Friday, March 5, 2010

Xi'an-Guangzhou: The Long and Winding Railroad

A hair-pulling 27 hours. That's how long our train ride from Xi'an to Guangzhou was. The last of our China backpacking trip.

Image of a traveller who fell in love with intercity trains. I actually savored those 27 hours!

Rewind 44 hours earlier, at around 3:00 PM, our tourist van (we just came from The Terracotta Warriors Musuem) dropped us off Xi'an Railway Station. Clutched in Shervin's hand is a piece of paper where our very helpful guide Ana wrote in Chinese characters: "Guangzhou hard sleeper bottom bunk". Based on our experience with 'English Speaking Counters', it's best to do so.

The queue was short. We were able to buy our tickets in a jiffy, ¥430 each. We walked out of the station and crossed the parking lot towards the bus stop. Bus 603 (¥2) took us to the Bell Tower roundabout, where our hostel was located.

Our train ride the next day was at 8:30 AM so we decided to stay in. And that was one of those rare occasions when we're happy we got cable television. We tuned in to CCTV, one of the few channels that has English shows. They were featuring a TV presentation by the Confucius Institute, showcasing the talents of its students from around the world. It was fascinating to see students from Canada, Australia, Egypt, and other countries singing in Chinese - some even sampled Chinese Opera (which I really dig by the way).

Another highlight of the show is a dance number called "Thousand Hands of Buddha" performed by the Chinese Deaf (yes, deaf) Dance Team. Please, please correct me if I got the name wrong. If you're not familiar with the dance, play this video, I beg of you! You will not be disappointed. Just please bear with the long intro.

Note: Not the actual video, but the exact same routine. Thanks TezLubov for posting!

When the show finished, we surfed other channels and stumbled upon a weight lifting competition. I got so engrossed watching the women. Man, they're so strong! My favorite was Thai's unassuming contender, who looked like a beauty queen. Except, she had a short boy cut. The last two finalists who fought for the title were China and Belarus. I was so amazed with Belarus' finalist (the shortest of them all) I actually Googled her. Unfortunately, we never found out who won. Because Shervin changed channels and forgot to switch back to the show. Great.

Anyways, I will not bore you anymore with our tube viewing. I guess I was just ecstatic to share how that night turned out to be surprisingly fun even if we didn't go out. Our dinner was our 'pabalot' (leftover take away) from lunch. We accompanied it with a big bottle of Harbin Beer which we bought from the grocery. Harbin by the way is "Ice City" in northeast China (which is in my travel bucket list).

We hit the sack around midnight and awoke at 6:00 AM. I prepared instant noodles for breakfast (yet again). We packed our bags while eating. In 30 minutes, we were ready to go. We checked out and asked the receptionist which bus will take us to the train station. I forgot the bus number but the stop is just in front of Kaiyuan Mall, also across the Bell Tower roundabout. ¥2 for the ride.

The waiting area was already packed when we arrived. The boarding call blasted through the speakers at 7:30 AM, an hour before departure. On the way to our sleeper cabin, we passed by cabins that have hard and soft seats. They're for passengers who will be getting off nearby stations. That explains the 27-hour ride. The more stops, the longer the trip.

Our cabin didn't have any other passengers besides us, which made me regret we paid more for the bottom bunk. The cabin 'rooms' are more open than the ones in the Hongkong-Beijing and Beijing-Xi'an train. Other passengers can easily watch you sleep (not that they really do). The ladders also are attached at the foot of the beds, and everyone in the hallway will see you struggle as you climb up.

Our cabin. Here's what I'm talking about.

To tell you honestly, I cannot remember exactly how I passed the time. But no way did I get bored. I mostly read and reread our Lonely Planet China. Sometimes I'd just stare out of the window, focusing on nothing.

Shervin slept almost the whole time, he loves the hard sleepers too. The highlight of the trip for him was when he ate his pomegranate which we bought from the Muslim Quarter back in Xi'an. Oh. And also, when he fooled around with some train personnel out our window at one of the stops.

Later that day I forced myself to a nap. The next day will be our last day in China. I was a bit melancholic.


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Shervin Emami said...
April 10, 2010 at 5:51 PM

mmm ... pomegranite

The Nomadic Pinoy said...
April 10, 2010 at 7:29 PM

No curtains on those bunk beds mean anyone could easily see someone's mouth open wide while snoring. Not the best view!

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
April 10, 2010 at 8:55 PM

Let me correct myself, pomegranate was the highlight of Sherv's whole China trip. Not just that train ride.

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
April 11, 2010 at 12:42 PM

Hahaha! You crack me up Dennis.

pinoy boy journals said...
April 11, 2010 at 3:56 PM

27 hours... wow!!! i have a silly question and i hope you don't mind me asking... do chinese trains have cars where you can smoke, chinese people are big smokers so i assume there is one... i am bad but i cannot stand 27 hours without marlboros. LoL

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
April 11, 2010 at 9:05 PM

Oh yeah, I failed to mention that. All the cabins (I think) are non-smoking. But in between them are junctions (uhm, I don't know what that part is exactly called) where you are allowed to smoke, unless a sign says otherwise. Usually the area's just outside the lavatory.

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