Posts tagged ‘train’

39 hours of busses and train

A very long journey awaited me. I had enough for a bus ticket to Kunming after changing what was left of my Baht. The bus was a sleeper (with beds) and left Lijiang at 8:30pm. I was in Kunming’s bus station before sunset, where the bus had stopped and let the sleeping passengers doze until 6am. From 6 to 8 I slept on the chairs in the bus station, amidst lots and lots of unventilated cigarette smoke. I then went to eat breakfast at this place near the station that serves a thali set of Chinese food for 6 Yuan. By 8:45 I was on the bus on my way to Rachel’s workplace to collect my card.

At her office I distracted her a bit as I tried to activate my new card. I couldn’t do it because I didn’t know the account # but my cousin was finally able to do it for me in New York. I walked away very cheerful and almost applauded the machine when it presented me with all those Yuan!

Afterwards I went to the train station, intending to buy a ticket for later in the afternoon for the 24+ hour journey to Guangzhou (the city I originally flew in to from Bangkok). I had been trying to buy an air ticket instead but without success. The prices when I first started looking were less than twice of the price of the train ticket which was very good and reasonable, but the site ELONG.net requires immense verification for foreign credit card purchases, so despite sending them copies of my passport, credit card (from & back) and signature I didn’t make the cut and they cancelled my tickets. What I couldn’t provide them was my signature on the document they wanted me to sign because I didn’t know where to print it out and re-scan or fax it. It was all too much hassle, especially with the time constraints because it was evening already when I was trying to book these tickets and was leaving to the Gorge the next morning. And since they don’t guarantee prices until confirmed it made less economic sense to buy later.

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June 17, 2009 at 9:54 am 1 comment

Bagan

After Mandalay I decided to go to Bagan, the city of over 2000 temples. I booked a 2nd class ticket on the train. It was meant to depart at 9pm, but it didn’t leave until almost 11. The station had a festive air about it because it was the last night of the festival. Even the employee whom we asked for directions to our platform was shitfaced. The cause for the delay was simple: the most necessary element for a train’s locomotive function was absent: the engine.

Physically, this was the worst railroad experience of my life. Although psychologically, it wasn’t worse than the feet of Vietnam.

Sitting stupefied for two hours, knowing neither the cause for the delay nor when we’ll finally move because there are no announcements and no staff to answer questions… I couldn’t manage one comfortable position on the rigid wooden bench. But the hardness of the bench on which my poor bum (sore from being wet all day) sat was nothing compared to the misery brought on by the back of the bench which stood at almost 90 degrees to the seat. Add to this the heat and the clothes clinging to my body. But the most disagreeable sensation was on my face which was so itchy from sweat that I wanted to howl and claw and everything in between.

When the train finally moved, a few more problems became apparent. The scarcity of fresh air due to the smell of the engine coming through the window and the couch’s trembling from tracks too narrow for its girth caused all passengers to jerk and sway 45 degrees or more at least every 10 minutes. And the drunk men singing Burmese ballads…

drunk boys. notice the benches...

drunk boys on the train. notice the benches...

but the view was beautiful

but the morning sky was beautiful

By 7am we finally reached Bagan. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it. Bagan was too hot and the heat rendered me almost completely oblivious to the subtle differences between the temples. So after two days I decided that it was foolish to whither more days like this and bought a bus ticket to Inle lake which is cooler and full of forest (and only 14 hours away).

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please notice the diaper!

April 20, 2009 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment


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