One of the best ways to get from A to B in China is to TRAIN IT.
Inner city train stations are huge, literally like airports – without the planes; housing everything from check in desks, security and shopping malls, to a grand selection of fast food chains and cake shops. Not to mention the zillions of platforms with an array of weird and wonderful sleeper carriages, slow trains and bullet trains ready to whizz off to the far reaches of the Chinese borders.
A few weeks in to my virgin voyage travelling solo, I decided to get adventurous ambitious.
Knowing I needed to be in Chengdu, in the West, for my outbound flight to Japan in 2 weeks time; I thought it might be a nice idea to train trip across the country from Shanghai, in the East, and stop off at a few places along the way that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. AND a great excuse to test my metal in speaking Mandarin.
FYI, “Wo bu dong le” (I don’t understand) was my favourite phrase.
Here’s how I got on. All of it. The smiles, the sights and the hysterical sobs (yeah, that happened)… Continue reading
I’m an utter snob.
There, I said it.
Hostels, to me, seemed like a weird sort of transit place where hordes of grubby travellers in limbo use, abuse and sleep in dorms with floor-to-ceiling beds, before moving on to their next destination.
Truth is, I’m now one of them…
Since I waved an emosh-goodbye to the fam, hopped on a one-way flight to China and waded my way through the sea of people on the Beijing subway, alone, I can honestly say I’ve never felt more alive.
Most people have asked me whether I’m nervous about any of it; travelling solo, eating by myself, not having someone to share my experiences with?
What they don’t realise is… people piss me right off.
I’ll quite happily spend a few days with other folk, until I catch sight of their annoying habits or loud eating – by which time I’ll make a speedy getaway and continue my journey, relieved and on me’ todd.
This trip, for me, isn’t a spur-of-the-moment escape. I’ve diligently saved money, horded travel books and watched ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ on repeat until my eyes bleed, dreaming that one day, it might be me.
As it happens, right now is the perfect time for me to spread my wings and immerse myself in the places I have only ever seen through a cinema screen or read in blogs.
So whether I had someone to share this with or not, I was making damn sure I was doing it before I got married, knocked up and my beloved travel books were bound for a one-way destination; a dusty cupboard under the stairs.
Here’s my take on why going solo is one of the best decisions I have ever made…
Sounds magical, doesn’t it? “The night train”. Almost like the Cadbury-coloured, three-storey beaut Harry Potter frequents.
It was actually one of my bucket list goals to try it, and with sleeper train travel being the most common way to get around in China (inner city stations are literally like airport terminals), it was only a matter of time before I was able to make that little dream of mine – a reality.
We were travelling as a group from Beijing South to Zhengzhou, to see the Shaolin temple. Full of jittery excitement like a kid before Christmas, I skipped along the platform happily snapping pictures of the carriages.
Everyone else seemed to be reluctantly dragging themselves along… perhaps they knew what was to come.
In the run up to my trip, I made list after list, read “what to pack – the essentials” on travel blogs galore and was feeling pretty smug that I’d rammed my backpack full of everything I could possibly need…
To my peril, I forgot about one minor detail… the whole of the internet in censored in China, so the sites / apps we take for granted in the West, are all blocked.
Fab. There’s nothing like spending weeks packing, making sure you’re totes prepared, and then realising you’re completely UN-prepared. Yup, it sucks.
Fortunately for you, I’ve made a list of everything that was missing from my smartphone. ‘Cos I’m nice like that ;)…
First stop, Beijing. The capital of China. Home to emperors of dynasties gone by and centuries of oriental history, culture and Beijing Kaoya (duck).
I was greeted by… smog, smog, smog.
I must say, I’ve been to Beijing before, so I know a little of what to expect. But it’s always a culture shock like no other to come from springtime in England, flooded with greenery, little yellow daffodils and a handful of people strolling lazily in the sunshine… to a MEGA Chinese city, coming out hibernation of the winter season, with over 14 million people pushing and shoving on the subway (they even employ people to physically ram people into the carriages, with force).
Hello China. Bewildered, to say the least.
I received this beautiful travel-sized toiletries set as a leaving gift from one of my work friends, so I thought I’d get my amateur ‘beauty blogger’ hat on and try my luck with a review.
The stuff was great, I smothered it all over my body and re-enacted Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball. The end.
(JOKES, that would be wildly inappropriate)
Here’s my product review of the Aesop ‘Jet Set’ travel kit.