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Published: April 19th 2013
Heading off into rainy Guilin
Killing time in Guilin before our sleeper train journey to Chongqing.
We had an early start at the beginning of what would turn out to be a long day and night of travelling to eventually get to Chongqing and the start of our Yangze River Cruise.
First off we had a long walk into Yangsuo town with all our stuff to get to the coach that would take us to Guilin and our next ride on the Iron Rooster (sleeper train). My wheelie rucksack luggage comes into its own again. It copes with everything. I love it so much. After having lugged heavy rucksacks around India it's 'no' to ever carrying heavy bags for me again. Never believe any travel company that insists rucksacks or holdalls are the best baggage to take - wheelies all the way! There is rarely any situation I haven't been able to use it and this includes travelling to Chile, Argentina, Peru, Morocco, Vietnam and now China. In China even the stairs at train stations, subways and undergrounds have a sloped edge for the very purpose of sliding your wheelie luggage up and down. Brilliant! You can easily drag it onto escalators and into lifts too. We arrive at the bus to find a couple have
tried to sneak into two of our 6 front seat reservations. Dennis quickly kicks them out! We have about a 1 1/2 hour drive to get us to Guilin to catch the train so I write up some of my travel diary and watch the scenery pass by.
Aside: On the way we see some little wisps of smoke in the hillsides and Dennis explains that today is the Ching Ming Tomb Sweeping Festival. This is an annual festival when people go to their loved ones' tombs to tidy them up, cut back the vegetation, clean the tombs and burn paper models of items like houses, cars, money etc. They believe that when you die you go to an underworld and the paper offerings that are burned will provide your loved one with the items to use in the underworld! Some send Mercedes and other luxury items. Apparently they also send iphones but it isn't known if there is any wifi coverage in the underworld 😉
We arrive with just over an hour to kill before the train is due to depart from Guilin for Chongqing so we deposit our luggage and go off for a little walk,
buy some dumplings for lunch (really cheap, only 4 yuan for 2 massive dumplings - one vegetable one red bean - that's just 40p in UK money) and pick up a few things from a supermarket, my favourite being cucumber flavoured crisps! What flavour could they possibly have? Water maybe?!
We retrieve our luggage amidst lots of stares from the locals. It's so funny staring back with a big grin on your face, making them smile back and nudge their friends to have a look at these strange foreigners too. We sit and eat our dumplings in the massive waiting room. They look like donuts but are made of soft, fluffy bread with scrummy, savoury fillings.
When it's finally time to board our train there is a massive crush of people going through the doors towards the platform. My heart sinks as I see we have loads of stairs to get up and then down to cross the line to our platform. But what's this? Yay, another sloped section at the side of the steps especially for my wheelie case 😊 There is a definite technique to going up and down these slopes, bearing in mind you have
to stand to the side and walk up and down the stairs while your case slides up and down the slope to the side of you. I'd already worked out it was better to have the case in front of you on the way down and let gravity do the work, but the lady in front of me wasn't so clued up and was trying to do it the other way round with hilarious consequences. The case rolled and flew off down the slope with her hanging on and running behind it in her high heels and laughing her head off!
We get to the platform, find our carriage and then begins the hustle to get our luggage on board and stowed away in our cabin under the lower bunks and up on the overhead storage racks. I get a bottom bunk again. Renee and me have worked out that Dennis uses the following priority for assigning bunks - oldest on the lower bunk (that's me!), other girls either on a lower bunk, or if not available a middle bunk, guys either on a middle bunk or if not available top bunk, Aaron always on top bunk!
is a cute little 7 year old girl in the next cabin who obviously wants to come and see us but is too shy. Very sweet. We try some little phrases in Chinese to coax her over. 'Nee hau' (hello), 'tching gor lie' (please come here), 'nee door dow la' (how old are you?), 'nee cheeow suma mingz' (what's your name?). There is also a little toddler, a lad who keeps popping his face around the corner to have a look at us. So cute.
