A long, long day, but made it to Beijing at last!
Feb 2, 2018
|Had the alarm set for 4am! Yikes, this is not me at all!! But we did it. Andy and Hardie arrived at about 5am to take us to the Zhaoqing train station. At least traffic was light at that time of day! Not non-existent, but not a problem either!
They took our luggage up to the train station, and helped us through the screening process. We were very glad about that, because the x-ray picked up Carol's two knives in her bags! One, just a dinner knife, and a small vegetable knife to cut up fruit on our way. We were happy that Andy was still hovering around, and could take the knives for us, to store with the rest of our gear!!
We got the train, and were off to Guangzhou. It left at 6.17am, to arrive in Guangzhou at 8.40. And then it was fun all the way, until we made our train to Beijing from Guangzhou South railway station.
Slowly, slowly was the order of the day, getting through to the Metro, and then getting tickets!! But, we made it! The first subway train that came through was jammed with people, so we decided to wait for the next one. They are only two minutes apart, so not a problem. Amazingly, the next train was almost empty, so we even had seats!!
Then, Guangzhou South train station - well, what can I say?? It was chaotic to say the very least! I mean, just how many people can fit in a railway station forecourt? Impossible to measure, in my opinion! We found the queue that we needed to join. And I use the word 'queue' very loosely. Chinese are not good at queueing but this was extreme! But we had some help from a friendly young man, who told us to follow him. Thank you universe!
When he had to leave us, another guy helped us out. And what a help he was! We stayed jammed together, at his instruction, and managed to get through. At one point there was a bottleneck of humanity, and he actually lifted my case over the barrier, as it would have not been possible to get it through the jam of legs and bags. His name is David and he works in Guangzhou, but was on his way to Shanghai. His train left around the same time as ours, so he could help us for a fair bit of the way!! Eternally grateful to wonderfully friendly Chinese!
With a little more help from another young man, we managed to find our right place, to wait for our train to Beijing.
By the time we boarded the train, and found our seats, we were bordering on exhaustion, and the journey had hardly begun!! But, we were on our way. Spring Festival is certainly not the easiest time to travel in China, but we will get there!!
The train was full, but everyone had a seat, which is not like on some of the older trains. People actually buy standing tickets, even to travel hundreds of kilometres.
As we headed north, I was surprised at how many stops the train made, but it very quickly accelerated back to around 300 km per hour between stops. We went through Wuhan, where Andy's brother is stationed in the army, and that is where we crossed the Yangtze River. Getting colder and colder outside as we headed in a northerly direction.
We were well entertained by a three year old in the front in front of us. She was travelling with her family back to Harbin, I managed to determine from her father. She made friends with the little girl over the aisle, who appeared to be the same age. The one in front of us did a good job of singing the alphabet song, after some prompting by me!!
It was already dark when we passed through Shijiazhuang, where Melrose used to work. By then we were only an hour out of Beijing West.
Arriving at the station, we got off, and found our way to the Subway, which had seemed to be the easiest way to get to the hostel. Mmmm, not sure about that. It was already 8.56 pm, and it was cold and dark. Getting off from the subway station, I could not easily find the directions to the hostel. I asked a young couple, who did not speak much English, but they directed us along the way.
Then after walking for what seemed like hours, we found a Starbucks, and asked for directions again. But, I think he misunderstood my question, and maybe was sending us to another hostel!! I met another young couple. She spoke good English as she is now working in Canada, and they helped us. But, I had left my phone on the counter in Starbucks!! Carol walked back to look for it, for me, and thank goodness she found it.
The couple we had met, had actually arrived not long before in Beijing, and were on their way to look for dinner. So we called the guy our personal GPS, and he led us right to the door of the hostel. Oh dear, was I glad to see it!! It turned out we had already walked past the street once, but I did not see any landmarks to recognize!
Of course, by the time we checked in, it was too late for food, as the kitchen had only just closed. The girl on the desk directed us back down the alley and over the road to a Macca's, where we had the most unusual McDonald's meal. French fries were the same as expected, the burgers not so!! But it was food, and it was hot.
So, we settled in for the night, feeling cold, and exhausted. We decided that we would not rush ourselves in the morning.