Dear little baby laptop diary,
Today, August 9, is our third year anniversary! No not you I don't even know you! Z and I got married three years ago today! Yay for us! Happy anniversary! Unfortunately, our meticulous schedule has us departing on a 26-hour train today,from Guilin (we had to get a car back there from Yangshuo for the station) to Chengdu. Not the most typical way to celebrate the occasion, but we are on an adventure. Because of this special day - but really because the last few trains have been abysmal experiences - we booked out the entire cabin for the first time. The ticket booker we used said they buy the other beds very often for people who want it to themselves, and they buy the other two beds as children's tickets (so they cost less), for fake children. Or, as we were hysterical to see the agents refer to them as, "ghost children". They book the kids' tickets under fake names, so we were excited to see what fun Chinese names our fake children got.
Let's hope this actually works and they don't try to resell the two beds in here, because guess what guys, this train most resembles the last shitshow, to Guilin (when we 2 extra bodies (children) (not the ghost kind)), but it is EVEN WORSE. It's like someone said, "Give me the oldest train carriages you have for this route and let me make it even shittier!" I know every single time I'm like, hey baby laptop, this train is EVEN WORSE than the last one, and the people reading are probably rolling their eyes like how is that possible, but somehow it really is the worst yet. Since that gorgeous St. Petey to Moscow special sleeper, we've gone slowly down the ladder of quality and cleanliness, with few exceptions on the straight slope down. I read my old diary entries on our early Russian Trans-Siberian trains and want to punch myself in the face for thinking that wasn't the height of luxury and being such a brat about it. (We have to go back through Russia to enter Europe from the 'stans later so I'm actually excited to sleep on a Russian train again. I KNOW.) Nothing in here has been cleaned since I don't know the previous dynasty. The walls are stained to a brownish mix of age, dirt, and who knows what else; the sheets are stained and full of stranger hair; it reeks of smoke - which is usual, but it also reeks of something mixed with smoke. We can't pinpoint the specific stench, but it is NOT PLEASANT. I believe it's the smell you get when decades and decades of Chinese people sleep, live, and eat weird smelling food in tiny compartments that never get cleaned. It's pretty bad. It's also freezing - the air is on super high and we can't control it - so we are shibbering, and icked out. I mean just look, even one of the nets on the wall has lost the will to live:
I can't imagine what this would be like with other people in here and I hope I don't have to.
Since we had to drive from Yangshuo back to Guilin to catch this 12:30pm ish train, we left at 9:30am ish today to begin our journey, and we are supposed to arrive in Chengdu at 2pm tomorrow. So, we needed an entire day's worth of food for today plus half a day's for tomorrow. I had a crapload of leftovers from dinner at Lotus Vegetarian in Yangshuo town last night, three containers actually! So I brought those to eat. Of course, takeout containers in China have been laughable, and the chinese food juice leaked all over the plastic bag it came in, the bigger plastic bag I thought would keep it 'extra safe', and my beloved reusable tote that I carried the food in. I have to wash that. So gross. Everything somehow smells like stinky tofu. This whole country smells like stinky tofu. Maybe it's just stuck inside my nostrils.
I ate as much of the leftovers as I could (leftover noodles do not keep well) and was eager to throw the containers and the bags out asap. It had to go in the sink room, where the only decent sized garbage was. Sorrynotsorry.
At the station, I bought these taro cakes that looked decent, were super cheap, and, eureka, had English ingredients listed so they were accidentally vegan. Let's compare the picture on the box with the actual product:
I just found a black hair under the pillow.
I really have to pee but I don't want to unlock the door to our little safe place. Also, the toilets are disgusting. We are back to the kind that just empty clear out onto the tracks with a big hole you can actually see through. One of them is broken and stuck in the open position so you can just look through and see track the whole time. Fun times.
Z still feels like crap (we have a doctor's appointment tomorrow! his turn to need one!), unfortunately, so while I can sort of act amused by all this, he is miserable and I feel terrible. It doesn't help that I bought those taro things primarily because he loves taro. He will be so disappointed when he wakes up to learn that they are just cubes of baby powder. At least we have good fruit! I have a container of cut up cantaloupe - seriously, the cantaloupe in China is OFF THE CHARTS. I know usually it's like the fruit added to fruit salads and trays that no one wants and you're like eww get off my tray, but I'm obsessed here. It's sooo good. I can't get enough. I also bought a bunch of grapes outside the station so they are unwashed and I can't wash them in train water so I didn't reallllly think that one through (I can save for hotel at least), three very promising black plums (I love plums!), weird little fat short bananas that are actually good and maybe sturdier than the regular ones (not as much bruising!), two apples courtesy of Tea Cozy's daily fruit supply, and a super fun treat for our anniversary, our absolute favorite thing we discovered in Burma - custard apples! I don't know how we will manage to eat them unless we just save for hotel, but so fun.