We spend some time having a comparison of English vs American pronunciation. When learning English the Chinese have to choose between American and British English. It turns out Dennis hadn't realised there was a southern and northern British English accent and other accents in the UK. It also turns out that the New Zealand accent has more similarities with southern English. We also teach Dennis a new word - knackered - and explain that it means exhausted or broken. He comes up with a great use of the word in a sentence which has us laughing 'The world economy is knackered!'
Then Dennis teaches us a really cool card game that many Chinese
play out on the streets or in the parks - Beat up the Landlord! It is a great mixture of luck and skill. There are special cards - the 2s and the jokers - and basically you have to lay cards down higher than the preceding ones until the highest is reached with everyone else having to pass if they can't go. The last player then gets to start the next round - which is obviously an advantage. The aim is to be the first to lay down ALL your cards. There are lots of strategies that we slowly start to pick up, but of course Dennis is way ahead of us here and wins loads of games before we start to get the hang of it. You don't just have to lay down single cards, but can lay down pairs or consecutive pairs or a run of 5 cards. These then have to be followed by similar card combinations by anyone following, making it a lot harder. It's all very cat and mouse, especially towards the end, as you don't HAVE to lay down cards but can hold them back by saying pass as if you don't have anything.
Tom trying the pomelo
It tastes like grapefruit only not as sharp.
We are joined in our game by a fellow passenger who takes over from Dennis. The new guy holds his cards secretly to his chest and every so often wafts himself with a fan. He also drinks plenty of the 56% rice liquor we offer him!
While we are playing cards Sarah manages to get the little toddler boy to come and play with her and teaches him how to shell peanuts. He is so excited and loves them and therefore gets named Peanut Boy! He also loves having his photo taken as he shows off his skills climbing up the bunk ladder.
Oh, I almost forgot. We finally got to try the pomelo. they are really, really hard to break into once the skin is off. Very tough pith to get through. Once you do get to break off a segment, yes they do taste like grapefruit only not as sharp, so not as nice. The little boy Sarah renamed peanut boy also loved the pomelo so perhaps he should have been called Peanut Pomelo Boy!
Later a few of us go off to the dining carriage to get some food and beers. More cabbage for
me! Minus the promised mushrooms pfft! I also get some shredded potato to go with my rice and cabbage. Renee is a bourbon drinker at home and asks if they have any but it seems not. Then she spots some guys at another table each with what looks like small bottles of bourbon in front of them. But no, apparently it is something very different - penis liquor! She decides to pass on this one!
We go back to our bunks and settle down for some sleep just as it's time for lights out. I find it harder to get to sleep this time for some reason so listen to a bit of music. In the middle of the night I hear some shouting at one of the stops and it kind of sounds a bit like French mixed in with Chinese. The next morning Dennis asks if anyone heard the shouting and apparently it wasn't French or Chinese exactly but one of the minority group's languages. No-one on the train could properly understand them as they hurriedly searched for their bags in the dark!
We arrive at Chongqing train station and the mad rush of hundreds of
passengers with their luggage begins. We grab ourselves a couple of taxis and set off for a hotel to share one room for the day to freshen up and wait for our Yangze river cruise to start. It turns into a very tedious and boring day. I do get to have a bit of time on Dennis's laptop to write up a bit of my blog, but apart from that it's a case of just hanging around with nothing to do. We do go to a very nice restaurant for lunch however - the best we'd been to so far. One of the dishes had a garnish of some poisonous leaves! Tea came in little bowls to drink from. We again shared lots of dishes spun round on a lazy Susan. All this dipping into the same dishes with our chopsticks was nicely passing the cold around that everyone seemed to be getting! Veggie dishes this time seemed an improvement - I get yam and jews ear mushrooms, butter gourd and scrambled egg and a delicious spicy potato dish.
And then it's back to the hotel room for an extremely boring afternoon watching silly youtube videos, a film, sleeping,
going on facebook - yes the Chinese CAN get on facebook despite the Government's attempts to stop them - they have some kind of sneak in system.
It is with great relief that we finally head off into the rain - yes it was raining again - so glad I'd brought my brolly - to the harbour where our cruise ship is waiting along with lots of others ready for the start of our Yangze River Cruise.
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