Thursday began like any other day. Nik’s alarm went off at 8am, we ate breakfast and checked outside to see if the sun decided to show up or not. It did! We relaxed for a little while, and when it was time to say goodbye for the day we hugged for a little bit longer normal. You see, I was about to embark on a solo train journey to Hong Kong.
After Nik left I packed my bags. I double and triple checked to make sure I had everything (he’s normally the one that reminds me of things), and after a couple false starts I was off to the Shanghai Southern Train Station. I thought about taking the subway, but decided against the 20-minute walk and 2 transfer journey and hailed a cab instead. Normally, I would have bought my tickets several days in advance. In fact, I had bought tickets over a week ago, but then decided to change the dates of my trip and had to return them (long story). So here I was at 10am standing in line to buy a solo ticket for the 1:30pm train. I tried to buy a hard seat ticket (250rmb/$36), but they were sold out. The cashier offered a hard sleeper at 393rmb ($57) instead, and I took it. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. I waited for three hours to get on an 18-hour train. Why did I do this to myself? I suppose this is what happens when I don’t plan ahead.
I boarded car #8, found the top berth of cabin #6 and lofted my bags onto the bed. I quickly assessed the situation and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t any way that I could spend 18 hours staring at the ceiling so I found a fold-down seat by the window. I was extremely excited to begin my journey so I texted Nik, “On the train. Seat by window!”
Before we had even left the station the picnic began. Every group had at least one if not six grocery bags filled with snacks and beverages, so for the first three hours of our journey all I heard was slurp, crinkle, snap, slurp, smack, cough, guzzle, crinkle, smack, spit, slurp. After a while I was able to tune everything out and just watch the scenery. It only took about 20 minutes to get out of the sprawl of Shanghai and into the farmland. But it isn’t farmland like we see it in America. No vast farms covering tens and hundreds of acres that are plowed by huge machines and irrigated by giant ant-like contraptions. Instead hundreds upon hundreds of small 1/4 acre or less plots are divided into various crops surrounding villages of twenty to thirty dwellings. All of the land seemed to be worked by hand and is probably run by a family rather than a large company. I imagine that each of these farmers sends his produce to a relative in the city to sell, and the result is hundreds upon hundreds of little stands in the city. It’s nice to be low tech sometimes.
The window gazing made me sleepy so I packed up my camera and journal and turned to find that I was the only one still awake in car #8. It was like they were all taking their afternoon siesta and no one told me. But then again, I was the only foreigner on the train and I was staring out the window at boring farms, so I was the weird one anyways. I climbed up top and was quickly rocked to sleep by the hum of the train. I woke up a couple hours later and the sunlight was almost gone so I climbed down to perch by the window before eating dinner and climbing back into bed. Two Nyquil liquid gels and two episodes of Lost later, I was asleep for the night.
We arrived at the Shenzhen Train Station at 7am and I was funneled along with the other 600 passengers through the labyrinth of customs and immigration into Hong Kong. Since I was literally the only foreigner on the train, my path was pretty empty. I filled out my arrival/departure cards, signed a waiver saying I hadn’t had any contact with swine flu, told the health inspectors I hadn’t been in America since February, flashed my passport a few times and was on my way. It was when I approached the ticket machine to buy my subway ticket that would take me to Honk Kong Island that I realized that I had forgotten to buy my return ticket to Shanghai. I was supposed to buy it as soon as I arrived at Shenzhen. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to get to the train station four hours early again for the 18-hour return!
Also, Nik did a blog post about his weekend: A Bachelor’s, AKA Loner’s, Weekend. It’s nice to know that I’m missed!!