Sunday, November 4, 2012


Just toast and cappuccino this morning and we were off on the public bus back to the train station in Guilin.  Our train was delayed so we ended up eating our snack packs in the station, which was actually much more comfortable anyway.

I took the top bunk this time, with a plan to rest as much as possible on this leg. My travelmates had all taken naps at various times throughout our stay in Yangshou whereas I had been Go Go Go the entire stay. Travel Tip #3: to best beat jet lag, DON’T nap- force yourself to jump immediately and as long as possible into the time zone you are in, so your circadian rhythm adapts.
I left them to their gin rummy immediately upon departure and watched a couple movies on my laptop until my battery died. Unfortunately there were no power points (expected this) or cigarette lighter charging (hoped for) opportunities on the overnight trains. I read a bit and by then it was acceptable bedtime, so I donned my sleeping mask and blacked out.

Slept better this trip as it was warmer this leg, but no less noisy. In fact the loud Chinese chatter (shouting) started even before dawn, which I found extremely rude. Whisper people! Wanting to maximize my rest, I lay still in a half asleep state of lethargy until we pulled into Chongqin. The filthy state and smell of this train was enough to turn my empty stomach and we all were thankful our tour included a shower stop at a hotel next.

After showering in a disco-themed bathroom at the hotel, we left our bags to explore China’s largest city. Chongqin (or known to Westerners as Chungking) houses 32 million people, and it shows. Everywhere building building building- tearing down the old to build new and towering skyscrapers outrivaling New York for height and density.

Chonqin Harbour

Chongqin was the dirtiest and least notable of the places we have been so far, unless you want to register smog as notable, in which case Chonqin wins the prize. I could make out the full disk of the sun through the haze, but not a single ray pierced through. You could not see across the narrow stretch of harbour, and sometimes, barely across the street.

Downtown Chongqin

We enjoyed a fantastic banquet for lunch- the local specialty “hot pot” whereupon the center of our table held a recessed stove into which a large pot of water was placed. You choose your ingredients and degree of spices and they are placed all together to simmer. We ate like kings- oyster mushrooms, tofu braids, pork, beef, quails eggs, bok choy, potatoes and many other items. We ladled our choices into a dish of peanut sauce to cool, then transferred by chopsticks into our rice bowls. We are getting QUITE proficient with our chopsticks now!

Hot Pot, Chongqin

We waddled out of there with difficulty and Chen led us to the city centre to do some exploring for the afternoon. Our first stop was Starbucks where we all welcomed the comforting feeling of home, not to mention the rare opportunity for a great coffee.

Starbucks and KFC together- am I in Heaven?

After a rest there we made our way down the main promenade of the city which led to a high end shopping district. Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Gucci etc surrounded us on all sides. I was more impressed by the KFC/Starbucks combo shop on the strip, but we did concede to Helen’s wish to visit Tiffany’s.
Security shadowed us closely around the shop as Helen considered a ring priced the same as David’s annual salary. Sadly, we left empty handed and consoled ourselves with people watching. Folks were much better groomed and fashionably-dressed here; flashy shoes and boots and cool long tops with short jackets over leggings or short tight skirts on the ladies. Huge brightly coloured handbags were also in mode.

City Centre, Chongqin

 We visited a Chinese supermarket for snack supplies (again little choice beyond Coke Zero, dried fruit and nuts) and then took a cab down to the dock where we boarded our small cruise ship to sail the Yangtze. Again, we were the only foreigners among 300 passengers.  My room was grim and musty, and this really sank my spirits. After a long overnight haul on the filthy train, the dense smog and underwhelming visit to ChongQin, coupled with an onset of brutal stomach cramps, I got very homesick for the first time. I wanted nothing more than to be cuddled up with Ceilidh on our cozy couch by the fire. Concentrating on this happy thought, I finally fell asleep.

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