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Reisverslag The start of the trip
20 september 2016
The start of the trip
So, as I may have mentioned a couple (or bazillion) times, I started a trip around Asia recently. Although, to be fair, I did start it in Berlin for a long weekend of drinking, partying and just generally having fun with some friends. I have to say, since I slept about 3 hours a night, I don’t remember much, but since I slept only 3 hours a night, it must have been awesome ^_^ There is one thing I do remember: I met some really really awesome people.
After this awesome weekend there was, as my friend Daniel calls it, the depressing Monday. I walked around Berlin after everyone had left, after saying goodbye a million times, finally all by myself. Saw a church, some industrial complexes, train tracks, a park and more sights no normal tourist in Berlin ever sees. I enjoyed it, but did feel more alone than ever. However, at the end of the day was my flight to Beijing!
All I did on the flight was eat, sleep, eat and sleep. Thanks for the tip on how to sleep comfortably on a plane, Geert-Jan ;-). And then I’d arrived. Beijing airport is not really as orderly as I had expected, but I did get through in short order. When I arrived at the hostel 2 hours later, all I really wanted to do was eat. So I went into the streets and found me a restaurant. I mean, they had pictures of food on the wall, so it had to be a restaurant. So I said nihao and pointed at one of the pictures. The owner pointed at a chair and I sat down while he went to work. After he’d finished the noodle soup, he took a sausage from a drawer in his kitchen, cut off 3 slices and put them in the bowl. Within 5 minutes of ordering, I had my dinner, although I was quite sure I would be sick the next day. Of course I still had to try it, so I figured as long as I didn’t touch the meat, and just had vegetables (Chinese broccoli was the only one I recognized) and noodles, I’d be fine. So I ate almost all of the soup, leaving the meat and some other stuff so it wouldn’t look weird, paid the man (almost 2 euro) and left. Then I went back to the hostel and slept, again. This would become a theme in the next couple of days. Maybe I should have slept a little bit more in Germany…
The next day, I went to the Forbidden City. That tiny little square in the middle of Beijing. I have to say, the square doesn’t look tiny when you’re walking across it. It took me 3 hours to get from the entrance to the back wall (of course weaving back and forth a little, but still…) and then I noticed that I’d missed the exhibitions, so I had to double back to see those. Eventually, 6 hours after walking in, I walked out. I met some wonderful Chinese ladies who took me to a tea house, and we practiced their English and did some karaoke (apparently it’s not just something done in Japan). For some reason though, I felt a little bit like I was getting scammed the entire time. Then the bill came and I was pretty sure. I mean, 2 pots of tea and a bottle of (not great) wine are not supposed to cost 480 euro, right? I’m glad we split it 4-ways (which probably meant I paid 120 euro and they received 60) and I just decided to not trust people who speak English decently and want to go out for drinks with me anymore. Afterwards, I tried to walk across Tianmen square to get to the best Peking Duck Restaurant in town, but was stopped by a soldier, and still have no idea why. I couldn’t continue, so if I wanted to go there, I’d have to find another route. Instead, I decided to go to a different restaurant, had some vegetables (because seriously Luuk, we had way too little of that in Berlin), and actually got a moon cake from the owner of the restaurant. A moon cake is a cake made for the mid-autumn Moon festival, as during the September Full Moon, the Chinese have a holiday when they go see family and friends and share these cakes.
After this, I went back to the hostel, since the next day I’d have to get up really early in order to take a trip to the Great Wall!
So there I was, in the hallway of the hostel, at 5.55 AM, waiting for the minibus to come pick me up around 6. So I waited and waited. At 6.20, I woke up the guy sleeping behind the reception desk. He told me they’d come, and not to worry. So I waited some more. Then, at 7.15, I decided to wake him up again. He then called up the agency that was to arrange the trip, and they said they didn’t know about it at all. So I figured, let’s just figure out how to get there by myself (I mean, how hard can it be, not speaking or reading any Chinese in a country where less than 1% of people speak any English.
Turns out, it’s not actually that hard. I took the subway to the bus station, then found the right bus, and then a woman who said she was a bus driver helped me by telling me how much the trip would cost, a total of 15 yuan for a 2-hour trip. As you pay by putting the exact amount into the metal bin at the front of the bus, and no change is provided, this was very useful. She also told me where to go once we arrived and even “helped” me find a taxi to take me the last bit of the journey. I mean, the taxi alone cost me as much as the entire trip by the hostel, but then he did take me right into the park where the wall was, and he waited there and took me back to the bus, making sure I was in time to go back to Beijing. All in all, I only paid slightly more for the trip than I would have through the hostel, and got to do it exactly my way, so it wasn’t too bad. Plus, I got to sleep in the car on the way there and back…
When I got back to the city, I went to have some dinner at the bus station. It was some sort of Chinese fast food place, and I could point at the food I wanted, so it was quite easy… except it wasn’t. Apparently, you had to get a card and charge it beforehand, but as all the text in the restaurant was in Chinese, I had no idea. Lucky for me, the guy behind the counter accepted my money, ran to the counter where you get the charged card, got change for me and a card, then charged the food to the card and ran back to return it. This was the most friendly and helpful thing I had encountered so far, but in general, the Chinese are nothing if not helpful. Afterwards, I went on a stroll through the hutongs, the small streets that are filled with shops. My favorite thing I saw here was this shop: Love you A cup. I guess this is just a way of telling women the size of their chest doesn’t matter.
