Again, my blogs are SO behind - however, now that I am in more civilized areas ie Europe, I will be able to catch up. Please take all my comments with a grain of salt, tongue in cheek so to speak. Presently, I am on a Hurtigurten Fjord cruise in Norway - THE most expensive place ever! My Grandfather was Norweigan so I finally see where my mother got her nose - I saw my Mom's (deceased 8 years ago) look alike in so many places...one always wants to know where you came from . I went for a good hike in the mountains today so I feel normal again! Not sure if I like the boat thing....feel claustriphobic...
Anyways, my thoughts on the Chengdu China and train to Lhasa bit. Enjoy!! Next TIBET - hard to describe!
May 13-18 Chengdu, China and train to Lhasa
I'm not sure how to begin - China - so many people, such an old culture, so much history with unusual culture, so many shameful practises, so much propaganda, and the personal hygiene habits are ghastly. Whew
My guide was great, efficient, helpful but very serious - it seems that every day is a new survival for them and one mistake, one unhappy customer (even though they may be a total ass!) is catastrophic for them. Sooooo I had some fun - actually made her laugh and feel comfortable for a minute. (see the pictures!!) She did her best to make sure I saw everything and went over and above to ensure I was happy and looked after. I gave her and the driver a large tip! On the other hand, this is what I saw and heard - constantly.
Nose Clearing - People, mostly men but women too, empty their nasal passages anywhere they feel the urge - with extremely loud 'hoarks' and then spit it out WHEREVER!!!! Please understand - I took microbiology in University as a 'laboratory technologist' and understand what 'lives inside'! The lung stuff wins over the intestines with degree of bacteria and smell. Until 1982 or 4 - anyone who was admitted to an Alberta hospital was tested for Tuberculosis. No forms needed. Alberta had an outbreak of TB in the 50's and spitting became a no-no. So when people spit randomly on the ground in front of me - it makes me cringe. (if you tested a sputum swab from a TB patient, you would know the seriousness of this disease - (which is making a comeback,) because the smell is indescribably putrid!)
Personal Waste Elimination - In rural areas and Tibet (the city is better) - beyond words! 4 women wearing Louis Vuitton or whatever designer etc purses, clothing; will go into an open (no walls between) squat toilet and drop their drawers and pee or take a crap. Usually there is no water or hand washing facilities. So they pull their pants up and carry on - OMG it made me sick. I, commandeered a toilet or 2 with the help of my Guide (bless his heart) to do my business on my own and then had my own toilet paper, water and hand sanitizer. Toilets will get so full they 'overflow'. If someone misses - oh well, it just sits there! I have not experienced such deplorable toilet facilities - even in Africa...drop/squat toilets yeah, but one at a time and they always had water to wash your hands.
Eating - chopsticks are the norm (thank goodness because of the above!) No such thing as chewing with your mouth closed…open and LOUD. Slurp your soup. Oh and you burp and fart whenever - no excuse me or trying to be discreet - at the table, in front of you in line, just whenever the urge. Food is shared so the chopsticks that go into your mouth are put back in the food. Spice is good.
Manners - no such thing. Please, excuse me, thank you - non-existent. Walk in front, push to get you out of the way, walk over your feet, stare uncontrollably, YELL in your ear - (they all yell when talking anyways).
Smoking - every man smokes. Everywhere - there are some places they cannot - but anywhere outdoors is pretty much fair game. Consequently the spitting and cigarette butts everywhere..yuk.
Last but not least…Driving - Chengdu has great roads and lights and lines as the city has been built in the past 10 years - so very modern. However, no one uses them. They drive all over the place, including on the other side of the road to get ahead 3 sec. Pedestrians cross whenever as well -like a lottery of life!
Unfathomable that their population is SO big - without losing it to diseases like in Europe (plague)!
China has many of historical places - so it is interesting however, one needs to get past the above and the flowery language that touts theirs is the "world's best". One thing you cannot overlook, the numbers of peoples everywhere - every nook and cranny, all times of the day. Chengdu's population is 14 million. The History; A growing industrial city in the southwest of China.
3000 BC: Just north of Chengdu, an unknown Bronze-age people constructed Sanxingdui and Jinsha
316 BC: The Qin Empire conquered the area
221 AD: The famous Liu Bei captured the city. It became the base for his empire in the Three Kingdoms era
1241: The Mongols captured Chengdu from the Song Empire
1949: The Communists captured the city from the Nationalist government
The Panda Centre, Dujiangyan Irrigation Project, the Ancient streets, Temple and Opera were fabulous - (especially the mask changing - wow). I was a bit nervous about the trip to Tibet - security, altitude, but it turned out OK. Here is the online sescrption of the Train -with my comments of course!
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway or Qingzang Railway is the world's highest-altitude railway on the Qinghai Tibet Plateau. It starts at Xining, Qinghai Province and ends at Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, with a total length of 1,956km.
