We’re on another train now, and it was a good solid trek to get here. Having moved successfully from the very nice train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou to the metro station, we took a subway ride including a line transfer to the Guangzhou South station. The metro clientele was much more suburban working class than Hong Kong had been and we were the only ones with luggage. We were also the only Caucasians and one of only a few obviously non-Chinese people we saw from that point on.
|I loved chicken feet as a kid. True story.|
|The posh Hong Kong to Guangzhou train. That tv kept playing ads for operas.|
|The look I get for giving him flack about staring at the phone.|
Finally we found ourselves in a lower level, ready to board that metro. Guangzhou is in China for reals, however, so the ticket machines took only Yuan, and we had none. The ATM we were resigned to use gave only large bills so it was on to the Ticketing Assistance Booth where they wordlessly gave us change, becoming stop #3 on the quest for entrance to the metro. The task accomplished, we found that the ticket was actually a small green disk. On entry, you pass it over the sensor pad and on exit you deposit it into the coin-slot with a satisfying BING and the doors fly open, ejecting you like a somewhat bewildered pinball.
The metro took us to the Guangzhou South Rail Station, where we were truly stumped for about 10 minutes. The maps pointed out all the departure halls but no ticket offices. Finally we went with our instincts, asked for help at the “Inquiries” desk and made it outside and down the sidewalk to the correct line for picking up our prepaid tickets. Actually, we both wondered if the clerk perhaps took pity and gave us our tickets despite it being the wrong line. It was the only one of at least 20 that didn’t stretch 30+ deep and none were really moving much. By now we were dripping sweat again (these huge spaces were not air conditioned) but we did eventually find the enormous ticketing hall, above which the even larger departure hall loomed.
We wandered around trying to decide what to eat and grumping quietly at one another. The best choice in the end was (wait for it)… McDonalds. Disappointing at best, but the other shops’ menus no longer had any roman letters and every delicious looking rice bowl and noodle shop appeared to be all meat.
So, McD’s won out. We seriously need to learn a little Mandarin, though. Like how to say, “No ice, please” and “excuse me for bumping into you” and “would you be so kind as to mop the salt burning my eyes out of my eyebrows?.” I would also like to accost every parent with a toddler to ask how old theirs is, because it’s so hard to wait and find out what she will be like!
After lunch we repaired to the minimally less hot waiting area chairs and concentrated very hard on cooling down and looking friendly. In this station, you can also tell that there are fewer foreigners because the children can’t help turning and staring. We saw a little girl with flowery pants and a white tee on the back of which two little stuffed wings had been sewn from matching flowered material. Another little chubby boy in split pants with a wedge of long dark hair cut in a triangle was doing his best to walk alongside his mom, wobbling and twisting on the end of her outstretched arm. The parents smiled back when we oohed and awed over their gorgeous kids. I have got to learn some Chinese.
Since we had over an hour left to wait, I braved and conquered the infamous non-Western toilets. In my years in Japan I actually came to love these in heavily traveled public spaces. You don’t have to touch anything. Think about that next time you’re in the airport bathrooms in Detroit or Chicago trying to construct an elaborate barrier out of that stupid disintegrating, shifting paper.
Not to prattle on about the bathrooms, but there is one unfortunate difference between Japan and China. Both countries require you to BYO paper, but in China you deposit it in a small garbage can rather than flushing it. This means that the smell in that room was… unusually pungent. But then it’s not like it’s ever much fun to linger in a train station bathroom.
It finally came time to queue up for the train to Wuhan. We shoved and jostled our way aboard (it’s not that people are particularly rude, but it’s crowded with travelers disembarking and shuffling luggage). We now find ourselves on one of the most beautiful rides perhaps in the world. The rice paddies, bamboo forests and other cultivated greenery go on for miles and the valley through which the train is jetting along at close to 200 mph is surrounded on either side by jagged, impossibly steep mountains. Every once in a while we enter a long dark passage straight through one of them. Despite their rugged climbs, each of these mountains is also covered in lush green vegetation. It is a stark contrast from the urban views we had in the two hours from Hong Kong to Guangzhou.
We have three hours to go, each rich green gem of a minute rocketing us closer to her. A guide from Holt’s travel agency will meet us in Wuhan to take us to the hotel, so our solo travel adventure time may be done for now.
|Breathtaking in person.|
|Near the train station|
|10 minutes to Wuhan|