Remember on the Russian trains when I complained about how they didn't refill the soap dispenser for a while?? HAHAHAH I was so stupid! At least in Russia people use soap! I have yet to find a non-hotel bathroom in China - in ALL of China - that has soap. Just no one washes their hands after using the hole. No joke, in restaurants, malls, trains, stations, public toilets, museums, everywhere, I watch as people just rinse ONE hand in the water for a hot second and then shake it off onto everyone they pass as they exit. There is never soap ever. So disgusting. How is disease not more prevalent? Actually I don't know the stats at all, maybe it is.
I'm drinking a random store-bought iced tea with zero sugar, barely any flavor, and no bubbles. I hope Chengdu has bubble tea near our hotel. We also have two 4-liter jugs of water for this 26 hour journey, plus two 1.5-liter bottles and the rest of my 2-liter bottle I started this morning. Plus two baby sized ones for brushing our teeth. So for drinking that is about 12 liters. Is that enough??
Ooh it's raining outside! I like it, for some reason. It's relaxing, to be inside while it's raining out. Like hey this is a disgusting hole and we already smell of smoke and China's national stench, stinky tofu, but at least we are inside.
Z's getting tired of Chinese food, and I am a little bit too. It's too bad that it's hitting us now, when we are about to be in Sichuan province (land of our favorite kind of Chinese food! Super spicy Sichuan!), but it's understandable given we've been here for almost 3 weeks. That's a lot of Chinese food. Chengdu has a good deal of Western food apparently, and a great many HappyCow listings, so I'm excited. Also we changed our hostel booking to a very nice hotel as a treat for our anniversary and to balance out the trains and some of the prior accommodations and really just everything, and I hope it lives up to its billing and our expectations, but honestly after this train, anything could seem nice.
It's so odd remembering the Russian trains, on the classic Trans-Siberian routes, where yes we were bunking with regular traveling Russians but the carriages were filled with other tourists. In China, this is not the case. Even on the Beijing to Shanghai train, we didn't see any non-Chinese people! There is a group of white college-looking people on this train, but they are in platzkart (not called that anymore I know but it's a good word), the open-bed-dorm style class, so everyone we see on our carriage is Chinese. That's why everyone stares, they're like 'wtf are you doing out here, you know this isn't meant for you to see, right, it's very dirty'.
Damn it's really raining hard now, maybe I don't like it. I'm scared things are going to start leaking through the ceiling onto us, which would be sooo not fun.
When I get back to London, well we get back at night so I am going to shower and then sleep. Omg. My bed. But the next day, I'm going to hopefully welcome a Tesco delivery of groceries (I need to do that online several days before, I guess when we are in Poland! Someone remember to remind me!) and make a green smoothie with Vega powder omg I miss that so much. And then we are going to watch Netflix all day. And get vegan soft-serve at Yorica in Soho! Omg whyyy did I think of that I want that now. And we will get pizza delivered, Z from Pizza Union down the block (well I guess he'll pick that up) and me from Basilico because they do vegan cheese. Or maybe by then someone else will have vegan cheese! What a world is happening out there!
I have to go tell someone to stop smoking in the hallway.
Ok no one is in the hallway or in the next room, which means the smokers in the carriage-connecting parts - the actually signed smoking section, if you can believe it - are next to the air vent and so it is getting circulated to all of us with the air conditioning. Cool. Cool cool cool cool. Oh wow it started hailing.
My eye is twitching! from stress?
I just had to find the boiling water station - no more having it in every carriage - and it was THROUGH THE OTHER END OF THE NEAREST PLATZKART CARRIAGE. Omg I have never been in platzkart before it is a zoo! First of all, the bunk beds are TRIPLE TIERED! Ah can you imagine having a top bunk that is actually third up? So crazy! And everyone is just standing around the open plan talking and eating and wow it is very loud. Thank goodness we are in rooms with doors, even if they provide more surface area for dirtiness.
An attendant just knocked and I let her in and she looked around and at the empty top bunks and I SCREAMED WE HAVE ALL FOUR and of course she didn't understand my words but was FREAKED OUT from my tone and my volume and she ran away. Z said what the fuck you just terrified her! But I was so nervous that she was looking to put people in here that I burst nervously into shouting. Oops. But don't even think about it lady!
Yay she didn't she was just confused! We showed her the ghost childrens' tickets and she got it. We are safe. Phew. I am so excited to shower and enjoy Chengdu. PANDAS! Good food! Hotel amenities! See you on the other side.