26.07.2010 - 26.07.2010
I saw a news report a few weeks back that said the United Nations had made it illegal under international law to use sleep deprivation as a form of interrogation. For some insane reason we’d just paid ¥140 (£14) for a whole session of it. Guangzhou to Xiamen, 14 hours through the night on a ‘hard seat’ train. They’d been no sleeper berths left, not even ‘top hard sleepers’ triple-decker bunks open to the carriage that no one ever wanted. I’m writing this now having just got on the train; a challenge in it’s self. Hundreds of people stood in the waiting hall behind an iron gate, as the gate opened it was like the start of the London marathon, other than everyone had five bags each, as well as carrying boxes on they’re shoulder and children strapped to them. I don’t know how many people are on the train, there are 120 people per carriage and 18 carriages, I’m too tired to do the maths, but we fought and wrestled every one of them down the 200 metre corridor down to the platform and onto the train. It seems harsh to use our ‘big western size’ against the locals but they come back with speed and the ability to squeeze through a 2-inch gap. We all had seat numbers booked but that doesn’t seem to mean much here no-one takes much notice and they sell more tickets than they have seats for. The carriage was worse than we expected the seats faced each other and backs were bolt upright, interlocking your knees with the guy opposite was the only option. We were both depressed.
“£14 for 14 hours of hell!” said Sarah.
Eventually all the seats were taken and the unlucky ones stood in the isle. Sarah got chatting to the guy stood next to her, he was travelling home from university, which he did regularly. He was one of the first people we’d met since leaving Hong Kong who could speak English. “I go to see my family, my town is ten hours away. Lots of people get off in six hours so hopefully I’ll get a seat then.”
His comment cut our moaning dead. 14 hours on a hard seat or 10 hours standing?
It wasn’t long before the dried fish came out and got handed around, then the strange looking fruit, seeds and nuts. I accepted some kind of nut, which I ate whole, it tasted like all ten of your toe nail clippings in your mouth at once. Everyone started laughing before I realised you were supposed to take the nut out of the shell first. I suppose it was a good icebreaker.
We dinned on curry bread (a kind of nan filled with curry paste) and what we thought was a French loaf, but turned out to be filled with custard. It tasted better than it sounds, and was a hell of a lot better that the chicken’s feet with rice we had for lunch.
We’d seen two westerners in Guangzhou and we were the only one’s on the train. So we were getting used to being treated like the local celebrities/freaks. People took our pictures, stared and pointed whist chatting behind their hands, and I mean everyone in the carriage. One couple even came over and sat between us, posing for their picture. The news soon spread and people came from other carriages for a look at the white giants.