07.05.2012 - 09.05.2012
Day 105 – Monday 7th May
Finally leaving Xi’an today! So after not going to bed last night, due to getting home very late last night, I spent the first half an hour of my day trying to wake Greg up so we wouldn’t miss our train. And after he eventually realized the severity of how late he was we rushed off downstairs to get a taxi to the station in the middle of rush hour, 30 minutes behind schedule! So after accepting we were going to miss this train, all we had to do was sit through traffic and wait to see how late we would be. By some absolute miracle, we made it to the train station in time and managed to catch our train with seconds to spare. Today we are taking a 15 hour train to Yichang, home of the 3 gorges dam, which is the largest structure of human engineering on the planet. It’s basically a huge hydro electrical dam in the middle of one of China’s biggest rivers. Anyway, after managing to just catch the train, we sat down and slept for a while, and played some cards, then had some food and eventually watched a film. I managed to finally finish a book I started way back when I arrived in the Andamans, I’ve been so busy since then that I just haven’t had the time to read it and it’s nice to get it out the way. After we eventually made it to Yichang, I dropped my bag off and we found an internet café open in the station (arrived at 1am, so nothing was open) and this is where we will spend the night before seeing the dam tomorrow.
Day 106 – Tuesday 8th May
Had a nice little sleep last night (not!). After spending a good few hours passing the time on the internet, I eventually passed out on their sofas at around 5ish, then woke up at 7 with my nose dribbling all over the sofa. I know that’s an overshare, but the last 2 days of no sleep and the seemingly endless amounts of snot and phlegm that come as a side effect of just being in China and its pollution led to this horrible awakening. As if I wasn’t dirty enough already from the long train ride and not being able to shower or get changed, I had snot all over my shirt as well, brilliant. Anyway, moving swiftly on, we got going to the bus stop just outside and hopped on a 1 and a half hour bus to go see this epic feat of engineering. Luckily it was really foggy today so we could barely even see the bloody thing, well worth the 15 hour detour! And after spending a good 3 hours trying to walk around to the North side of the dam, we just couldn’t make it. In China, anything remotely interesting is always surrounded by walls, which means you can’t see it and often there is no way to make it unless you’re on some kind of organized tour (which is always a rip off). So yeah, I can now say I’ve been to the 3 gorges dam but I haven’t seen it from both sides nor have I seen it very well from either side, was it worth it? Probably not, but I don’t regret it. So we got back on a bus to the train station to spend about an hour or so waiting for our next 16 hour train to Chengdu, fun times! We spent the first couple of hours on the train playing cards, then had a proper dinner in the restaurant and watched the Big Lebowski, classic stuff! Luckily, due to us having paid for dinner the conductors were happy to let us sleep in the food carriage which meant getting a whole table and seats to ourselves, rather than the usual shoddy 1 hard seat or no seat at all in the smelly, stuffed carriages.
Day 107 – Wednesday 9th May
So today we made it to Chengdu, the gateway to China’s Yunan province (supposedly one of the most beautiful in terms of epic landscapes and beautiful countryside). Chengdu isn’t actually in the Yunan but it’s a relatively big station and is a good place to start, plus there are a few cool things going on here. After getting in in the morning, we spent a good hour pissing around trying to find out how to get to our hostel, unfortunately the subway wasn’t open yet, cheers lonely planet for not making that obvious and leading us on a wild goose chase of following signs to nowhere. After we eventually got off our bus, we knew we were close, but we had no map so we spent a good 30 minutes asking loads of people and getting completely different answers every time. Anyway we eventually found our hostel which had only opened the week before, so was doing a special deal of only £1 a night! It’s brand new as well, so the place is super nice, it’s called Mr Panda, after Chengdu’s famous inhabitants! So where better to start than go and see the panda sanctuary. Unfortunately, we didn’t listen to the advice of Mr Panda who said that the pandas don’t do anything in the afternoon (normally people lie in order to get you to go on one of their overpriced organized tours instead!). Unfortunately he wasn’t lying and after making it to the sanctuary (2 buses and a lot of getting lost) all the pandas were inside for the afternoon to keep cool. It was still really cool to see so many pandas, but really you want to see them out and about playing around on their monkey bars and shit. But as I say, they were awesome, the older ones just sit around eating constantly, in order to survive on bamboo they have to eat for 15 hours a day or something ridiculous like that, so they just sit there munching on bamboo non-stop. Then the younger ones just play around all the time, jumping on each other, trying to get in to the picture, they are just the funniest animals and obviously so rare, so it was really cool. Got a few good pictures as well, as the guard was happy to take my camera and get some from close up. The maps for the sanctuary were completely useless however, so we spent ages to trying to find the particular areas, and we eventually had to leave as the park was closing. We then got lost again on the way home, having serious difficulty navigating around Chengdu, the place is a nightmare! When we got back to the hotel, we played a bit of shuffle board, effectively curling on a smaller scale and without ice, it’s a really fun game and I’ve never seen it before (check photos if you’re as clueless as I was.) and met another French guy, they seem to be everywhere in China. Then after having a few beers and hanging out with Sylvan (new French guy) I went on Skype for a bit and eventually made it to bed by around 3. The last 2 days have been fucking horrendous, managed to fit in a good 32 hours of train with no bed in between and I’ve seen the 3 gorges dam as well as some pandas, which is pretty cool. I’m now finally on the way (sorta) to the Yunan, which should be mind blowing! Pictures from Xi’an are now up as well, so make sure to check them out.