After walking around the food market for ages we finally had dinner at the hot pot place next to the hostel. But after my experience with Sylvia in Lhasa I settled on the noodles and a beer. This day had been wonderful and exhausting and it was good for me to see how easy I can find company.
The next morning I stayed at the hostel until check-out time and then tried to find the Bell Tower again. I had seen it the night before and wanted another impression at daylight. Maybe even try for the mosque again.
But walking around with a map proved too difficult for me (I should have trusted my instincts) and I ended up somewhere completely foreign to me. Which should not have been a problem but it started to rain and I had left the umbrella at the hostel. So I turned around and ended up in a restaurant that had a picture menu. Something I loath in Vienna but in China I glad for it.
I tried some green soup and fried aubergine. Both were delicious as I find the food overall very good.
If the soup bowl looks big to you, it was. More the size of a large salad bowl.
After I had finished my meal it had started to rain in earnest and I was not in the mood to get back in the rain. I had ample of time and just stayed at the restaurant, drank the included tea (there is free refill) and used my dictionary to find the bathroom. Two hours reading and preparing the blog posts were a well spent afternoon for me.
When the rain finally let off I walked back to the hostel, got my stuff and waited for the ordered driver. I was told that I should be a minimum of an hour before the departure at the train station and since I assumed it was a huge one I wanted to leave myself ample time to find everything. So three hours before the train was due I left the hostel. It took one hour to get to the train station (thank God I knew that before otherwise I would have thought the driver wanted to abduct me). But once there it turned out that it was a super small provincial train station. And that should say something in China.
I got my ticket without a problem since it had been booked by the cruise agency and they charged an extra 17 U$ for it. So I got my ticket with minimal trouble since the girl at the register spoke English (and well to the boot at that) and I went through security.
The train station consisted of a waiting hall and a bathroom. The people were only let on the platforms once the train came in. I looked in vain for a seat and eventually asked a young man to move his bags for which he only had a blank look and eyes that said “I don’t give a damn”.
But it turned out I had been noticed by the only other westerner in this hall. I don’t know his name but he was from Denmark and seemed like a very seasoned traveler. One of his train mates (they met when comparing tickets) made room for me and I could put my backpack down. The Danish guy laughed when he heard I was in for a two hour wait but gave me an assortment of English tea to keep me company on the train. 10 minutes later he was on his train to the border of Kazakhstan.
More waiting resulted in eventually visiting the bathroom. The Chinese girls next to me signed me that they would look out for my bags (but in any case I don’t think anything could happen in there. The police is stationed right inside, only travelers are allowed into the waiting hall, so basically everyone is in the same boat).
And then another kindness in the bathroom. Of the two stalls one was unusable (I spare you again the details) and for the other was a line up. And the girl in front of me let me go ahead. No word was exchanged but I felt really taken care of.
Then finally the train had arrived and since I couldn’t read my ticket, I followed the masses. I knew at least that I had a bed waiting for me. I just didn’t know if I would have to fight for it. And then another angel, this time in the form of a young man helped me to find my wagon.
It took still a bit of looking to get to the right compartment which I shared with three guys. But now I know that on the ticket it only says the wagon and the bed number. I had an upper bunk, the guy from below helped me to heave the backpack up and I stored it over the door. Two of the three guys could even speak English and I was interviewed where I came from and where I was heading to.
When the conductor came to take my ticket, which was exchanged for a card with the wagon and bunk number I had a puzzled look on my face. But as I was told “No problem. In China, no problem” and they were right. Everything works just fine here. Yours, Pollybert