Entries into a travel journal about my trip to China.
Greetings from China.
I've just arrived from Beijing in Xi'an. It was quite the journey down. It turns out that over here you need to buy your train ticket a couple of days in advance to get a good seat/bed. Obviously me being me I didn't do this and so I was left with a hard-seat which is softer than the name implies. Much like the seats on regular trains at home, only the train journeys there don't last 11 hours. Yes that's right 11 hours. It was quicker for me to fly to China! But I soldiered on, mostly cause my only other option was to walk, and lets face it that wasn't going to happen!
So, I went down to the train and found my seat and I was surrounded completely by Chinese people. Not that I'm judging, it is their country. I had no idea what was going on and no one to ask but I figured if there was a problem I'd follow the others off the train. The people sitting around me were really nice and they helped me put my rucksack on the over head compartment, this was no mean feat. It weighted more than me! And I had every intention to sit for the 11 hours with it between my legs. Turns out the Train Officials weren't into that! And on a side story the over head luggage compartments on this train were much the same size as the ones that are on the trains from Dublin to Maynooth and some how people managed to fit bags bigger than them op there. Don't know how they fit them up there, I was sure my rucksack would fit, they must be like Mary Poppins bag- magic! Anyhow, my surrounding travellers were really nice. The man sitting opposite me seemed to want to take me under his wing, in as much a way one can when you can't speak the same langue as the other person. But he offered me some of his tea, took a passing interest in my book (thankfully it was only passing as it was on Jack the Ripper and I'm not sure how I would explain the pictures of mutilated women in it!) and then when the cards were broken out he wanted me to play. However they were playing a game I had never seen before and I really couldn't figure out the rules, I'd think I'd have it and then BAM someone would put down a 4 and win, totally didn't get it but I enjoyed watching it! At the start I thought it was Chinese poker and got incredible excited about that but then random cards were put down so that wasn't it.
Then this little girl went to the loo with her dad and she stumbled on the carpet beside my seat and looked up at me and just froze and stared. And when I tried to smile at her she backed into her dad. She was terrified of me! I'm pretty sure she thought that I used some kind of black magic to cause her to trip on the train. And on her way back to her seat when she passed me she just stopped and stared. I decided that since my first attempt of friendliness failed and the last thing I wanted to do was make a small child cry the best thing to do would be to just keep reading my book. This seems to have worked. She came to her own conclusion that I was not some hideous monster but more than likely I had suffered some macabre misfortune as a child and was left looking like this. I think I was the first white person she'd ever seen. That was a very strange experience.
So then half way through the journey the guys sitting at the opposite table started talking English to me. One in particular really jumped all over it and talked insistently at me for about two hours. And I honestly don't know if he was being nice or setting me up so he could rob me. Or possible marry me and leave China. He was nice but being the naive and timid person I am I got a bit freaked out when he insisted that he show me around Xi'an and gave me his no and then wanted to take mine. Then I got really freaked out when he took a photo of me on his phone. I have to say it was nice to have some one to help me out on the train and stuff. So I'm in two minds about his intentions and whether or not I should ring him tomorrow. That, however, is tomorrows problem cause I am wreaked from lack of sleep last night, for obvious reasons (and for any one who missed them, I was a girl on my own on a train full of Chinese men. And yes, they were mostly lovely and I'm sure normal nice people but still I wasn't about to fall asleep surrounded by strangers where my belongings and virtue may have been robed.) So I'm pretty tired and I'm longing for a shower and a nap. But I can't go into my room cause it needs to be cleaned or something. I went into it and it is clean but I guess I shouldn't complain!
This hostel is pretty big, and there seems to be a lot of travellers about the place which is good. But they also have a resident cat, dog and puppies. This has made my day!
Beijing was really nice. The first few days were spent scared and alone but then I went out and about and had a great time. My brother's friend came over to Beijing and minded me for three days which was incredibly nice of him. I befriended the senor assistant of the Irish ambassador, she's also mad nice. I met the ambassador and it was really odd. The whole thing. I went to where my map told me the embassies are and there was a huge military presence about the place. Guards at every building, streets blocked off, the houses were surrounded in like barbed wire and stuff. It was a bit intimidating to be honest and has made me concerned about what I'd do if I lose my passport. I wont be able to get to my embassy cause I needed to show it repeatedly. But then when I did eventually get there I went in to see the ambassador. I went in to sit down and "chat" with him. It was very formal. The room seemed to be made up of nothing but chairs and tables in really symmetrical. So I had a very formal meting with him but made a new friend in his assistant which is really nice to have.
I also went to the Forbidden City which was amazing. I got a nice tour guild who told me some interesting facts about the place. Language was still a barrier though. She told me about Empress Dowager Cixi who was behind the rule of the last two emperors of China. Her son who died young and I tried to ask who the next Emperor was but she didn't understand my question she said something about eunuchs. Also we were in the jade room and she was telling me that jade is considered to have healing properties and she pointed to my necklace saying it was the same thing. And I said it was a St Christopher's medal and he is the saint of travellers. I think I was being overly ambitious trying to explain Christianity.
Right, well I'm off. There's a que for the computers and I think I'm room is ready.
The journey will continue!