Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Trains For Days! Trains For Days!

Unfortunately and fortunately, I've vacated Shangri-La. Fortunately in the sense that it's damn cold there. Not like a freezing cold or anything, it's just a damp, windy cold that settles right into your bones. Not exactly a great thing for a place that has no central heating in any of it's buildings. Our hostel was always cold, and thankfully some restaurants had wood burning stoves in them. In that sense it reminded me of trekking in Nepal. In the unfortunate sense, I was sad to leave due to the people there, who are incredibly friendly. The nice lady that taught us to make momo's even told us we're always welcome back as friends.

I spent one night back in Lijiang before heading out in the morning on a long train journey up to Chengdu, in the Sichuan province. To get there, I first had to take a morning train to Kunming, where I would catch a night train to Chengdu. The train to Kunming went well enough considering the hangover I had. The oddest part about it was the fact that I bought a ticket for a chair car, which should be exactly that, a chair. Instead we were seated in three bunk compartments, but not allowed to use the middle or top bunks. I found this out when I tried to climb up on one to sleep and the conductor lady kicked me back to the bottom.

The second train however, was more interesting. I booked the ticket at the ticket booth of the Lijiang station, and told the guy I wanted a sleeping berth ticket. I even showed him what I wanted in Chinese characters. The dickhead booked me into a chair car, an unpleasant surprise when I got to the platform. The chair cars are basically a row of three chairs, facing another row of chairs with a small table in between. I was seated in the middle between a group of late teen Chinese men and women. Not the most comfortable sleeping arrangement, especially when the one guy kept trying to rest his head on my shoulder, only for me to check him. It wasn't a total loss, however. The cool thing about the chair car is that it's the lower class of people that ride them, and hardly ever seeing a foreigner ride in their car makes them love said foreigners. Some nice, older Chinese gave my some chicken to eat, which included a chicken foot. Of course I couldn't be rude and refuse, so I ate some of it. It had a really rubbery texture, but I think had it been marinated in something better, it could have been ok. The same people also had some tasty desserts that more than made up for the greasy chicken foot taste that haunted my mouth. Thankfully I had some Dramamine left over from Laos, and I was able to sleep a little bit during the ride, which lasted four hours longer than the timetable said it would.

And now here I am in Chengdu, checked into what seems like a cool hostel. Maybe I'll go see some pandas tomorrow...

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