Welcome to Wuhan for me! I made it.
23.12.2011 - 02.01.2012
Chengdu - Wuhan, December 28-29th 2011
Inside, Chengdu Railway Station, was terribly crowded. No more good-looking people, no more warmth (of the heart). The staff posted at the baggage check in was an elderly woman. She got harsh when I didn't understand that she wanted my little handbag to be scanned, too. I didn't take if off, because I had hung it around my shoulder under my jacket. I thought I was going through a metal detector anyway. At Luomashi Subway Station just now, I wasn't asked to put it under the scanner. But this woman insisted. That was what I got from her talking. In the end I only understood "xiǎobāo".
“Duìbùqǐ wǒ bù huì hànyǔ!" I replied while pulling my jacket off. I saw her face changed in an instant.
I had thought Chengdu was bigger than Kunming. Thus, I had expected Chengdu Railway Station to be much, much, better appearing than Kunming Railway Station. Kunming Railway Station was somewhat like a small airport. But Chengdu Railway Station... oh, no! To be honest, shabby looking people filled the whole hall. Everyone had a big load tucked in plastic bags or cardboard boxes. "Am I going to share a cabin with such people for the next 17 hours??" Remembering my train ride from Kunming to Chengdu, the thought of these people clearing their throat and spitting in the train, really terrified me.
I was already at the thought of wondering whether I could get an air ticket. I suddenly realized that I am not as adventurous as I had thought I was. But on the other hand, I was anxious to proof to myself that I was strong inside, and adventurous.
The place was so crowded with people and things that even to find a way for my little suitcase to pass wasn't easy. Two ladies stood in front of me with big plastic bags piled one on another around them. There was some empty space on their right. If they push the bags just several centimeters to the right, I would be able to pass by.
I stood in front of them, but they completely ignored me. I thought they would get it easily that I wanted to pass by. A woman sitting next to us looked up at those two ladies and then at their belongings. Her look to me said, "Why don't you move your things a bit? Someone needs to pass by."
But these ladies felt less bothered. So, "Máfan nǐ ..." I mumbled. I didn't know what else to say.
One of them turned her head to me. I cannot repeat what she said, but what I understood was, "Why don't you just step over?"
Hence, I stepped over their boxes and carried my suitcase over them. They, and their luggage, remained tacked in place.
There was a long queue in front of the sign T126/T127 which was my train. Since there was still about 20 minutes before departure time, I decided to explore the outer part of the hall which was still inside the building. 10 minutes later, when I returned, that long queue had vanished and the door gate was opened. Before I rushed to the gate, my eyes caught a glimpse of small boxes tumbling off to the floor. Ah, those are that two ladies who didn't want to give way for me. Apparently inside her big plastic bag was small boxes. I couldn't help not to laugh at them.
When I got to the platform, it was quiet. There was a train, but nobody seemed to be heading to the train. Where are those people? Have I been left? I started to feel nervous and forgot to take a picture of the train. I pulled my suitcase towards the head of the train. Number 1 seemed very far ahead. Then I showed my ticket to a young good-looking (again) guy in a smart uniform. It turned out that I had misunderstood the numbers on my ticket. Which was my cabin number, I had mistook as my carriage number. My carriage number should be number 12. This young guy pointed at the number on the carriage and then pointed on the number "12" on my ticket.
So now, I had to pull my suitcase 11 carriage back. At every carriage there was a lady or guy standing in smart uniforms and all good-looking. Anxiety filled in me wondering what my cabin would be like and most, how are my cabin-mates going to be like. Will they be clearing their throat? Kroookkkk.... kroookkk.... !!??
A sweet lady in smart uniform in front of carriage number 12 kindly helped carry my suitcase up. Yeah, this must be right. I saw cabins with berths covered with white linen. So now, where's cabin number 1?
"Qǐngwèn zhī gè zài nǎlǐ?" I asked a lady standing by the window who seemed to be a fellow passenger, while pointing on the number "1" on my ticket. In a very pleasureful manner she ushered me to the first cabin near the door where I had entered. She pointed on the lower berth on the left. A young guy was sitting on it. He immediately got up and pulled a folded blanket from the upper berth. He placed that folded blanket gently on my berth. My suitcase was too wide to get under the berth. This young guy said something.
Once again I uttered, "Duìbùqǐ wǒ bù huì hànyǔ." But this time I really meant it.
He waved his hand under the table. Oh, he meant to suggest me put my suitcase under the table. But I saw that was where the air conditioning is. I was afraid I would block the air if I put my suitcase there. So I just put my suitcase on the end of my berth. "It's alright," I said to the young guy. He nodded and went out.
