Back in Zhangye now. Very jaded after far too long on trains, and a 20-day visa mission in Hong Kong.
But I am stoked to be back, and am keen to get back on the road. 2,500km of smooth blacktop await, along with a nice 3,800m high pass to start the action off in the next couple of days.
From Hong Kong I got the train to the massive city of Guangzhou. At Guangzhou central train station, the only ticket I would be able to get direct to Lanzhou was a hard seat, four days later. Many, many people are travelling at this time of year.
I decided to get a ticket to Shian, a city about 750km east of Lanzhou. I could still only get a hard seat ticket, and had to wait a day in Guangzhou. The prospect of 30 hours on a hard seat did not appeal, but I had no choice. My visa time is precious. I only have a 30 day visa, so with the allowed extensions, that’s only 90 days in the country.
So with ticket in hand after a 2 hour wait in line at the train station, I went out to find myself a cheap hotel. That would be harder than I expected.
For some reason, the plethora of cheap inns that one usually finds near train stations does not seem to exist in Guangzhou. After 30 minutes of walking around, one of the hotel hawker ladies saw me and offered me a room at a ‘nearby hotel’ for 120RMB. I said I was looking for something no more than 60RMB.
She scratched her head and reluctantly decided to lead me to a dingy apartment block with dark holes for rooms. 60RMB would get me a ‘room’ literally not much bigger than the dimensions of the bed itself, with no windows.
Guangzhou is hot by the way. Muggy. 120% humidity. I was shown that room after lugging all my gear up 5 stories of stairs. I told her that the room was worth no more than 30RMB. She got offended. I left in search of an internet cafe where I knew that I could pay 15RMB and spend the night dozing there.
I slept little that night (19th of July), and little the following night too, in the same internet cafe. I could have paid 120RMB (12 Euro) for a room at a nice hotel, but I was being stubborn out of principle. Dumb.
The train ride from Guangzhou to Shian was horrid. I am sitting here in Zhangye, and my behind still hurts. I slept little in the 30 hours it took to get to Shian. Cattle Class as I have heard it referred to, the hard seat class is overcrowded to say the least. Ugh.
I arrived in Shian on the 21st of July, and went straight to the ticket counter to try to get a train onwards to Zhangye. The only ticket left for Shian to Zhangye was a soft sleeper ticket for a train leaving 10am the next day. At 384RMB for the 12 hour train ride, it was more than three times the price of the 116RMB hard seat ticket for the 30 hour train ride from Guangzhou to Shian. But I was not about to argue. Soft sleeper it was.
So here I am. Back in Zhangye. I arrived at 1am in the morning last night. I skated the 10km into town from the train station in the dark, once again marvelling at the wondrous smooth roads of China. Checked into a random inn, slept little because of cigarette smoke filtering through the walls from the next room.
For those who missed the interview on TV3 national TV in New Zealand, here’s the online link:
By the way, thanks to Lee for pointing out that yesterday was the two year anniversary of the 14degrees Journey. I left Japan on the 22nd of July 2006. How time flies!