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THE CHATTER BOX

 
  
  
  The Chatter Box : Travel
  
  
  
 
China on the Train by Davecolyer on 18 July 2011 9:36am
 
Further Chinese Impressions. Saturday, 21 November

We took the sleeper train from Jinan to Hangzhou; a 12 hour journey starting at 5.58 pm. We travelled 1st class in a 4 bed sleeper compartment, sharing with 2 guys-the one opposite me on the bottom bunk annoying me with his constant mobile phone activity and the one above with his ‘hoiking’ noises, which seems to be a precursor to spitting, but with nowhere to expectorate, he had to keep repeating the ‘loop’.
Train was OK, but very hot, so I couldn’t sleep and halfway through the night Ling flung a jumper at me, from her top bunk, diagonally opposite, she usually does this when she thinks I’m feeling cold.

With a couple of toilet breaks, I passed the night with about 2 hours sleep, from 3.00 am – 5.00 am. The train was due to arrive at 6.35, but was delayed at Gonshanmen for nearly an hour, while we waited in the heat of the train, not knowing the reason. I stood looking out the window, with the usual depressing sights that you see anywhere in the world from a railway track, where people who live by the railway have no conception that people from trains can see their back gardens, houses etc, because to them the train is just flying past.

The main views were half finished buildings everywhere, already occupied, with the outside just plain concrete, now decaying, streaked with dirt and damp patches, while others nearby looked finished and well cared for. One 5 storey block looked quite luxurious, but was surrounded by muddy tracks and piles of broken bricks and dust, surrounding muddy pools. It was like a bombsite, in which a new building had just been parked. In fact there were so many piles of broken bricks, from demolished buildings, they could all be joined together, to make new mountains, to replace the natural ones, which are disappearing to make cement, for highways, bridges and housing blocks. Soon all the mountains will disappear and be replaced by high rise buildings and artificial mountains, made from rubble and broken bricks.

The best views of the countryside were unfortunately blocked by avenues of trees, lining the railway lines. But there were glimpses of cultivated fields, rivers and here and there stagnant ponds, mixed with wastelands of weeds and wild shrubs. I saw some new housing blocks which looked quite presentable, but extensions had been latched on to them, made of plastic laundry bags sewn together to make rudimentary shelters or lean-tos. Also beside the tracks, there were neat rows of crops, such as cabbage and spinach, but alternating with piles of plastic rubbish waste. There was an unmade road running alongside the track, where an old man had hopefully set up a market stall, selling a few paltry wares, with no sign of any passing trade.

Another man was performing some strange ritual at the edge of a field, drinking some liquid, stretching out his arms and spitting out the liquid on to the field. While the train was stopped, another example of people’s unawareness of train passengers was a man urinating in a corner of a wall, with his back to the train, blissfully unaware there were rows of people on the train, watching him from the windows.

We arrived eventually at Hangzhou at 7.30 am and I was surprised to see so many people leaving the train, as I hadn’t really noticed that many during the journey. Ling’s younger brother Bai Feng, (wife Zhou Xue Qing (Betty) met us at the station, having waited for us there during the one hour delay. He is a very nice man, tall and looks well educated. His wife speaks good English and they have a daughter, aged 11, who seems bright. We took a taxi for about 24 RMB to their block of flats, very nicely arranged, with security gate, landscaped gardens with trees and shrubs and well kept paths. The 3 bedroom flat is on 8th floor, worth about 4 million RMB, (£350K) where they’ve lived for 6 years. It’s very cold inside though, as Ling warned, being warmer outside, although they’ve just had 10 days of rain. Its winter here, but the daytime temperature is about 14 degrees. However, its cold at night inside the flat and they don’t have heating.

The daughter was in bed when we arrived and I managed to get a wash and shave, before Feng took us to a local cafe for breakfast of fried egg, rice soup and the long doughnut like bread, (youtiao) which all cost 14 yuan (just over £1) for 3 of us. We took 2 takeaways for Betty and Bai Xinyiao (their daughter) and went to a local supermarket, to buy milk and yoghourt, shaving cream etc, quite expensive at 143 RMB. Then returned to the flat and found the daughter up, vacating her room so we could use it for the next 9 days or so.
Sitting writing this, in her room, sunlight coming through the windows but I’m wearing 2 jumpers, hat and 2 socks, indoors, as there‘s no central heating.

We had a takeaway for lunch at about 11.30am-I had spaghetti and meatballs, quite authentic. After that we went to the Century Hypermarket and did a bit of shopping for the week, Lipton’s tea, bread, butter, parmellos, bottles of Australian wine (get one free!) , some garlic sausage, sugar free marmalade and some custard tarts. I paid the bill, about 520 RMB.

Made some English tea for all in the afternoon and later we walked about 20 minutes to a dinner place-quite clean etc, various dishes ordered plus a bottle of Xaoxing wine, to drink with the meal; mainly used for cooking, like sherry. My stomach survived the meal, but the last dish was the one I enjoyed best was some sweet and sour fish. When we got back, too cold to sit around so went to bed at 9.30 and Ling had a shower.

 



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