Wednesday, June 18, 2008

McWaitings

I was sitting alone inside the 3rd Terminal of Ben-Gurions airport, with a lot of time on my hands. It was Friday night, with Half of the stores closed. Luckily for me, the Wii console was operating, so the waiting itself wasn't that awful.

As I was boarding the plane, I met 2 more Israelis, a young guy and a girl, who were flying to hong kong as well, so at least I had someone to talk to on the long flight. and It was long indeed. The first stop was Amman, with a 2 hour waiting time. The next stop was Bangkok, with a one hour waiting inside the plane, while the cleaning crew was vacuuming our legs. Only then we headed towards Hong kong, with a total flight time of 13 hours.

Windows 2000 in Amman airport

At the airport I parted from the two Israelis, who were making their way to Hong kong itself, and at 8:45 I hurried to catch the last ferry to the Chinese border of Shenzhen. The ferry ride was short, with hardly any people other than me, and the border processing was relatively quick. Soon I was out in the open, ready to face the unknown. Unfortunately, the unknown was practically on my face, even before I could blink. a throng of cab drivers was all over me like a pack of vultures as soon as I was out, shouting Chinese scripts that didn't sound anything like poetry, and the meaning of "no thank you" did not have any effect on their relentless badgering. After I chose my designated cab driver, he took me to his "cab", an unmarked ordinary car, and I was quickly on my way towards the Shenzhen train station. I didn't expect to catch any train, but I wanted to be close to it in order to catch the first one in the morning.

The ride was, well, a long one. First impression of a what characterise china is is that its huge. Everything is so spacious and distant from one another. Different town centres were passing by, with huge buildings towering above me. Especially I was stunned by the sheer ferocity of the compartment buildings, with huge blocks going on for miles and miles, hinting the massive amount of human beings nestling in china.

The driver didn't know any form of English, so I didn't even ask him why are we stopping to take a woman in the middle of the road. With a bit of hand signaling, he told me that its his wife, who also didn't know English, so for the rest of the ride I was sitting quietly, with both of them fighting about something that only Chinese could fight about.

He dropped me off at the train station. I felt wonderful. I was not tensed in any way from the new unfamiliar environment, and I was actually grinning from the fact that I was probably the only foreigner in a 50 blocks radius.

I went for a walk around the area. Most of the stores were closed at that time, and only a relatively few (in china-thousands) people were walking up and down the streets to an unknown destination. Even before I could turn at the first corner, I was approached by 3 people simultaneously who offered me a cheap place to stay for the night. I smiled and declined politely. Then they offered me a wonderful massage for my aching body. Again I happily refused. Then they pulled out their ace card, and I quote: "good girl, fuck you suck you OK?!".

I quickly moved on to my wanderings. Every now and then a taxi would pull out next to me and follow me while asking every 5 seconds where I go till they would figure out I'm not interested.

After some walking, I discovered a McDonald's place. I gladly went inside, to avoid all the harassment, and the air conditioning was a blessing. The time was 22:45 or so. I got out of there at 4:45.

Reading in McDonald's

Now I don't know how long others have been waiting in a McDonald's place, but I definitely broke a personal record. My plan was to wait for the first train early in the morning that would take me to Guang-zhou, and from there to catch the first train to Hainan island in the south. I didn't want to pay for a hostel since I would only have from what I thought only 3 hours of decent sleep. So, I spent those hours, and some more, at the McDonald's place. There I met a Chinese guy who could actually speak English. He lived in Canada for a while so we were able to have a relatively decent conversation. He asked me where I was from, but he didn't know whats "Israel". He asked me if I'm christian, but he didn't know whats "Jew". But all in all, he helped me a lot, since I discovered with his help that there are no trains at the designated hour I was planning on.

While I was in McDonald's, they were sleeping next to the train station in Shenzhen

He helped me get a good price on a cab ride to Guang-zhou (also an unmarked one), and at 5:00 I was on my way with 2 more people on the enormous and empty highways of China. From time to time the driver would stop, change his license plates like its a common practice among Chinese, and move on to the next highway toll booth.