That evening, the evening of the Mid-Autumn festival, there was a party in the hostel bar. The girl who was supposed to arrange my trip to the Great Wall came up to me and apologized so much and so many times, asking me how to make it up to me, that eventually I said I’d like to have lunch at a roast duck restaurant, since I hadn’t had that before, and if she’d show me one, it would be fine. She insisted she’d pay, despite me declining this twice, so I finally gave in.
As for the rest of the party, we played Uno and drank some and played pool and drank some more. It was a very fun night, and I met my roommate for the night, Matt. He turned out to be a fun guy, so we went to the Lama temple together the next morning. Well, we were supposed to… Apparently the Lama temple is right next to the Confucius temple. We visited the latter instead, which was a lot of fun, and I did learn a lot about Confucius there. In order to be back in time for lunch, I had to skip the Lama temple, but lunch was great! Best duck I’ve ever had, and close to the hostel too… Too bad I was leaving after lunch, because I would have gone there again.
So then my flight onwards to Chengdu. Normally I’d plan how to get from the airport to the hostel I’d booked… I guess I was preoccupied, because I’d totally forgotten about that. So at the airport, with no idea where to go, no idea where the hostel was, and no address of the hostel in Chinese, I was basically fucked. Lucky for me though, I could still use WhatsApp and I had a VERY helpful friend (thanks Paul) who sent me the directions in text (including Chinese). And if only I had followed them correctly, I would have made it to the hostel with no problems. However… I couldn’t find the correct bus stop, and asked for help. The Chinese girl who spoke some English was really nice but had no idea of the buses in Chengdu, so she led me quite far from where I had to go, and then the last 77 bus had already left (at 22.00, I had expected there to be later buses, but apparently, this assumption was very much wrong). Eventually I found some people who spoke no English, but with the Chinese equivalent of Google Translate, we figured out where I had to go (they called the hostel and asked for the address, then got me an Uber to there, and wouldn’t even accept my money to pay them for their help, or to pay them back for the Uber… Like I said, extremely helpful.
So I finally arrived at the hostel. I was thinking it would be a shared room with 5 other people, but instead I got a room for me, with ensuite shower (no toilet though). Privacy felt great! I guess I might have some trouble getting used to dorms on this trip, but hey, who doesn’t love a good challenge? After a nice long shower (during which I found out that I’d left one of my two towels in the previous hostel) I went to bed in my own private room. Did I mention I enjoyed privacy?
The next couple of days went by in a rush, because I didn’t do much. I walked around Chengdu, visited parks and malls, streets and more parks, temples, and the big highlight: The panda park. Of course I chose the day on which it wouldn’t stop raining to do this, so I think it could have been more fun, but I saw panda’s up close, although the red panda is more interesting to me than the big black and white bear that’s trying it’s hardest to go extinct. I mean, I already knew that they only eat bamboo, and are so disinterested in sex that they need panda porn in order to get them in the mood… but now I learned that they only eat 13 out of hundreds of types of bamboo… and need to eat 25% of their body weight every day in order to just stay alive! Oh, and panda mothers get twins half the time, but ignore the weakest of the two… What’s the point of even getting twins then?
On the last day, I went out to a teahouse and had a massage for almost the same price as the tea. Plus, I ordered one cup of tea and got a 3L thermos of hot water next to it… took me an hour and a half to finish half of it. That evening, I had some hot pot that wasn’t actually that spicy (they’d apparently made the foreigner version for me) with some of the weirdest things I’ve had to eat so far. There was something that looked like tofu but tasted like eel, something that probably was liver wrapped in intestine, and some leaves that tasted good but I still have no idea what they were.
And now I’m on the train to Chongqing. People rearranged all their stuff so I could use my laptop more comfortably on the shared table… Sweet! Going to Chongqing mainly because the food is supposed to be really good, and the hottest hot pot of them all is served here. I’ll try to find a Chinese person to go with so as to avoid getting the foreigner version again, because I want to try the hottest dish in the world in its purest form. Wish me luck!
Oh finally: This is my planning for the next weeks… I know about the landslides near Kunming in Yunnan, but they’ll be done before I get there, so it’ll be fine. Or something.
20th Chengdu -> Chongqing Train: 12.00 -> 15.42
22nd Chongqing –> Kunming Train: 11.01 -> 23/09 04.56
23rd Kunming –> Lijiang Train: 20.55 -> 24/09 06.05
25th Lijiang -> Tiger leaping gorge Bus
26th Tiger leaping gorge -> Lijiang Bus
27th Lijiang -> Lugu lake Bus
28th Lugu Lake -> Xichang Bus
29th xichang -> Emei shan Train: 14.40 -> 21.18
30st Emei shan
1st Emei shan -> Chengdu Train: 11.01 -> 13.24
2nd Chengdu -> Lhasa Train: 14.48 -> 04/10 09:55
Foto's bij verslag (12)
20 september 2016 14:15 | Door: Tielke
Awesome! Really enjoyed reading about your adventures! Please keep them coming! Enjoy and stay safe
20 september 2016 16:53 | Door: Danielle
Spannende verhalen hoor Alex!! Fijn dat je het leuk hebt! Maarre zo goedkoop is Azie dus niet, 120 euro voor een kopje thee.. :P
Hier mis je heel veel hoor: de maandelijke WAM-ERGO, FSv2 methodes... ;)