3/8 – Up early to catch the 8:30 bus back to Lanzhou.
Xiehe has been a magical place! Unlike our ride up, this morning’s bus was totally packed with no empty seats.
The weather was warmer today, and the ridges that were covered with snow just a few days ago now look clear. Spring is coming! Some of the mountains reminded me of the Painted Desert out west. The bus windows were foggy, so couldn’t get better pix.
Back in Lanzhou, we took a taxi across town to the train station, to purchase our next tickets, to Xi’an. The Lanzhou station ticket hall was totally filled with people standing in lines with only Chinese writing, so we weren’t sure if there was a certain line we needed to be on. We picked a random line, and, luckily, our ticket lady had some English. We wanted to get on the early morning train, but it was sold out in all classes, so we ended up on the 12:31 in the second class seats. The train will get to Xi’an at 20:35. It will be a long day.
We are staying one night at the 60 Degrees Motel. What’s wrong with this picture? And yes, this is the third hotel we’ve been in with clear glass bathrooms – what’s that about?
Here’s the scenic view out our window – can’t wait to be out of this dirty city!
For supper tonight we used our method of pointing to something that someone else is eating, and asking for the same. This time we got a soup containing tiny boiled eggs (pigeon? quail?), meatballs, tripe, mushrooms, sausage, tofu, leeks, daikon, rice noodles and assorted greens. A real jackpot in a pot! I missed having green vegetables when we were in Xiehe – due to the altitude, all they can grow is potatoes (and yaks! We even had yak yogurt!)
3/9 – Had a leisurely morning, as we didn’t have to get to the train station until 11am. We’re now used to the security procedures – show passport, show ticket, baggage through scanner, pat-down – so it’s just a matter of how interested they are in our packs, and how many people we have to jostle through to get where we are going.
We sat in Waiting Room 4 along with all the other people who will be getting on train Z106. A young man sat down next to us and greeted us in English, and proceeded to tell us his dream of traveling to America one day. Jiang is a 24 year old university student who studies English and wants to work in the travel industry. When our train was called, he picked up my pack (Jim now carries both packs due to my injured arm), and escorted us onto the train. Although his ticket was for a different car, he found a seat near us, and proceeded to talk and talk in thickly accented English. Jim couldn’t understand a word, but I could make out enough to keep the conversation going.
We talked about his girlfriend, who he will marry next year, his parents, and his home town. He told us what he knew about the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln – liberator of black persons – and Barack H. Obama. Florida, Hollywood, Yellowstone Park, Washington D.C. Oh my. He told us that there are no parents like us in China – old people are not encouraged to travel, as their children would worry about them. Parents save every penny to give to their children, and wouldn’t dream of squandering their money on travel. Hmmm, glad I’m not Chinese!
At some point during the 8 hour ride, another young man with much better English squeezed over (we were in 2nd class with every seat filled and people standing and sitting in the aisles) and started the whole process over again! I was exhausted from smiling, nodding and trying to look interested, by the time we got to Xi’an. As we head east in China, we will encounter more English speakers, which is definitely a mixed blessing!
Jiang hoisted my pack again, walked us off the train, hugged us and pointed us toward the street where we could find our hotel, before returning to catch his connecting train. What a nice young man!
We booked at the Vienna Hotel, which we figured would surely have its name written in English (or German) on the outside. No such luck! Once again, we walked right by it several times, then walked into each hotel inquiring until we found the right one. The desk clerks had no English, but we didn’t expect any. What we did expect was to be given a room that didn’t already have somebody in it! We tried the electronic key several times, until a man came out to shoo us away from his door. I went back down to the clerk, who giggled to say she didn’t really know the difference between a 4 and a 6 – she had written the wrong room number on the key. Sigh.
3/10 – We stayed in town today, buying our next train tickets to Chengdu (even five days in advance, all the first class tickets were sold out), replenishing our groceries, and resting my arm. Walking down our busy street on our way to dinner, I witnessed my first street crime. I watched a young girl walk up close behind another, unzip the girl’s backpack, and pull out her iPad or tablet. The second girl walked on, oblivious to the theft. I yelled, Hey, drop it! and looked the thief right in the eye, but a boy on a motorbike swooped right up beside, she hopped on, and they took off. I tried to show the girl that her backpack had been opened, but she didn’t understand. At that point I figured I’d better just walk on, or else the girl would think I had opened her backpack. The frustrations of not having the language! I witnessed a crime,and there was nothing I could do…