So!!! Finally made it to China, and it all started in a town about 170 miles out of Shanghai called Honqiao. Stayed at a youth hostel in an area called West Lake. I can't B-E-GIN to tell you how pretty that area is!!! Its a national park, full of pagodas and temples surounding a collection of little lakes, preserved and maintained by a universities that do their environment-related research. The scenery is something out of the House of the Flying Daggers! Willow trees, traditional Buddhist bells being tolled by monks, and some sort of haunting singing going on around a particular area. Didn't get to witness that last one, but i heard it from afar!
The hostel was good, the people spoke english, which was refreshing, but i suppose if it wasn't for the haggling taxi driver who DIDN'T speak english and had dropped me off wherever he thought the address was, i would not have walked the couple of miles through that aforementioned park...That's pretty much where the easy part of the ride ended...Went to bed kinda early as i was knackered to wake up at half 6 (06:30!!!!!) to the sound of 3 year olds playing in the school
yard next to my bedroom window. Seriously! 3 year olds, at half 6, already at school!!! Jumping and shouting!!! What??? I didn't even know what half six looked like when i was 3!!!(yes yes nuc. med people...i STILL don't know, ha blooey ha!...) So after blocking them out and snoozing for a couple of hours, i leasurely had a mock english brekkie and proceeded to the train station...where i was almost spat on, que jumped and properly ignored by all except the passers by who stared at the tall white idiot who is looking at a piece of paper mouthing chinese words in preperation to buy a ticket to Shanghai Centre. Which eventually i did.
After an hour in first class (heh) i got to the city centre and a couple of hours later and a couple of tubes got to the main railway station....to find out there are no more trains to where i'm going that day!!!!! After more spittle and being ignored and que jumped by staring chinese oldies, i finally gave up, and bought a ticket for the next day, from a train station in the south of the city. More Tubes, more queing, more staring, altho
to be honest...not as much as in Honqiao.
Anyway having reached the south station, i decided to book into any hostel i could find. Finally got a taxi driver who pretended to speak Engrish, and with my miniscule Mandarin i asked him to take me to a hotel. ( The conversation involved a lot of smiling, and the following magic gesture: palms together as if about to clif dive, and one side of face leaning against the outside of palms) So after getting knocked back from a motel and me almost booking myself in a massage parlor, and the cabbie saving me, i found a room in a 4 star hotel (23 quid per night). I thought, you know what i am so tired and low right now, whatever, do it! So i did. It was good. The next morning i left early, and i mean early, to get to my train to Yangzhou, which would be the change over to Qufu.
Made a friend, Samuel, chinese name impronouncable, and we had a chat about everything for the next 4 hours, till Nanjing where he got off. And hour later i arrived in Hangzhou....and thats where the sixpence started dropping....
My first saty in a Chinese hostel...the window faces a school...they start at 6 in the a.m....seriously!!!!
I showed the address of the school to a taxi driver and he said something that i think meant "I'm sorry kind young man but i would be unable to take you to your destination as this is in Shandong province and it's too far", only not using so many words and laughing in the end... Went to the bus station office and the woman put me in a bus to Hangzhou centre. When i got there i found another person that spoke english and she gave me her mobile to call the people in Qufu....and that's when the full penny dropped, when the lady on the other side of the line informed me that i had misspelled my destination, and instead of Hangzhou i should have asked for a train ticket to Hanzhou. No G. ...
My usual cool and collected composure kicked in and i realised that it would be the same as a chinese person looking for Essex and ending up in Sussex....if Sussex was about 600 miles in the wrond direction.....!!!!! So! The girl with the mobile came to the rescue and found me taxi. I say found me a taxi, i mean found
me a guy who drove me to his mate, who owned a taxi already loaded with passangers, who loaded my backpack on the outside of the cab, who drove us to a ferry, who after the ferry crossing, unloaded us to another mate who drove me to a train station, where i was to board a night sleeper train to Thaishan.
As i had about 7 hours to kill till midnight, when the train would go, i took a stroll, had a macD's, and watched the most bizzare, mesmerising and pretty display of dancing in the square outside the station. Video to follow.
Eventually, after much much much more staring and spit dodging, i boearded the sleeper, got on my bunk and pretended it wasn't smelly and loud and slept for oh, 20 minuites...
All the stations were in Chinese, but the ticket lady came and woke me up specificaly to tell me we were arriving at my stop. SO i managed to get to where i meant this time, and two coatch rides, a tricycle ride, and a taxi later, and i arrived at the Shaolin school in Qufu!!!!!
The weather is hot, the people are nice and the
Hmmm...this was the room i booked out of desperation!!
first meal i had was A-mAZHING!!!!! Now i'm in a youth hostel in the old part of Qufu and i think that spelling mistakes can be a good thing...as long you have helpfull que jumping, spit dispencing smelly old chinese people around, who cares!!!! Someone said once something about journeys and destinations....might have been Confucious....i forget....
heh...more next week.....
...damn this was long...
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