13 Oct 2004
|And then an overnight hard sleeper to Anshun, where I arrived just before 7. I Have finally left Yunnan Province (perhaps the best in China?) and am now in Guizhou Province (pronounced Gway-Joe). I am even beginning to like the hard sleeper, I find the noise and movement of the train relaxing, though I could murder people who get on in the middle of the night and have loud conversations (very common...and very Chinese). This was my first real time on my own for a while now, and I did some good thinking, in the sense that I came to some conclusions about how I felt about some of the things that have happened this year, something I have been unable to manage so far. This felt like a big leap forward, and I felt very different as I set off 'back into China' (hence the title, as the Hans are the dominant ethnic group in China). I felt much more self-contained, confident, capable, collected, calm, and other 'c' words. And OK about the great deal of uncertainty the future holds.
The bad news though was that I could only get hard seat for the next 12 hour overnight trip to Zhangjiaje tomorrow night. I must be getting hardier, this doesn't fill me with the dread it once did, though I am praying for an upgrade, and am working on my elbowing technique. Seriously though, I have overcome some of my British reservations about shoving and queue jumping, etc, and it seems to be paying off (and no-one seems to mind).
So I got my ticket for tonight, put my rucksack in left luggage and got a bus to the natural attractions around here. For once the bus was only half-full, and as the Chinese will do when together, the occupants of the bus formed a group, and included me in it. Thankfully no shops this time.
Anshun is off the traveller trail of South-West China, but is a lovely area (not the town so much though). It is all big karst peaks crammed together in a sub-tropical area, and is very atmospheric and good-looking. There isn't the spaces between the peaks like in Southern Thailand, Laos or in Guilin/Yangshuo, so it is like it is very mountainous also. This made for great scenery and driving as we all went to the Longgong Scenic Area. This was great. First a boat trip to a Guanyin Cave - then walking through a whole system full of Buddhas and more caves, then walking, then more caves, walking again, then a boat trip through caves, walking through caves, another boat trip through caves, etc. Excellent and right up my street.
And the obligatory break for the Chinese row. I have no idea what the row was about, but it went on for at least twenty minutes and involved about twenty people, all talking and shouting at once. As I said, this is not uncommon. All that was missing was the usual even larger audience, but that was only because we were sat on a boat in the middle of a flooded cave system.
And then an even better lunch than yesterday. I must attach myself to groups of Chinese more often. Eight of us with sixteen different dishes, about 120p each, so downright posh. I don't actually know what at least three quarters of it was, and have a strong suspicion dog was involved, though I did not want to ask as I did not want to appear the pussy Westerner. This is a very big dog-eating area you see, though I am as yet unable to support my guidebook's description of skinned dogs outside restaurants in doggy poses so people will know there is fresh dog on the menu (and I did pass several cafes on my way to this internet place).
And then a couple of hours at these great waterfalls. They reminded me a lot of ones in Mexico and Laos to look at, which was a bit saddening, but great experience nevertheless. When we got back to town, I resisted the urge to get straight back on the train, and checked in a hotel, changed to a less smelly room, had a shower where the water ran out half way through, and eventually found the usual Chinese internet place, though this is slightly different, as I would swear there are only about two people in here over 10 years old, and I think I'm one of them.
Next day: Lounged around reading and then off to explore in the rain. Last night I saw this place doing a really cheap buffet (about 40p). I am not sure what a lot of it was, at least two kinds of meat that did not taste of anything I had had before (I was trying not to dwell on the dog possibility, or worse). As a result though I did the local equivalent of Kentuicky for lunch today to give my guts a break from my adventurous palate. Mind you, a real foodie would have a field day here, I only dare eat about a quarter of what I see. And a real miser could too, as it is possible to get a meal for 10/15 pence very easily, if you focus on noodles, rice and dough in various forms.
I wondered around town, shopping and searching for where the internet cafes were all hidden away, hoping to find one where I could upload my pics, which eventually, and after some palaver, was succesfully done. I don't know if it was the constant rain, but some of the backstreets weren't half a bit scabby and Dickensian when you got up close amongst them, as were their inhabitants.
And now off to loiter around the train station providing obviously much needed amusement to the Chinese whilst also praying for a ticket upgrade from hard seat to hard sleeper for my 12 hour overnight train journey to Zhangjiajie.