When we decided we’d go to China, I did a bunch of research and figured out vaguely where we wanted to go. This was based on having a full month in mainland China, when we have three weeks, and failed to consider that we would be there during their summer holidays. Our time constraints meant we couldn’t get everywhere I’d hoped, and the summer holidays meant that pretty much all the trains were booked out well in advance.
On our last day in Yangshuo, my computer also decided that it no longer wished to cooperate and refused to turn on, regardless of any threats of violence and abusive language directed its way. I did try asking it nicely first, but it didn’t respond to that either. It’s fair to say that I was a little stressed and unhappy about this, as I’m rather attached to my Macbook Pro and I haven’t even had it for twelve months. I didn’t want a repeat of the Romanian Computer Catastrophe.
After looking at our options we decided to head straight to Chengdu, skipping Fenghuang and Zhangjiajie. We simply couldn’t get there – all the trains were booked out, and it was going to be three separate trains anyway.
Our only option was to fly, but flights into Chengdu were either booked out or rather expensive. In the end we booked a flight to Chongqing and planned to take a fast train from Chongqing to Chengdu.
We organised with our hostel to book a taxi to the airport in Guilin at 6.30am, as our flight was too early to take a bus. At 6.20am we were waiting at the front of the hostel, making sure we were on time. And we waited, and we waited. At that time of morning the hostel has no English-speaking staff working – just an old man without a word of English. At 6.45am I was getting worried – they’d told us it was about 1.5 hours to the airport and our flight was at 8.50am. We woke up the little old man and he called one of the staff, who told us the taxi would be five more minutes. At this point we double checked our receipt and saw that the receipt stated 6.30 PM! We’d been very clear with the girls the night before that it was 6.30 in the morning, but they must have got AM and PM confused. At 7.00am, when the taxi still hadn’t arrived, the phone rang and the guy we’d spoken to confirmed he’d spoken with the driver and she was on her way. He advised it would only take an hour as we would take the highway instead. Fortunately the driver arrived about ten minutes later and rushed us off to the airport. We got there in time!
The flight was uneventful. I fell asleep, as I tend to do on transport. I’m not sure what John did, aside from not sleep.
Arriving in Chongqing we needed to take the metro from the airport to the railway station. We greatly appreciated that the ticket machines had an English option and were soon on the metro. What shocked us most about Chongqing was the pollution. We’d thought it had been bad in Yangshuo and Guangzhou – nothing prepared us for Chongqing. Flying in, all we could see was dirt and smog. Going through the city on the metro, outside was just grey, smoggy haze, and we couldn’t see further than 100 metres. Even that distance was a struggle.
The ticket lines at the train station were unpleasantly long, but we eventually made it to the front of the queue only to find that the next few trains were booked out and it was about a two-hour wait for the next available one. There had been standing room on the earlier trains but John didn’t want to stand for two hours, so we waited.
We arrived into Chengdu East Railway Station just after 4pm, and decided that we’d take a taxi. Our hostel booking directions stated it should cost about 25-30 RMB for a metered taxi. The taxi driver even used the meter without us asking for it! I was shocked!
The drive to our hostel was John’s introduction to some seriously crazy driving. He looked like he was desperately trying to find something to hold onto, and was disappointed when he couldn’t find anything [or a seatbelt]. Our driver ended up reversing back up a crowded street, weaving around, trying to get out of a traffic jam. But he did get us to our hostel, amid much horn honking and red light running and driving on the wrong side of the road.
We’d booked a room at Lazybones Hostel, and were pretty happy with the hostel and the staff. After a shower – much needed after our epic journey comprising two taxis, a plane, the metro and a train – we hailed another taxi to go over to the Apple Store to have my computer looked at. I’d booked an appointment with the Genius Bar upon arriving at the hostel, and had my fingers crossed that someone would speak English. As it turned out, pretty much everyone in the huge Apple Store spoke English. They whisked my computer away and brought it back twenty minutes later working perfectly. I was most impressed. And because it was still under warranty at the time [for two more weeks, anyway!] it cost me a grand total of nothing. I felt a whole lot better knowing my computer was fixed and I didn’t have to have the hard drive wiped. The thought of losing all my photos was a bit scary…even though the only ones not backed up were ones I’d taken back home of a couple of Melbourne events, the Zombie Shuffle and our trip to Sydney.
Back at the hostel we planned a relatively early night, although a few cocktails lengthened that. I’d earned those Tequila Sunrises, and John earned his beers.