Shanghai Travel Blog› entry 13 of 29 › view all entries
went to xian and saw the terracotta warriors...obviously they had to be seen but they were in actual fact a little disappointing as they were housed in a huge swimming pool like building that dwarfed them somewhat. we were meant to leave xian the following day but the train was booked until the 19th so we hung around xian, looking around the muslim quarter, shopping in the flea markets and cycling a tandem around the town walls (14km of them!). we then got the overnight train to shanghai, which despite my looking forward to it was a rather unpleasant city. our bedroom at the hostel (miles from anywhere) was filled by two sleeping, smoking germans and the city seemed to have little to offer. we ended up spending all of our time there working out the best way to leave! we did go on the riverside sightseeing tunnel; "trippy" as carl called it, bit like a ghost train really and we saw the sights of the Bund...meant to be amazing architecture but just like london and the TV tower. oh, and we drank a shot of snake spirit in xian which actually had a dead snake in the jar, lovely! spent ages hunting down travel agents and finally got some train tickets to the vietnamese border for the day after we arrived in shanghai.
we got on the train and got off 12 hours later only to find that no-one spoke a word of english and there wasnt big barbed wired border anywhere in sight. walked past a dead rat on the pavement and got a taxi, pointing to a bilboard for the `Number One Garden Hotel`, thinking they would speak english. 10 mintues later we pulled up at a rather smart looking luxery resort. mmm. the receptionists still couldnt speak english so the manager was called, who sat us down with green tea. he looked rather bemused when we asked our way to the border so he took us to the presedential suite to look at a map of china. no wonder he looked baffled at these two english tourists asking the way to vietnam...we were still in the middle of china! dont quite know how it happened but there we go.
he offered to go to the station with us to get tickets to go to nanning, where we could join the beijing-hanoi train and we stayed to have lunch with him (in a private banqueting room - it was at this point we realised how badly we smelt). we waited in the lobby and he asked us to help improve the english on the brochures for him...quite a task as chinglish often makes no sense at all (i saw a meal in a restaurant translated as salty daughter!). anyway, we used our peotic licence and he got out tickets for us. he even tried to get us into the posh station waiting room but they wanted a backhander so we said no and waited for 5 hours in the normal waiting room. what a nice man he was though.
we only had seats not beds on the train...it was a long 17 hours! carl gathered a rather large crowd all night, giving them monglian money and talking to the whole carriage, even though neither spoke the other language...lots of gesturing and doodling! I started reading my chinese educational copy of Bleak House...rather abridged to say the least!
we arrived in nanning this afternoon, only to find the international train was fully booked, with another one not until the 27th, so we've got tickets to the actual border town this time and we will cross by taxi (we hope!) then train and taxi to hanoi. what a palava! I cant wait to get to Hanoi and celebrate my birthday!!