Chengdu Travel Blog› entry 16 of 39 › view all entries
So, yet another sleeper train.
Our train left at 1.20pm and was scheduled to take 16 and a half hours, making us arrive at 6am. This wasnt the greatest news but we contacted the hostel we were going to stay with and arranged for them to collect us. Just in case something went wrong (again) we picked up a leaflet from the hostel in Xi'an which had the address in English and Mandarin. We had booked soft sleeper bed again, which were actually more like hard sleepers. The train was shabbier than the previous ones, most likely because they were traveling between poorer cities. In the dining cart we encountered a few diffculties. The main one being that NO ONE spoke any English. We sat at a table for a long time, with the waitress that was taking orders staying down the other end of the carriage.
After our delicious(!) meal we headed back to our cabin, stopping to buy a few bits from one of the staff that were walking up and down the train with trolleys of food and drink.
We busied ourselves by admiring the scenery. The train route was through mountains, actually going through the middle of them! It was very remote, but here and there we still saw evidence of people. Crops of sweetcorn were planted on the side of steep slopes and tiny huts were plonked between trees. As we were standing outside our cabin a family from a cabin a few doors down had gathered near us and were all looking at us, talking to each other about us.
We were invited into their cabin to sit down and spent a good few hours talking to them. They taught us the Mandarian for hello (Ni Hao) and for cheers (Gam Pai). We were questioned on lots of different things, from what we ate (bread and milk make us strong!) to brothers and sisters. There is a one child law in China, the population is so big that extreme measures have been brought in to halt the massive surge in numbers. The family asked us to write down our names on a piece of paper and as I started writing mine they all exclaimed in surprise (I take it left handers aren't that common in China either huh!) We eventually headed to bed aroun 11pm, as we had to be up at 5am to ensure we were ready for when the train got in at 6. Turns out we neednt have bothered as our train didnt actually arrive until 10.
Not surprisingly there was no one waiting for us when we exited so we jumped into a taxi and showed him the address. The taxi pulled up at the end of a road that was blocked off and pointed down it then at the address. We thanked him (xie xie which is pronounced shi shi) and headed down. The street is actually a very old alley, with some buildings, our hostel included, dating from the Qing dynasty. We checked in with no problem, but the floor of our dorm room had a huge puddle in it which we had to report. They apologised and mopped it up for us, we sat outside and went online for while. Once we figured the floor was dry we went back in to sort our stuff out.
We were put into an 8 bed dorm, with 4 guys and 1 girl. This would have been ok, except the frosted glass door of the bathroom was still partially see through, and the door didnt lock! We put up with it for one night and the next morning asked to change rooms, opting for a private room, which we got at a discount for all the trouble we'd had. We then went out to explore the area, heading to people's park. Inside the park we heard music, eidel wiess from the sound of music of all things! We of course had to find out what was going on so heading towards it and found a group of middle aged women dancing. We stood and watched for a while, finding it all very amusing. Turns out it wasnt an isolated group, as we walked round the park we came across group after group of women dancing, they were EVERYWHERE!! It wasnt even as if it was the weekend, this was midday on a Tuesday! To be fair they did look like they were having a great time.
After the park we went to find the huge white marble statue of Chairman Mao. In Wild Swans (the book Rachel is reading about China's history) there is a part set in Chengdu, and it says the marble used to create the statue had to be dug out of the quarry by hand, as using machinery would 'diminish the effort and dedication to Mao'! Tomorrow we go to see the pandas, the reason we came!!