China - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 233 (43)

Train to Guangzhou

Wednesday 27th October

We made sure to be up and ready on time this morning to avoid being late for our train. With all the effort it took us yesterday to get this next couple of days organised, missing the train would be nothing less than catastrophic. We were swiftly packed and made our way outside and down the street to grab a passing taxi. It was a short ride to the station, which was very busy and very congested. A newer, more modern station terminal is currently under construction and the resulting road works is causing havoc with all the buses and taxis trying to pick up and drop of rail passengers. This modernisation is something that is sweeping its way right through China and I dare say that by the time the two thousand and eight Olympics come around, very few people that have been here previously will recognise this country any more.

Until the new terminal building is complete, passengers like us have to contend with the old and quite decrepit building with its filthy floors and generally shabby appearance. We passed our luggage through the security scanners and made our way to the cramped waiting lounge, which was bursting at the seams from the several hundred other waiting passengers. As far as we could see, there were no other western travellers anywhere in the lounge. I guessed, quite correctly as it would turn out, that this might mean that none of the staff on the train would speak any English.

In our eagerness to get there on time, we had plenty of it spare so I wandered around outside the station to see if I could find another one of those DVD outlets to pick up some more titles at rock bottom prices whilst I still could. All around the immediate vicinity of the station were small streets packed with curbside food stalls selling anything and everything. Eating from these food stalls as the locals do would slash quite drastically though our daily food budget, assuming we were adventurous enough to eat this way on a regular basis. We still had our rations from the Walmart superstore that we purchased last night but I picked up a couple of boiled eggs and some fruit just for good measure.

I walked around the various streets near the train station for about half an hour and my patience was rewarded in the end when I found another DVD stall and was able to rummage through their rather extensive collection. I picked up another couple of blockbuster titles for just ¥5 ($0,60) each. Let’s hope the feds don’t catch up with me.

It wasn’t long after I returned to the waiting lounge before the boarding call sounded and several hundred locals swarmed towards the one manned gate to get onto the platform. We let the throng die down before loading up and passing through the turnstile, where the ticket clerk duly sliced a small chad from our tickets and let us onto the platform.

The train was very similar to the one we travelled on from Xi’an to Chengdu and just one other passenger joined us in our cabin. He was from Taiwan and spoke a few words of English but pretty much kept to himself and slept for most of the journey.

There were no electrical outlets on the train and during the course of the trip, I steadily sucked all the juice out of both the laptop batteries that I have with me. For a while, I went to sit at a table in the dining carriage. This was just a little bit more comfortable than sitting with the laptop on my lap (it can get very hot after prolonged use) but I think I irritated the staff there. Every few minutes, someone would come up to me and yell lots of noise at me. After a while, I realised that they wanted me out of the carriage to make room for paying customers but I figured I’d paid just as much for my ticket as everyone else and defiantly stayed put for a good half an hour. The truth is that I wasn’t really in the mood to be friendly and accommodating and did my best to act like I didn’t understand what they were on about – which was technically true.

We sat and watched Southern China slowly pass by with its rice terraces and mountain ranges and we took what photos we could to try to capture some imagery of the scenery. Fading light slowly took its toll, however, and with little else to occupy us, we settled down to an early night.

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