. I also have my picture translator, which has a picture of a nice comfortable first class seat and a smaller, second class seat, so I point to the big seat. She motions to her back like making a chair signal, and I think we are on the same page. I pay for the tickets and am proud of my accomplishment! Meanwhile, Jeff is on display back near the wall watching the bags. People stop and gawk and stare, it is a bit disconcerting. Then we decide we have some time to grab something to eat. We had seen a dumpling place in the station, so off we go. I take out my phrase book and show her “do you have any vegetarian food please?” She shakes her head no. Well, the dumplings look really good and fresh so I take out my picture translator and point to the animals section. This is a very exciting event. The 3 cooks and the sales lady all gather around the laminated picture guide and point to the pig head and the carrot picture. They love this thing. They are laughing and pointing. We have a winner! So we order some and sit down to eat. After we sit down, she puts some sauces down (one is soy sauce, the other FIRE spicy) and wants to see my picture thing again. She points to the hot pepper, but cannot find anything to describe the soy sauce. In fact, there is a soy sauce picture on the guide, but it is in the Kikkoman shaped bottle which is not the same bottle they have in China so she can’t tell what it is! I’ll have to write to them about that … People stop outside the restaurant and watch us eating
. We wonder if we are holding the chop sticks the wrong way or something!! We order seconds of the dumplings and they think that is great! On our way to the train, we decide to get something to eat to take with us in case we get hungry (since we never know how long we are going to be on these things!) We go into what looks like a bakery. We want something chocolate but cannot find anything. I get something I think it chocolate, and it turned out later to be red bean paste on a bun. Not bad, but not chocolate. Jeff got a roll that had red beans on the inside. It was a bit strange. We had tried to use the picture translator to the bakery girls, but I guess they couldn’t make the leap from chocolate bar and ice cream cone to “Something chocolatey”!! it was amusing….
It is time to head to the train. We have to put our bags through an x-ray machine and figure out where to go for our train. Luckily the train numbers are written in English so we can read them and we find our train. We did not get first class seats. We did not get soft seats. We did not get reclining seats. We are sitting on rock hard seats crammed in with the locals. I was unfortunate enough to be shoulder to shoulder with a teenaged boy who was very stinky. Every time he lifted his arm, Jeff could smell him across the aisle but I got to smell him for 6 hours. I saw him once out of the corner of my eye take a picture of me with his camera phone
. People keep staring at us, especially the children and all kinds of people take our pictures--we wonder if we are freaks or superstars!! The toilets were squat toilets. It is hard enough to hover above the toilet and not touch anything when the train is moving on a western toilet, I wasn’t even going to attempt it on a squat toilet! We were sorry that we didn’t listen to our friend Ken who told us to fly everywhere in China (which, we will be doing for the rest of the China trip!!) People were selling stuff in the aisles, giving demonstrations like “As seen on tv”--selling toothbrushes, toys for kids, mechanical pencils and some other things we could not identify. And people were buying everything!!
We arrive to Guilin and were very happy to have a hostel within walking distance so we didn’t have to deal with a taxi. We get to our hostel and meet the friendly front desk host named “Ding Ding”. We ask Ding Ding to tell us where we should eat dinner and he says, “Have you heard of the famous Guilin Rice Noodles?” Of course we hadn’t since we had just arrived, so he says he’ll walk us around the corner to his favorite noodle place! We eat a delicious bowl of noodles with some mystery meat and peanuts (Ding Ding orders for us and tells us to pay 5 yuan-about 75 cents). It was really good! After eating, we walk around a pedestrian area with shops and other restaurants. We have an early night since we are leaving early the next morning to take a bamboo raft down the Li river to a town called Yangshuo. I will write separately about Yangshuo, but I have to mention now that we came back to Guilin to catch our flight to the next destination, and ended up eating at one of the restaurants on the pedestrian street. They gave us what was supposed to be a translated menu, but the translations were so bad we couldn’t identify what things were! We laughed so hard we had tears streaming down our faces. Some of the funnier poor translations were “Wild speculation bacteria”, “Regardless of Man meat”, and “Vegetable farmers grandmother” HILARIOUS!!!
Next morning we wake up early to head to the station. We go outside the hotel-- no taxis. We say “taxi” to the doorman, he says “bus”. We say “taxi better”, he sighs, but heads out to the road to try and flag us one. Finally one comes, and some Chinese lady rushes in front of us and opens the door. I am about to put my hand on her shoulder but the doorman yells at her so she backs off. When we get to the train station, the taxi driver yells “blah blah blah!!!” like, suddenly we know what “give me 8 yuan” is supposed to sound like?? Luckily there is a meter so we can see the “8” and give it to him. We look up and see that he had dropped us off where there was a big sign saying, “soft seat waiting room”. But that is not where the tickets are sold! We head to the next building and it is complete and utter chaos. About 8 windows, all with long lines. Jeff waits with the bags while I, armed with my picture translator and Asian phrase book, get in the line. Luckily it goes pretty fast, and I have time to learn how to say “one way” and I have “Guilin” written in Chinese and today’s date and the time of the train I want written down