Archive for May 16th, 2009

Preparing for the train journey

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

In order to ship our bikes and most of our gear, we needed to bring the bikes and gear to the “luggage consigning office” at the Kunming train station a day in advance of our train. After some confusion and going to the wrong place, we were guided to the correct office by a friendly employee. We removed our bags and placed them all into a large tarp bag that we bought in Bangkok for just this purpose. They had a strapping machine that ensured the bag would remain closed and hopefully will prevent the zipper from breaking (it was awfully full). Once the paper work was completed, we were charged 454 RMB (under $100 CAD) for the lot of it. 31 kg in the tarp bag and 25 kg for each bike. Hopefully we will see it all when we get to Beijing!

Note, the paperwork does ask for a contact address and phone number in your destination city. Since we have not booked a hotel in Beijing and have not purchased a SIM for our phone here, we had nothing to give them. We recommend to other cyclists shipping bikes and baggage via train in China to book a hotel or find someone who can be the telephone contact person.

The rest of our preparations for the train ride involved spending a lot of time relaxing in our hotel room, updating the blog and doing some Internet research, and eating many different types of Chinese food. Of note, we tried the Yunnan specialty “across-the-bridge-noodles”, where you get a bowl of really hot broth and a bunch of items to throw in the broth. The number of type of items varies based on how much you pay and the restaurant. Our across-the-bridge-noodles were yummy. We are reminded just how good the food in China is – don’t even dare to compare it with North American Chinese food.

An interesting thing has occurred a few times now, with us not speaking any Mandarin (or whatever dialect they speak where we are) and waitresses at restaurants who speak no English. We often only have a slight idea of what we are ordering. Once we randomly ordered a beer once and what came back was a Budweiser! (that was quickly rectified with a trip to the fridge and to select something else) When the waitress asks us a question, and we don’t understand and end up giggling (smiling and giggling seems to work well when we don’t understand, it is exactly what the waitresses do when they don’t understand us) the immediate response is to write it down. Since the written language in China is the same regardless of dialect writing it down is an effective way to communicate with anyone who reads any Chinese dialect – unfortunately, we just end up giggling a little more, since it doesn’t help us at all. After some futile flipping through the phrasebook, eventually the waitress will just bring us to the counter and allow us to point at what we want. So we are successfully eating well, but it is a little bit mentally draining.

Sad news from home

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

On Mother’s Day, I found out that my Grandma had died the previous day, after a short illness. Fortunately my Mom was able to get to Montreal before she died, and my Uncle and family (who live in Montreal) were there also.

Throughout our trip, we have prepared monthly packages consolidating our posts and photos for her and other family who are not on the Internet. I was looking forward to sitting down with her when we got back, since we have always enjoyed talking about travel. She and my Grandpa were among the few members of my close family who have travelled extensively – perhaps I inherited the travel gene from them {grin}.

Today was her memorial service, and as we were getting ready to board the train, a part of me was wishing I could be back in Canada to attend. I’m happy that the rest of my family was closer, and was able to make it to Montreal. Becky’s and my thoughts are with our family, since we can’t be there in person.

–Scott

Mom and Grandma at Grandpa's grave - September 2008

Mom and Grandma at Grandpa's grave - September 2008