I said on my berth and sighed. It was cozy and looked cleaned. But... my cabin-mates turned out to be all males! Two young men and one elderly. Will I be okay? Will they do something to me during the night? Will the cabin door be locked?
Much to my surprise and more to my relief, they were gentlemen who didn't even speak to each other! This ride to Wuhan was a complete opposite to my ride from Kunming to Chengdu. The only conversation I heard between them was when the elderly man across my berth let the young guy from the upper berth sit on his berth to have lunch at the table. That young guy finished his meal quickly, said "Xièxiè" when the elderly man returned to our cabin. The elderly man replied, "Bùyòng xiè." That was all. It would have been a complete wrong place if I had wanted to practice my Mandarin-listening skill.
If you would like to know how different I felt on this train ride compared to my previous one, you can go to:
This was my berth. I put my camera backpack under my pillow to keep it safe, but also to position my head a bit higher as the pillow wasn't thick enough for me. I spent one two hours reading Paul Theroux and then went to bed with my ankles resting on my suitcase. At first it felt kind soothing as I had spent a long walk at Panda Base during the day. But then I couldn't sleep. At last I gave up. I put my suitcase under the table in front of the air condition.
When our train was about to move, I heard a beautiful instrumental music. I thought the rhythm suited very well for accompanying a trip. It wasn't until the coming morning that I realized that music actually came from the iPad (or sort of) of the young guy on the upper berth across me.
This was the berth the elderly man who slept across my berth. He read a lot, like me, but snored a lot, not like me. Luckily his type of snore was like Dad's. The music he made through the night actually brought me to my childhood moments and thus made me feel safe.
He was also the one who drew the curtain close, click the cabin door, and turn off the cabin main light. In the morning, he was the one got up first, and drew the curtain opened. Ah... so daddy-like. The two young guys seemed still fast asleep on the upper berths. I myself had had a good night sleep. For a 528 yuan ticket, I concluded it worthwhile.
All the way along that 17 hours ride, no one in my cabin cleared their throat. The daddy-llike man spitted once -- but without an intro -- into the trash can under the table. I waited until a minute passed, and then pulled my suitcase from under the table. As I spent the day reading while leaning on the wall, there was space for my suitcase at the end my berth. He never spitted again.
Next to my carriage was the hard-sleeper's carriage. I stepped in a bit. Wow! To describe it in one word is: chaos. Chatter, laughter, cry, won against the noise of the train through the opened carriage doors. People and stuffs lined up along the alley. In the first cabin I saw ends of blankets hanging down. Children chattered endlessly on the upper berths. The floor was carpeted with pumpkin-seed-peels.
I turned my head to my carriage. Nobody was seen in the alley. Nothing was heard. It was like standing on the border of two countries.
I don't know where this was. We stopped quite long here. I regret I didn't get off and take a picture of the train.
This stop seemed to be a moment many vendors had been waiting for. Meals, snack, drinks, seemed available in a broad variety. Interestingly to me, every vendor had a name tag on their chest.
Inside the train I felt warm. But outside there, judging by how the people clothed themselves and walk with hands in their pockets, I strongly assume it must be very cold outside. People seemed to eat rather to keep warm rather than to be full.
According to my map, the railroad from Chengdu to Wuhan passes mountains. However, scenery speaking, as far as I was awake, there was nothing special. Since the first hours we pulled off from Chengdu, we went in and out plenty of tunnels. In the morning, when we were all wide awake, we were still passing through tunnels. That bothered me to keep on reading, because the cabin became dark and bright in turns. Even though I had a reading light attached on my book, the difference between dark and bright was significant, unlike during the night.
The view approximately 3 hours before we pulled in Wuhan. As a matter of fact, the huge spots on the train window added to the gloomy appearance of the winter season.
By the time we entered Wuhan, we crossed the Yangtze River. I gasped. Yangtze River is absolutely nothing in comparison to the Mekong River I had cruised through in Vietnam and Cambodia. However, according to the map, Yangtze River actually has its origins from Mekong River.
Tara! Here I am in Wuhan!! This is my third city in China, but forth if Hekou - the city border between Vietnam and China -- is to be included. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei Province, and is divided into 3 districts: Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang. The sign on top here says "Wuchang".
Much to my astonishment again, Wuhan Railway Station was so different compared to Chengdu's. Before I stepped into the streets, I knew immediately I was stepping into something much bigger than Chengdu.
Taxi drivers waited anxiously for customers. I got mine. And that, is another story to tell. Welcome to Wuhan for me!