The Best picture I have of Kim

finally, after a two hours drive, I got to the train station at 7:00 am. The train I wanted to catch was at 6:55 am. So I booked a ticket for the next train, at 15:15 pm. Now I had to keep myself busy for the next 8 hours, so I got out of the station into the crowded central square somewhere deep inside Guang-zhou proper. All over people were going from point A to point B, or sitting on the floor, waiting for a train or whatever there is to wait for at this time of hour. The broad streets were sparsely dotted with unfamiliar vehicle and a multitude of electric motorbikes. For a central place, it was actually relatively quiet.

I wound up the intricate bridge towards the big familiar yellow M sign. I knew that I would, again, have to pass the time inside those depressingly clowny painted walls. But I did went out to walk around the area for a bit. I went down nearby into a massive underground wholesale market, which was interesting, but irrelevant to me. Unfortunately, the Chinese style of city engineering apparently prevents any form of variety of businesses in a designated area, so all around me, for minutes upon minutes of walking under the boiling sun, I faced wholesale markets wherever I went. So I went back to McDonald's.

Ronald the skateboard dude and I

At about 13:30 I transferred myself into the train station waiting rooms, which were packed with Chinese... needless to say that I was the only foreigner in sight. I saw a few foreigners back at McDonald's, but the quantity was scarce, and it only added the whole people-are-staring-at-me-all-the-time factor.

Guang-Zhou station

Finally, 15:30, I was on the train, at the "hard-sleeper" section, in a small yet cozy bed, with relatively few people all around. Since there was no one to talk to, I either read my book or slept like a Chinese baby. In no time (11 hours), I was in the city of Haikou at 2:00 am, being harassed by a throng of the usual Taxi drivers. I prepared beforehand the Chinese address to the hostel where my Raquel was waiting for me, so communication with the driver was easy. After 30 minutes I was there, ringing the door-bell and waking up the cute dogs who were among the residents. As the door opened, I was viciously charged by Raquel, who jumped on me yelping. As soon as I was holding her, it was as if the past 3 days of my trip never happened... The beginning was now, with her. That night we didn't sleep at all from the excitement and the relief. We had a lot to catch up, and a lot to think about concerning the trip. At 6 o'clock, we went down for breakfast, watched movies and just relaxed the whole day, since both of us were victims of long harsh road to Hainan island. In the evening, there was a little surprise waiting for me. We were at our room, when we heard a knock on the door. In front of us there was Vladimir, a Russian Israeli guy who started working in Haikou only a month ago at a traveling agency. He took us for a meal and a foot massage, and told us what he knows about the Island. The meal was from the street, and what is worthy of remembering was that at some point, the entire food market all around us suddenly got up to its feet and fled. It appears that someone saw the police coming to the area, and they all disappeared behind the corner before you could say Mao-ze-dong. Even our own cook tried to hide, but we didn't pay him yet, so he was forced to stay (although he hid his grill). The massage was cheap and luxurious, so no complaints there.
Vladimir parted from us after giving me his business card, and Raquel and I went to sleep.

Morning came, and we had our weird breakfast at a Chinese restaurant in which I could only guess what was in our noodles. After quick packing, we took a cab towards the central bus station, where we got on a 3 and a half hour bus to the southern city on the island, Sanya. From what we were told by Vladimir, Sanya was, believe it or not, a Russian tourist based city. We just didn't know to what extent... till we got there.
In case you are wondering, our hostel was the crappy looking one


Although it was definitely low season, we could see the few Russian people walking the humid rainy streets, surrounded by expensive restaurants with Russian signs all over the place. while the English ones were only fine printed. We unfortunately got the hang out of the city pretty quick... expensive, rainy, with lousy diving spots, or so we've heard. So we basically enjoyed our time together without the help of the city itself. One thing that we found amuzing was to "play" with the shop-keepers who were constantly sticking to us like glue - we would separate and try to block them all the time, or criss-cross just for the fun of it.

Now we are at the hostel, waiting to go out in the evening towards the train station, for a whole day of riding towards our next destination, at a place called Guilin.

2 comments:

SMF said...

so china ah..
at least you got with her again ;-)

kumi said...

you could meet her again♪
it makes you really happy ne!
sounds hard but nice your new train journey!

keep your safe journey!
from Okinawa