Beijing to ChengDu
I woke up early this morning at 7 AM. I tossed and turned most of the night fading in and out of sleep a few times. However, I felt more rested than the night I spent on the Greyhound.
I feared losing my deposit so I gathered my belongings and walked downstairs to the front desk. We could not understand one another due to the language barrier, but she gave me back my deposit. I tried gesturing for a taxi back to the Beijing Railway Station with no luck. By this time, three hours remained until my departure for Chengdu so I hit the road and started walking.
I walked in the direction we came from last night, but I couldn’t remember exactly where the station was located. I continued down backroads exploring Beijing. I know realize why Made in China gets branded with low quality product. Stores sit scrunched together with the most random work taking place inside. I passed a thrift store, then a food mart, and after Chinese men cutting sheet metal in the street.
It didn’t look like building codes existed and despite being a few miles from the city and railway station I felt as if I plodded through the third world part of China. Abandoned, run-down looking buildings decayed with people living inside. Construction surrounded the city with cranes popping up everywhere and surrounding the smoggy sky.
I never saw this many cranes before in my life and regret not staying longer to climb one or check out the vacant buildings. My mind wandered as I avoided the horrible drivers who disregarded me as I tried walking across the street in the pedestrian walkways.
I still trucked along in the same direction trying to find a soul that spoke English or who might point me in the right direction of the station.
From memory, the station sat perched looking down on surrounding buildings. It’s yellow tint and cultural architecture made it a beauty among other buildings in Beijing. The rooftop design reminded me of old Chinese temples I learned about in history as a kid. I remembered it being located at the end of highway S12.
Crossing the street I stopped in front of a taxi. I pulled out my ticket and pointed at K117 to see if he could take me to the train station. He spoke no English, but a student, Yu Ching Cah, helped translate what I needed.
His taxi service just ended for a break. So I decided to continue walking with Yu Ching Cah. He asked for directions ever so often to make sure we headed the right way. We talked about the usual bullshit, which doesn’t change even in a Communist environment. Same old small talk as back in the states. This just required slower pronunciation. After about 40 minutes of backpacking, I turned my head left and saw the huge red letters of the train station.
Yu Ching Cah followed me to the ticket booth of the station, but he did not enter. I gave my ticket and passport to the ticket clerk and proceeded inside the station.
Security tightly enveloped the station. Cameras looked down on us, and security clearances for baggage lined the inside of the station like lines for an amusement park.
I walked through security grabbed my baggage and it finally hit me. I appreciated being American and despite my differences in opinion with my government at least I didn’t live in a Communist world. Assault rifles firmly held by Chinese guards pointed at the ground ready to fire on the people. These embodied the station in most corners near stairwells. My heart skipped a beat when I first saw the weapon. It brought back memories of Paul’s house when he entered multiple rounds of a rifle into his bed to prove a point. My spine compressed, balls shrank and feared plastered over the smile that once marked my face.
I journeyed up the steps and followed signs for K117 behind waiting area number 4. I grabbed some apples and water for the trip and spent a great portion of the two hours trying to figure out the free WiFi username and password. I never figured it out.
Instead I crammed myself in line for the ticket check which proceeded quite nicely despite the entire room packed of people. Almost as if we waited for the ball to drop at Time Square.
I followed around to platform 7 and tried to figure out where to board the train. I kept pointing and finally someone realized my confusion and helped me out by saying, “15.”
So the first number on the ticket represented the train and the second number my cot.
I entered the train and sat down at a seat, waiting for us to depart, as my eyes wandered out the window preparing for the long 28-hour train ride from Beijing to ChengDu.
The buildings looked so different than what I’m used to in the United States. One minute my eyes planted on a beautiful skyscraper and then glued to decaying third world homes with flimsy sheet metal roofs crammed together. It appeared districts did not exist here. The separation between poor and rich seemed intertwined in the streets.
As my eyes beamed out the window a Chinese man, Deng Gao Ming, introduced himself and asked where I was from? We started chatting and before I knew it we held a steady conversation for a few hours. We talked about school, our country’s, pollution, women, etc, the normal chatter in any conversation.
I took as many pictures as possible until we both decided we needed rest around 4 PM. I ended up napping until midnight. Here I sit blogging as I look out behind the window curtain at the shades of night.
I exchanged information with Deng Gao Ming also we could keep in touch via email. He invited me to Spring Festival in February. He got the pleasure of watching me try to use chopsticks to eat a rice platter. Now I know why Chinese people are skinny. By the time I picked up each little bit of food and placed it in my mouth I lost my appetite from eating such small bites. He ended up getting off a few stops before me, but I met other people on the ride to pass the time.
I talked to a woman who worked in Liberia for a few years, but relocated to Beijing. Her and her friends got off at the ChengDu stop with me. She let me use her phone to contact Hunt so I could find my way to his apartment. He ended up being right outside the station. We took a taxi through the congested roadways to his beautiful apartment. The view of the city below looks spectacular from 22 stories up. I cannot wait to check out the city and do some exploring. I have a feeling I may end up living here for a while.