Monday, March 1, 2010

Our Journey Through Northern China

After living in Dongguan in southern China for several months we decided that it was time to move on. JP Jeanette and I left dongguan together. With a common goal in mind we figured we might as well travel together for a time. After leaving dongguan we headed north on the train because we had a prospective job in Jinzhong, Shanxi Province. The train ride wasn’t too bad... right. We had a bed which was unfortunately on the top bunk giving us little room to move between the bed and the ceiling, approximately 2 feet of room to be precise. We saw a lot of the Chinese country side, but were getting a little giddy and overtired near the end. The train ride was about 45 hours long, but felt more like a week. From the beginning to the end every 20 minutes a man would emerge from the end of the train car slowing pushing a fruit cart moaning shuuuuiiii guo (sounds like Shuaaaaay gwo), which means fruit in Chinese, as he made his way through the Car. By the end of the second day we were so tried we would break into uncontrollable fits of laughter every time we saw him coming or heard him in the distance. I will never forget the fruit cart man or how to say fruit in chinese. We arrived in Taiyuan early in the morning and checked into a hotel not far from the station. The next day we decided we better see atleast on thing in this city before we left so we went to see Shuang Ta Si(the Twin Pagoda Temple). You will never guess what we saw there! The twin Pagodas were beautiful and the whole temple was completely empty. Likely because it was freezing cold. One minute we were in subtropical southern China, two days later we find ourselves shivering in the cold of northern china in the dead of winter. The next day we took a bus out to Jin zhong to investigate this job opportunity. The pagodas were built in 1604 during the Ming dynasty(1368-1644) by order of Emperor Wanli'. Each stands 53 meters tall and has 13 stories. After wandering the grounds for about 2 hours we were too cold and had to retreat to the warmth of our hotel.

The next day we left Tai Yuan to investigate the job opportunity in Jin Zhong. After a few days in Jin Zhong we decided not to take the job because we were pretty sure our visas were no longer valid for working in China. We decided that our best option would be to head back to Indonesia and look for work. Having been to Indonesia before we knew finding work was a pretty sure bet. JP was in the same boat as us, only he was very close to heading home to Canada. We assured him that he would be alright and that if he wanted to come we would take him under our wing. Apprenticing in the art of backpacking, I guess you could say. We are no masters but we have seen and done enough to get by and teach someone who is new to the lifestyle. I think the logical side of him was pretty set on heading home but I just thought that if we at least give him the option of staying and sticking through that his heart might win through and he would do what he really wanted to do. In the end he decided to stick it out and come along.

So we left Jin Zhong. Midnight run, part 2. Bus to Taiyuan, bus to Beijing. It was 4 am on the bus on the way to Beijing that I decided that buses should not have toilets. We were about an hour outside Beijing and the bus hadn’t moved in a couple hours. Frustration ! Just relax. Uh oh, I started to feel a little sick. I had to go to the bathroom really bad so I figured I would take the risk of using the bus bathroom, bad idea. I’ve seen some pretty ugly bus bathrooms in Asia before; don’t know why I thought this one would be any different. The smell of the “bathroom” (actually just a hole in the floor to hell) in the bottom of this Chinese bus would have made me sick on a good day. With barely enough room to turn around and nothing to hold onto you can see why this might get difficult. I wasn’t in there for more than a minute and I was throwing up. Gasping for air only made it worse. You know how sometimes it smells so bad you can taste the smell, that’s how bad it was. After a good five minutes of being sick I finally managed to pull myself together long enough to get out. I swear it was like emerging from the bowels of hell. The joys of traveling in Asia, buses just should not have bathrooms. So we made it to Beijing first thing in the morning and after a little taxi trouble I find myself in the bathroom of a KFC being sick again. Maybe I will have a coffee, I thought, bad idea number 2. Back to the bathroom. Oh great not one of the stalls is available, that’s fine I`ll just stand here and throw up in my plastic bag in public. Anyways that’s more than enough talk about that morning from hell. At least on the way out we managed to see the Forbidden City and a few other places of interest in Beijing. The Forbidden City was amazing but still too touristy for my liking.

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