going on for 2 hours was going from bad to worse, and as soon as I could I made my excuses and went to find Lisa (who was very pleased with herself for having avoided the whole affair). Lesson learnt, don't talk to strange men on trains.
There was nothing really to do so we went to bed quite early, or tried to. The guy opposite me was the worst snorer in the world, and even having my music on deafeningly loud could not drown him out completely. It was also very strange lying down on a train, lying on my front or back made me feel sick, but on my side was ok. The bunks were very small and claustrophobic with no wiggle room (and I need wiggle room), but I managed a few hours sleep.
The train got into Shanghai at about 11.30 the next morning and we started the long process of going through customs. It involved about 45 minutes of queuing, well surging crowds and lots of shoving, through very tight corridors before getting our visa checked and finding ourselves suddenly on the street. It was awful, very little food, not much sleep, heavy backpacks and extreme heat. We knew we had to get the underground but it toook some wandering to find it, there were far fewer signs in Roman script than there were in Hong Kong. We somehow managed to buy a ticket, but didn't know which train to get on as the stations seemed to have changed names since the guidebook was written (only 6 months ago). A man on the platform tried to help us, and seemed to know what we wanted so shepharded us onto a train as it arrived, actually shoving Lisa on and it was so busy!!
Once we found the hostel we were completely exhausted, we had got lost twice and it was 100 degrees. We fell asleep straight away. Unfortunatly as I woke up, I noticed a beetle type creature on my bed, then several more over the next half hour. A quick google search clarified that these were bedbugs, GROSS. We are very lucky that we haven't encountered them before, but even so, I expected them to be tiny but they are huge beetle things!! Urgh. We went downstairs at about 11pm with our bug samples in a water bottle to be face with blank stares, what is it? We refused to have them just change the sheets but had to make do with them just spraying everything with pesticide as there were no other beds free. We already knew this wouldn't work but it was the only thing to do, so we sat in the bar for a couple of hours waiting for the smell to dissappear. As we went back into the room we immediately saw another one, sleep was not going to come easy.