Musings - Day 24
Day 24 – 19th January 2020
The support from you guys is immense!
This is a cross/ hybrid between an apple and a lychee - it is known locally as an apchee. (Not sure about the name - but I can tell you that they are gorgeous! Watch out for the stone in the middle )
I have no idea when you guys will be able to see these posts because today there has been a flurry of activity that has seen me make transport and accommodation arrangements for the next five days. So theoretically whilst I am writing these blogs as I go, I may not have internet connectivity until Ho Chi Minh city, on Tuesday evening, to post them. (Around 7 hours in front of U.K. – which is one hour behind where I am now, in China.) I will still keep writing them as the days unfold, knowing what will be, will be. I will stick them into cyberspace as soon as I am able. Today I left the hotel around 08:10am in a taxi across town to make the 09:44am train. At this point it was the last travel plan in my agenda today. I didn’t know whether or not I would have to overnight in Nanning or at best get an overnight train into Vietnam. The information was sketchy to say the least. The train journey found me musing quite a bit about China. In Beijing I voiced the opinion that I thought that I liked China, well now I am not so sure. I have been in the country for thirteen days, and I am quite relieved to be leaving either later today or tomorrow. The odd thing is I am not completely sure why?
There are some magnificent positives before I list the opposites. Locally and nationally I have seen a massive infrastructure building programme going on throughout China. There has been extremely visible construction projects going on in trains laying new tracks, stations, highways and new housing. These are all signs of a country that is prospering. It calls itself a peoples republic, but they are slowly edging towards a socialist capitalist republic. There is no shortage of external influences and foreign company investments, as well as huge advertising presence in all of its cities. Whist you can argue that the out of town places that I have seen, have been from a transportation view only, there was no real evidence of abject poverty. The only people who don’t have ultra-smart phones are seemingly the homeless. (Of which I saw very few.) There was one guy in Chengdu that was begging with a cardboard sign. To the left of it was a hand drawn picture of a mobile phone, to the right some Chinese writing. My translator App which has so far proved to be very unpredictable, converted it for me. The homeless guys phone sign read “Money for a new contract.” Perhaps a modern take on panhandling. It is no doubt a land with some fantastic natural features, with an amazing historical story to tell. Unique attitudes, language and customs that all have some incredible origins. There is no doubt whatsoever, that the country is racing towards the twenty second century many times faster than most. You are waiting for a but…?
Well apart from the writing that is made up from drawings of beach huts, tea pots and Christmas trees, which I still can’t fathom whether it is written left to right or up to down. They speak in a very loud, ostensibly aggressive manner. There are words like ‘Yee Hai’ and ‘Wo Hai’ that sound like polite interactions with a horse. Some of my exchanges have been like playing chess with a penguin. The modernity however, is quite profound. The technological aspect seems purely insular. I don’t know whether they share ideas commercially, but as a country, it appears to be extremely protective of its people. For example, they view Google, Facebook, Twitter, and social media in general, as a corrupt influence, that may somehow pervert its citizens. You cannot make any kind of internet connection unless you either have a Chinese phone number temporarily installed on your phone, buy another sim card, or use the Chinese internet from your local supplier. (In my case hotels or cafes that give you access.) It is only then that I can connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN's) that will allow me the access to all the stuff I have become accustomed to. Every travel option that I have taken in China, including tours, I have needed to provide my passport to be electronically recorded. The Chinese people all have I.D. cards that have to be shown whenever they set foot on any conveyance. I am sure that the government would say that it is for their own protection, in case of accidents, but I don’t buy into that one. I feel that they want to know where everybody is at all times. The data bases for every movement must be enormous. On top of which there is three times the administrative effort made whenever you go anywhere. Hotels for example, you kind of feel that if the triplicate paperwork does not marry up then someone will get into enormous trouble. Banks for example, to change money from an outside currency into Chinese Yuan. It takes a huge paper trail, complete with photo copies of your passport and details of where you are staying, to complete the transaction. I watched today in a restaurant, a complete staff line up to administer, in front of its customers, a severe admonishment, it appeared. (There are no, or very few, bars as such. If you just want a beer, they are happy to serve you one, but you feel a little out of place in a restaurant.) The principle for the Chinese, to go to a place for just an alcoholic drink is bizarre. It is as odd for them as it is for us to go to an ice rink with a toad in your pocket. It simply isn’t done – or at least that was my experience. There was an interesting experience, for me when attending an aforementioned eating house just for a beer. So in the restaurant (I direct you to the picture below) my general view of what happened is thus. The copious number of staff (around sixteen or so, with only three customers in the whole joint,) were all lined up. The head, whatever her position was, shouted at her staff members as though they had all been caught stealing or something. It was aggressive beyond any reasonable understanding. She let rip a tirade that went on for a good two minutes. She walked up and down the ranks as though they were all on parade. At the end of it, astonishingly, they all clapped! It was like a collective, “Thank you for the bollocking - Oh wise one!”
