Note: I wrote these entries while I was in China but could not post them to the site due to the internet filter. It’s all well and truly over now but I figured I would post them anyway.
I’m sitting in a cafe in Urumqi China, it’s raining outside and since I’ve finished my meal I figured I might as well start an entry for China. China is proving to be somewhat frustrating.
I’ve been in China for a week and I can not say that I have done much except try to organize transport and accommodation. I’ve come up against China’s Internet filter at least at a guess that is what it is since I can not access my website. It will be interesting to see if I can post this or not through the application that I am using to write it or if it will have to wait until I get home.
It seems the bulk of my problems in China are because of a bit of a timing issue. I’m a week or so early you see. It’s school holidays here so the Uni students are off around the country which means getting train tickets has proven to be more than just a little difficult.
I obtained my visa for China without a hitch from Hong Kong and it was just as easy as advertised. Then I tried to book a train ticket to either Shanghai or Beijing. They told me there were no tickets until 4 days time and even then there was only one sleeper cabin left, coincidently the most expensive one or standing room. Otherwise I’d have to wait until the 5th day.
I went to a cafe, sat down and consulted my book and decided on a train to Guangzhou. Not that I really had a particular interest in going there it was more because it was only just across the boarder, there were plenty of tickets and it was described as a ‘transport hub’.
As it turned out I couldn’t get any train tickets there either. That was when I found out about the student holidays. Although it was ok the locals assured me. They go back to school in end of this month. September should be fine. Or words to that effect that is…
Not all my problems so far have been because of the student holidays here in China. One of them, a rather major one, was caused by the bank. The Australian bank that is not the Chinese ones.
You see when I couldn’t get on a train for the better part of a week I decided to fly. I managed to book a flight in an office, no mean feet when you do not speak Chinese and the girl on the other side doesn’t speak English. Anyhow she was very nice and patient. All that remained since they didn’t accept credit caress was for me to find an ATM and get some cash for the flight.
I tried about 15 ATM’s and could get any cash. Frustrated I went back to the office and cancelled the flight I’d booked then headed back to the hostel. Checking online I discovered I could not access the bank to check my funds. They had a ‘We’re sorry we are experiencing technical difficulties’ screen up. Then I check then online news. Sure enough there was an article with numerous complaints from people being stranded not being able to pay for the fuel they’d just put in the car to not being able to buy there groceries.
It did make me laugh though. There was someone complaining about not being able to pay for $30 worth of fuel and there was me stuck in Guangzhou China without being able to access money.
Now I did have a backup card to a totally separate account with a different bank. That didn’t help since they were suffering ‘technical difficulties’ as well.
Thankfully I still had some of my ‘emergency cash’ left that has managed to travel all around the world with my since I left Australia. That at least gave me some cash to live on for the next week. Thankfully the ‘technical difficulties’ didn’t last for more than a day but at one point I was seriously thinking of heading back to Hong Kong, changing my flight dates and heading home early.
You know having a sister with contacts helps. As it turns out she has a, well ex working in a hotel in Hangzhou. So I booked my flight up there and at least had a comfortable bed for a few days while I tried, with the help of the travel desk to sort out my onward travel plans.
As it turned out I still couldn’t get a train in a reasonable space of time so ended up booking another flight. That is how I’ve ended up in Urumqi. I decided if I flew to this side of the country and worked my way back it might be a little easier.
I was right. I had no sooner got here, found the train ticket booking office with a little help from the locals and low and behold there was a train ticket available on the day I want to travel!
Pity about the accommodation side of things. Sigh.
While I managed to get the train ticket to Kashgar, leaves tomorrow morning, when I looked at the hostel and cheap hotel availability they were all booked out on the Monday.
I finally found a place only slightly more than I wanted to pay but at least it’s a bed.
So it’s been a week, a very frustrating week trying to travel in China. Still I am looking forward to Kashgar and the Silk Road even though if the rest of my time here goes like the last week it’s going to be a tough few weeks.