Xian to Guangzhou (Wed) 26 May 2010

Packed waiting room of Xian train station

Our plans initially called for leaving Xian to Guilin, a province known for it’s river and mountains and karst limestone formations. It’s also the home of Yangshuo, China’s premier climbing destination.

But the region had been pouring with rain and reports of floods abound. I also wasn’t sure what to do with dad if I signed up to some trekking/climbing/camping thing. It’s been a long time, and traveling with dad has taken its toll.

We decided to head in the general direction of home.

The train to Guangzhou takes 27hr. The city is just a mere few hours northwest of Hong Kong and it’s where dad’s family is from and where many of his family still live. We decided that a visit is in order, no less that my uncle will be willing to accomodate us.

Second day on the train: If I smell another pot noodle, I think I might puke. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to bring myself to eat another one again!

As usual, preparations for a long train journey involves stocking up on noodles. However, what I didn’t account for was that after six days on the Trans-Siberian with my Russian noodles, my body was physically not able to stomach anymore. The steamy MSG-laden smell of it in a confined car with possibly 30 other pot-noodlers revolts me.

Of all my train journeys so far, this 27hr ride was probably the worst of the lot.

As usual, the train is fully booked and we were unable to get bottom bunks. We each managed with a middle bunk on a hard sleeper. A car of open compartments, each with six berths, three to a side, no doors.

Possibly the one single reason that made it so bad was that we couldn’t sit upright in our bunks! So we had to either lie down, or climb down to squeeze on one of the fold-down seats by the windows, at which there was nothing to lean back on. It was very very uncomfortable.

The train was packed.

The two guys below us were very comfy in their bunks with high head space. In fact, so comfy that they started smoking on the spot. I scowled and made passive-aggressive comments to dad until they slinked out of the car with their cigarettes. But these gentlemen have short memories and later on, dad had to tell one of them off until he nonchalantly took one last drag before he flicked his fag out the window.

Unable to put more pot noodles in my mouth, I amused myself by watching this guy prepare his lunch. He sat at one of the small tables by the windows and emptied each of the packets of flavourings into his noodles. After each one is emptied, he casually reaches out of the window and releases the packet into the wind.

I watched with great anticipation as he ate. What would he do with the styrofoam pot? With the chopsticks? Surely he’s not going to dump all that out the window was he?

He finished eating. He raised the pot to his mouth and drank up the remainder of the soup. With his right arm, he reached outside with the pot, and dropped. We’ve been watching for so long, and we were so devoid of anything else that was mildly amusing, dad and I burst out laughing. It was the manner by which he conducted the whole affair. It was as casual as anyone scratching their arse. Scratch. Dump. Scratch scratch.

It wasn’t just him. Up and down the train, everyone was doing the same thing. Biscuit wrappers, tissue papers, coffee cups – they threw them out as we went along. Consequently, dispite the train being very packed, it was never dirty. It all went out the window.

What I also found very interesting on this ride was that, despite of the long journey, no one else had any reading material. Dad and I were the odd ones out with our books and magazines.

What did everyone else do? They sat and they stared. Out the window. Into space. At other people.

The younger ones played with their phones, or played music from the dingy speakers. Otherwise, people just sat. I thought that was very odd. Do they not get bored?!

At the end of this 27hr journey, I was smellier, stickier and dirtier than after six days in Siberia. It was so hot I couldn’t sleep at night.

If I was to spend another hour on that train, I would go mad!


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