Guangzhou, China, Asia
I got up this morning at 7:30am and left the hostel at 8am to get to the train station in town. I had come into Guangzhou East Train Station last night, so I couldn’t buy my next train ticket because the one I want leaves from Guangzhou Train Station. I took the metro from Fangcun up to Guanzhou Train Station which was easy enough. All of the signs in the metro were in Chinese and in English, so it was really easy to figure out where I was. That was the end of the easy part. I followed signs inside the metro station that pointed out to the train station, and then the English stopped.
I could see a huge screen that said “Train Information”, but everything on the screen was in Chinese. I couldn’t see any place that said “Tickets”, so I walked across this huge clearing in front of the station and found a tourist information booth where they pointed me in a general direction. I finally found a building where it looked like ticket sales lines, but again, everything was only in Chinese. I asked someone else where to get a ticket to Guilin and I was pointed to line 18. I stood in line for about twenty minutes and got to the front of the line and the girl had no idea what I was asking for. She then pointed me to line 15, where I could wait in line for another ten minutes. I finally got to the front of the line and the ticket person spoke English, HOORAH! I was able to get a ticket for tonight (which I guess was a miracle because everything is normally sold out), but I could only get a middle berth on a hard sleeper. I figured that was okay, and took the ticket.
I made my way back to the hostel and was pretty happy that I didn’t need to spend another night in Guangzhou, which is just a big city. It doesn’t appear that there’s much to see in the city, so I had no intention of sticking around. I got back to the hostel and packed up my things and checked out by 11am. There was only wifi in the lobby at the hostel, so I sat there and tried to get myself a bit more organized for where I was going to go after Guilin. I had an idea, but I also realized that if I am going to go home (USA) for the holidays, I had better book a ticket pretty soon, as it’s only a month away.
I found the flights I wanted, out of Edinburgh on 20 November and returning on 1 January, into Boston. I found an awesome rate of $605 but no matter what site I used or card I tried, nothing was accepting it. I tried about eight different times and was turned down every time. After about five hours, and losing that great rate, I booked on Airfrance.com for $670, which is still pretty good. At least now I know that I’m going to be home for the holidays and I’ll be back in Edinburgh looking for a job in the new year. It was quite a stressful day of sitting in the hostel and not really doing anything except for trying to plan out my near future.
At 5pm I left the hostel and headed toward the train station with all my gear. My train didn’t leave until 7:45pm, but I was told that it can take an hour to get there and possibly just as much time to find out where I need to go. I got to the station by 5:45pm and stood there like a lost child just watching millions of people walk past me, all knowing where they were going. I knew my train left at 19:47 and was number K952, and luckily the Chinese use the same numbers as us. I found those two number sequences and saw the only other number in that row was a “2”. I figured that meant platform 2, so I headed into the station. The only number 2 I could see was a waiting room.
I asked at the information desk where I was supposed to go and then just kept pointing to number 2, so I was a bit nervous as to how I would know to go to a platform when I had to board. It turns out you just sit in the waiting room and then about thirty minutes before your train departs, you get called to board straight from there. I was waiting in there for just over an hour and saw, smelt and heard some disgusting things. There was a good looking 20-ish year old girl sitting across from me sucking on a chicken foot, that wasn’t nice to see. Then there was a guy about 45 years old who was hocking loogies on the floor in the waiting room and another guy was blowing snot rockets all over the place! This place is unbelievable!
I got on the train and found my middle bunk in carriage 18, and I didn’t see one other westerner on the train. I hadn’t even seen another westerner in the waiting room where there were about 600 people waiting to get on this train. I figured it was going to be a very quiet ride for twelve hours to Guilin, until I passed Greg on the train. He’s a 53 year old Aussie guy travelling through China on his own for about a month, and he was only a few beds away. He was also fortunate enough to get a bottom berth on the train so we had a place to sit and chat. The lights went out at about 9pm and by 10pm I figured I would try to get in my little bed and stop bothering the people trying to sleep. I’m a bit nervous about my expensive stuff on the train, but I’ll be hugging my bag all night, so it should be all good.