Praised as the 'Sky Train' rocketing up to the rooftop of the world, The Qinghai-Tibet Railway can be divided into two phrases. The section from Xining to Gomuld was finished in 1979, while the section between Gomuld and Lhasa started on June 29th, 2001 and opened to run on July 1st, 2006. It is truly the engineering wonder. Experience the world's highest railway! (except for all the buildings and electric towers etc that dominated the landscape sometimes). It is truly the engineering wonder. The Tibet Railway traverses Tibet Plateau, passing close by many lakes and mountains, the sceneries on the way are stunning and beautiful. Visitors can enjoy the picturesque sceneries outside the windows, with vast grassland, crystal clear alpine lakes, snow-capped mountains and much more. Also, nine sightseeing platforms are opened for visitors appreciating the view around the station and taking photos. The most awe-inspiring spots along the railway are Qinghai Lake and Bird Island, Kunlun and Tanggula mountain ranges and Kekexili Nature Reserve.
Features of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway:
It is the world's highest railway for 960 kilometers of its tracks are located 4,000 meters above sea level with the highest point at 5,072 meters.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway is the world's longest plateau railroad, expending 1,956 kilometers from Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, to Lhasa, Tibet. 1,142 kilometers of it are the newly completed Golmud-Lhasa section across the Kunlun and Tanggula mountain ranges.
On this railway, there is the world's highest railway station in the world-Tanggula Railway Station, at 5,068 meters above sea level.
To guarantee the reliabilities and comfort, the Qingzang Railway are driven by 3 computerized engines at one time.
Trains running on the Tibet railway are specially designed to settle down the high altitude sickness with 2 kinds of Oxygen supply systems. One is "dispersion-mode" which released throughout the cabins and the other is Personal Oxygen pipe in case you suffer from breathless in emergency situations.
There are 2 kinds of oxygen supply systems equipped with on the train to cope with the lack of oxygen on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. One is a 'dispersion-mode' oxygen supply system, which spreading oxygen in the train's cars through the air-con system. (which was done automatically - could have been 'any' gas - disturbing!) The other system is directly used by passengers through independent port. Passengers can connect the disposable pipe to a individual oxygen outlet when they get headache, feel out of breath or meet any other difficulties of traveling on such a high altitude. There are also oxygen supply tube and mask on each cabin for emergency….(looked no there wasn't)
The Dining car offers two menus for passengers, one for breakfast and the other for lunch and dinner. In fact, both of the menus (only in Chinese version) are limited, basic and stable. In the morning, you can either have Chinese breakfast or Western breakfast. (no Western anything - some watery porridge, and other weird stuff - I brought my own buns and peanut butter - I had to smell the other stuff first thing in the morning, ewww) Pickels, eggs, bread, milk and coffee are offered there (10 RMB/serving). But what a pity, the coffee on board is instant. Also several kinds of Chinese noodles are offered for noodle-lovers. Tasty, isn't it?
For lunch and dinner, there is only Chinese and Tibetan cuisine. Each dish is about 25 RMB and the average bill is about 100 RMB for two people. Food on board is quite expensive than those in common cities, but quality is not as good as its price.
There are usually 2 Soft-sleeper cars in each train from or to Tibet, which can totally contend 64 people. In each soft-sleeper car, there are 8 small cabins with 4 beds. Compared with Hard-Sleeper Cars, Soft-sleeper cars offers more privacy and fewer crowds for the door can be shut. (I guess 4 strangers to a car is privacy with 1.3 BILLION people around)
Soft sleeper car offers you more privacy. Not only enjoying a peaceful private space, passengers can also enjoy the 8-channel flat-screen TV (NOT) and remote-control devices to regulate temperature at soft sleeper class (NOT again). All comes to be the first class in the sky track.
Soft Berths on the train are comfortable and well facilities in the soft sleeper cars. There are 2 lower bunks and 2 top bunks in each cabin. Usually, the lower bunks are more convenient for passengers to get in and out from beds. Because the lower bunks are closer to the window, passengers can have a better view of the outside scenes than from the top berth. But Top bunks are more secure with shelving for private bags.
Toilets on Board There are two bathrooms at the end of each car. On one side, there is a Western toilet(where??)and the other is an Asian toilet. (with people 'presents' left in full view all the time)
The facilities are well appointed and they are always kept clean and tidy. (Except you had to hold your breath while in there) Toilet paper is prepared. But the level of cleanliness goes down with time. (you can say that again) Better to bring your own toilet papers, for it is hard to find at the end of the journey. Clean and tidy, you can use the bathroom with a good mood. To meet some visitors' special needs, there are toilets for the disabled. (Again, where?)
Public Sinks There are three basic sinks and a hot water dispenser located by the toilets. It is convenient for you to do the washing. But it will be busy in the morning because it is should be shared by 32 people. It is better to buy a towel at a supermarket before you get on the train.
When you suffer from breathless in the bathroom press the button. (There was no button)
I survived the 44 hour ordeal with the help of the nice family I was 'rooming' with. They live in the north east by Mongolia so out of the mainstream. They all had the habits as outlined above, however, they were really nice and made me feel very welcome - including buying me lunch one day! We had some laughs, they asked lots of questions as did I - it made the journey very bearable. That ends up being what travelling experiences are all about - the people you meet. If you overlook some of the local stuff, people are the same everywhere and for the most part, I have met great people!