22 days away
1,500 km / 932 miles since last post
17,357 km / 10,785 miles total
The main event for today was to get our overnight train at 4pm to take us to Xi'an, which meant meeting Ricky and the others in the lobby at 2pm. Therefore, we didn't need to get up early as checkout was at 12pm, so we took this as a good opportunity for a bit of a lie-in to catch up on some sleep.
After we had taken our bags down to reception and checked out, we decided to grab some lunch. Most of the other guys in the group had not long had breakfast, but Tegan, Stu and I decided to take a walk down the road to grab a bite to eat. We knew that we'd have to get something from the supermarket - like pot noodle - to take with us on the train for dinner, so we thought it would be nice to get something a bit better for lunch. All the places to eat down the road from our hotel have nothing written in English, so we had to take a bit of a gamble. Stu spotted somewhere which was making noodle soups, and decided to just go ahead and pick one for all three of us. He saw what looked like chicken and mushroom noodle soup being freshly made, so asked for three bowls and we paid and took our seat inside.
There wasn't enough room for us to sit down at first, but watching other people we soon realised that you have to hover near another table and grab it once the people sitting there leave. Stu managed to grab us a table within a couple of minutes, so we didn't have to wait too long.
After five minutes or so our food arrived. Three large bowls of delicious smelling soup with rice noodles. After a brief inspection of the noodle soup, we soon realised that Stu was slightly mistaken when he thought it was chicken and mushroom. The meat in the dish certainly wasn't chicken, and there wasn't a mushroom to be found, but it did smell nice. The meat in the dish was a lot darker than chicken, but we were fairly sure it wasn't beef either. It wasn't easy to tell from the taste, as the broth tasted like chicken. We also soon discovered that there was yet more to this soup. We found that it also contained chunks of bread, liver and intestine (tripe). Stu only discovered the intestine after he mistook it for a piece of mushroom!
In fairness, the dish was OK. I usually like liver, but because it had been boiled rather than fried I couldn't bring myself to eat it. Stu was the only one to eat the intestine, and that was only by mistake, but we all had some of the yet-unidentified meat, and of course lots of the noodles and bread which were fine.
After we'd eaten as much as we could we left the restaurant and headed back to the hotel to meet the others. Tegan took a picture of the Chinese menu so we could find out from Ricky later what it was we had actually eaten! (Stu note: turned out to be Duck noodles).
After meeting the others at 2pm, it was time to get to the station. We walked up the road and hailed a few taxis to take us there. We made sure we were at the station in plenty of time for our train at 4pm.
This train journey was going to be a bit longer than the last one. Seventeen hours to be precise. Ricky advised us that this time we had one whole sleeper and half of another one for our group. This sounded great, but it was only when we got on the train that we realised that the half sleeper was all the bunks on the left side. This would mean sleeping directly next to and facing a stranger! I was not happy with this as Stu, Ricky and I were the ones in this sleeper. Thankfully though, Ricky said that he was sure someone would swap and we could have our bunks together. However, the person on the top right bunk did not get on our stop, so we had to wait a few more stops before they got on and we could ask them. When they did got on though Ricky asked them to swap they were more than happy to.
Most of our time on the train was spent sitting in the other sleeper with the rest of the group anyway, and we played some card games, iPad games etc. They have a hot water dispenser on the train so you can make pot noodle meals - which aren't brilliant but certainly better than the pot noodles in the UK.
I can't remember if I have described the toilets on this blog yet. Generally, public toilets in China are squat toilets, which essentially means you have a hole on the floor and... well, I think you get the picture. I try my best to not have to use the toilet during the day if I can help it, as I am usually happy to wait until we return to the hotel where there have a proper seated toilet. However, on the train there is no escape. You also have to make sure you bring your own toilet roll, as this is not usually supplied either.
Another thing I'm not sure if I've mentioned is the spitting. For some reason which I am still not sure about the Chinese like to spit everywhere, and they don't appear to have any shame about it at all. You could be quite innocently walking along the street, or sat in your sleeper train playing cards or eating dinner, and you will suddenly hear someone behind you or somewhere nearby sucking up catahhr and then spitting on the floor. It's really disgusting and something I could never get used to.
Playing games with the others meant the time passed fairly quickly. Lights went off in the train around 10pm, and I think we all went to bed soon after that. Unfortunately our section of the train seemed to make quite a loud rattling noise most of the time, so Stu and I were quite glad we'd brought along some earplugs otherwise I don't think I would have got any sleep at all.
The train is due to arrive in Xi'an at 8am tomorrow.