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First big train trip

Guangzhou, China


Armed with my shiny new chinese visa i headed to Hong Kong station to catch a train to the mainland. I knew that the surrounding area of China was still expensive and also very poluted so i wanted to get in land a distance. $130 took me the 2 hour trip to Guangzhou a smog belching industrial hub and one of Chinas massive cities. From here i intended to catch a sleeper train that evening to Guiln 13 hours North West.
After passing through customs and changing my HK$ for Yuan I am heartily greated by a couple of "tourist information" gents. They ask where i am going... i tell them (mistake). I'm pretty sure, despite what limited travelling experience i have had, i should now not to talk to touts by now, its strange you get yourself ready to act tough and then answer there first question without thinking!
Surpisingly enough they where full of crap as i was told i would not be able to get a train until tomorrow, that i couldn't buy tickets from this station and that they would book it for me at the "same price" of 1700. As soon as he said that I bailed, my lonely planet said you could by them downstairs and it should cost around 200. I legged it down the closest stairs into the ticketing section of the station, I eventually located the long distance checkouts and was greated by a chinese computerised board of destinations. A bit stuck i asked around and eventually determined which large line i should join, 20 minutes later i was at the front but was greated by a blank face when i asked for my ticket. I was then directed to another que with an english speaking clerk and was allowed to jump to the front, i was quickly sold a ticket and paid 209 yuan... travellers 1, touts 0.
I was informed i now had to head to the other station about 5km west so i walked toward the taxi que, again being one of few western faces in the crowd I attracted more attention, "You want taxi?" "Where you go?" ... "main station" I said (er twat your talking to them again, man i really need to toughen up)
"150"
"no thanks" i join the back of the normal main que
"ok you name price"
"20" (er your still talking to them Dan)
"no no it very long way, 100"

You get the idea.

We settled on 60 and then i bailed and joined the que anyway, that bemused him and he followed me for a while before scuttling off.
I got a regular cab it cost 25.

2 - 0

The main station is enormous, apparantly one of the biggest in China, there must have been 5000 folk outside some of which looked like they had been there for days, many of those faces looked Mongolian so i guess they where a long way from home too.

I had 4 hours before my train left and the left luggage department looked chaotic so i decided to hang around, I took a picture then noticed all the police and remebered the stories about people getting arrested for taking pics of important buildings so i put my camera away.
Eventually i ventured inside armed with my 1 yuan (7p) pot noodles as recomended.
Finding where to wait wasn't too difficult as i now knew my train code (in english letters and numerals) so you just follow the signs to your designated waiting area. Around 20 minutes before the train was due to depart there was a shout and the whole waiting room rose and stormed off. I followed the throng assuming that there had been a change of platform, that was the case and we stepped out onto the platform.
As i entered my carriage the situation changed dramatically from the organised chaos of the staion I entered the calm, clean and orderly haven of the train. Greated by a ticket lady assigned specifically to my carriage i swapped my ticket for a card with my bed number on it. I find my bunk, take off my shoes and scramble onto my slightly small but comfortable bed. There are 3 beds on each side of our little bay with cotton sheets, pillow and quilt covers. We also have our own supply of boiled water. We get our own tea lady too who sells fruit and plated meals. I tuck into my deluxe pot noodle and drink some green tea. The pan pipe moods music isn't great but my earplugs are to hand so no worries there. The bumpy train pulls off and I settle for the night, leaving the polution behind.



permalink written by  Dan on March 13, 2008 from Guangzhou, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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Nice one getting a middle bunk! Glad to see the flask in it's element.

Hx

permalink written by  Helen on March 17, 2008

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