Ah, the restaurant car of a Chinese train hurtling through the night! That’s the place to be. I have just arrived in Lanzhou in Gansu province from Guangzhou, a journey of one day and two nights.Â
Therefore I thought I’d spend a little extra to travel in a soft sleeper – only four people in the cabin instead of the usual 600 or so. That was stupid. Not only was the only toilet broken so I had to share the one there was with 600 people anyway, but there was no electricity with which to recharge my many gadgets. Oh well, I could do 36 hours without gadgets.
But in my little room were two women who were devout buddhists, possibly Falun Gong because one of them had some festering sores on her leg which the other one kept dressing and smearing ointment on. So far, so dissident.Â
They had a big plastic bucket which contained kilos and kilos of bananas and lychee, as well as various ointments, salves and cremes. That was their luggage. But what they also had was a little sound box where this buddhist chant thing with a trilling soprano, violins and possibly flutes kept going round and round on a 30 second loop.Â
The two devout ones went to bed early, but do you think they turned off the sound box? No, on and on it churned, just loud enough to be extremely irritating, like a mosquito in a quiet bedroom. I was waiting for the batteries to run out – couldn’t tear an old, frail woman out of bed even if it was only a bunk on a train, especially with those sores on her legs. (People! Don’t only eat fruit! It leads to frailty and extremely limited taste in music.)
Only beer made me able to sleep that night. The next morning the thing was still going on and on. I couldn’t read or think. When they tried to offer me some lychee I used the opportunity to ask if they couldn’t keep the fruit in return for turning off the hellish thing? Of course, you should have said so sooner, they said. And that’s absolutely correct. Trying to be tolerant and full of acceptance leads only to one thing: Gnashing of teeth! So from now on no more mister Nice guy and festering sore sensibilities here!Â
All was forgotten when my breakfast appeared, however. Oh Chinese restaurant cars! Oh life! This particular Â restaurant also sported the only good-looking poster for the old Beijing olympics I’ve seen so far:
Not the guy, all right? Not the guy. The poster.
Inspired by this I headed back to the cabin where the two women had been replaced by three guys, and I immediately set out to thrash them at cards, increasing my well-being even more.Â
Right! It’s time to check out the wonders of Lanzhou. And this evening my trusty travel companion Richard is arriving by flying machine, and then: Off to the hinterland. Meanwhile I’m BLOGGING from a HOTEL ROOM!!!! Isn’t technology fantastic?