Another thing that has gone against the grain for me, is their seemingly abusive nature towards animals. We know that they will eat anything that once had a pulse, but I have witnessed a couple of incidents of cruelty against domestic pets. These were both against dogs and both in crowds of people, where passers-by just laughed. Firstly was a woman who dragged her dog by the front leg, over a pedestrian crossing. The dog hopping on its back legs was obviously struggling to keep up, and was yelping against the pain. The second was a large breed who was supposedly being fussed by a man. In front of an audience of six or eight hoodlum friends, he picked the dog up by the skin on its back. Again laughter and cajoles against the shrieking dog, rather than the abuser. I have seen market animals in cages that wouldn’t have been big enough if they were three times the size. One male mallard was in a small mesh cage that he could even turn around in. So, in essence I feel that there is a general acceptance, that animals are just for eating. That doesn’t sit well with me in any country. So I am far less enthusiastic about my travels in China than I was about a week ago.
Just got off the train in Nanning and i tell you I could murder a ........
Now, during the time in Nanning, I put my best foot forward at the ticket office of the train station. In the only English speaking counter,(especially marked as so) I enquired about my options for travel into Vietnam. 1st guy: “No trains!” – My response was, “When is the first available train?” (I knew that I may have trouble finding a place because it is very close to Chinese and Vietnamese New Year.) He didn’t understand my question in the English speaking section of the ticket counter – so he left! To be replaced by a more proficient speaker of English attendant number two. After hearing my request to travel to Vietnam tonight, he replied, “No trains!” I countered to the affirmative indicating that his previous colleague had said the same, repeating the enquiry as before – so he also left! There is now a line formed behind me because my enquiry was not fully sated, and I must have possibly looked distracted by it all. Bring on the third English speaker, this time a lady. From nowhere she produced a ticket on the 18:05 to Hanoi. Dumbfounded, I smiled bemused, and gave her some money. I have four and a half hours to kill before my train leaves. So I negotiated with the left luggage department, (Oh please! Don’t ask,) left my heavy back pack, and went in search of a little tea house. I found a restaurant, as previously mentioned, that gave me superb internet coverage. From there I was able to book an onward two day train, all the way to Ho Chi Minh City. Complete with hotel for a couple of nights to get up to date with my laundry etc., and make onward travel arrangements. For the train fares, both tonight and the next two days, plus the hotel for two nights after that, it came to a total of £85 / $100 US. So five days for eighty five quid! This will still put me at around three days ahead of schedule, and it will have taken the mileage to over the ten thousand mark. So by day twenty nine, I will have completed the first ten ‘K,’ equating to an average of around 350 miles a day. Not bad for an old bloke with a gammy knee!
Position: 22°45'32” N 108°10'25”E – Miles completed: 08756
Location: Somewhere just south of Nanning, China. 18:24 - 19th January 2020 - Journey 24 days 14 hours