Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Zijin Shan

Last Thursday night four friends and I squeezed into my dorm room and decided to launch a spontaneous weekend away to Nanjing. Spontaneous being the key word here, we thought it would be totally cool not to book anything.

“Yeah!” We said – closing the internet tab to
“Yeah!” We said – deciding not to book our train tickets.
“Yeah!” We said – nonchalantly shoving t-shirts into small backpacks.

Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. When the young are foolish, don’t we all laugh.

The shenanigans began when we arrived at the Shanghai train station and found that our 4:00 train was completely booked out. The next train was not until 7:00 so we grabbed tickets for it and went to eat dinner. Not realizing how quickly time was passing us, the clock hit 6:30 and we were still chilling. Making a move to the station, we became sidetracked upon realising that the trip was to be over 4 hours long, and that in China it is not illegal to consume alcohol in a public place. And so it was, that we all popped into the convenience store and bought several litres of beer. This is how it came to be 6:50 and we were sprinting madly through the station. Crashing through the electronic tickets gates and plummeting down the stairs to platform 5, we searched frantically for our train. No train. In the corner of my eye I spot flailing arms, and simultaneously we:

  • Saw a man about 800 metres and 200 steps away from us madly gesturing for us to come.
  • Saw a train attendant pointing to the platform on which the gesturing man was standing.
  • Heard a train horn toot.

Then we ran. Back up the stairs. We jumped straight over the electronic gates. Down a hallway with glass walls. The population of Shanghai were laughing at us. Tripping down the steps to the other platform ten-at-a-time, only to realise that we were in carriage 8, and we had taken the steps to carriage 16 – and no – you cannot board the train and then find your carriage. More running ensues. There is no one left on the platform and the steam from the train engines is filling the air. The five of us make the jump and cram into the carriage, startling the punctual occupants already in their seats. 

We made it!
We are heroes!
All hail us for making the train!
All hail us for making the train with every single bottle of beer intact!!!

Then we find our seat numbers and the novelty of the situation wears off…

It would appear that four of us are supposed to fit into the two beds closest to the ceiling of the train. It is uncomfortable for two of my friends, as they are both small, but for Magnus and I the feat is nearly physically impossible. It is also a hundred million degrees in this train and we are, all of us, grossly hot and sweaty from running so goddamn much.
Now, just when we think the situation couldn’t possibly get any worse – we realise we do not, in fact, have a bottle opener.

  Needless to say, one of us was carrying a harmonica at the time, and so we managed to get drinking eventually. We also found out two hours into the trip that we were in the wrong place, and that we had seats with head room a little further up.

Four hours and a few minutes after embarking on the rail journey, we had arrived at Nanjing. The following then happened in this order:
  1. We got lost
  2. The place we thought we would go to stay was fully booked
  3. The second place we got sent to was also fully booked for that night
  4. We got sent to a third location
  5. We got lost on the way
  6. We doubled back to the first hostel to ask for directions, and were informed than in our hour of wandering, someone had cancelled a booking, and that we could now stay there.
  7. Their restaurant is long closed
  8. The convenience store is also closed
  9. We get sent down walking north-east and finally find a place to have dinner. It is past midnight. This is an establishment where the chefs smoke while cooking and people spit on the floor
  10. We go home and go to bed.
So much for the benefits of having ‘open-ended plans’ and being ‘free’ with your itinerary. All that happens is that you waste hours of time and pay more money to eat bad food. Spontaneous schmonateous.

On the plus side, the next day we climbed a mountain. Zijin Mountain. It was good. Then that evening we played pool and drank and appreciated our shared excellent company. Nanjing is actually a very beautiful place. On the downside, we were too hungover to wake up on time on Sunday, and didn’t have train tickets booked, so we had breakfast and went straight to the train station.

The lesson learned? Plan it, dude.

1 comment:

  1. Ha, you just need to learn the art of "By the Seat of my pants i Fly". Sounds like you faird ok.

    In Nam we spend 8 hours driving to only find out that the town on the map wasn't there and the next was another 4 hours drive! wouldn't be too bad if we weren't dodging HUGE trucks on tiny roads on the sides of cliffs. Then we had to wake up the owner of the only hotel in town, who lucky was happy to see as several hours after dark. All part of the epic adventure!


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