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Return of the Chinese Railway

We got back to Kunming just in time. We climbed off the bus from Dali, surprisingly refreshed, having slept quite a bit, albeit spread between a hurtling deathtrap, the streets of Dali, and a non-reclining bus seat. We unloaded our stuff and hailed a cab to Stewart’s apartment. We didn’t even worry about walking upstairs to drop our stuff off, we just got right on the bicycles and headed for a massage parlor. We decided to opt for the foot massage, since our legs were way, way too sore now to endure the kind of punishment that we knew from experience this place could deliver. The massage was incredible, and I was quite glad to have shied away from the full body treatment, for as I was dozing, allowing the technician to rage on my feet, he decided to do a quick number on a piece of my quad, with the very best of intentions I am sure. The sudden burst of pain caused me to jolt upright, gasping, and nearly knock over the tray of tea and fresh pear that had been brought for us.

We stumbled out of the massage parlor, much refreshed, but still wincing and moaning with soreness, and headed out in search of dumplings. Dumplings were easy to find, and Scott dozed in a chair while Motta and I played 2/3 of a game of pool.

We called it early due to the arrival of dumplings and out of mercy for your humble correspondent. The dumpling place offered a king of a make-your-own-sauce bar where patrons could assemble their own dips from various oils and chopped herbs. It was quite an enjoyable opportunity for experimentation in dumpling feasting.

Filled to the brim with dumplings and tea, we dropped our stuff off at Stew’s pad, parted ways with our dear leader, and wheeled back to the train station where we were able to nab the last two seats on the next day’s train to Guangzhou.  Wheeling felt good. Really unexpectedly good. It was surprising how little overlap there was between those muscles that were so thoroughly destroyed the day before, and those required for wheeling.

Our remaining hours in Kunming were spent in the glorious surroundings of Mr. Motta’s apartment, which was somewhat unfortunately located on the seventh floor, requiring us to walk up seven flights of stairs. Our sore muscles had little trouble executing the climb up, but the descent was startlingly painful. So we only ventured out once, to wheel to a celebratory hot-pot dinner. Other than that we kept ourselves occupied feasting on the Internet and arguing over trivial matters.

The ride to Guangzhou was relaxing.

After the China railway staff’s initial trepidation about the presence of our bikes on board, we were left to idle our time away working on correspondence for you, dear reader, and returning to a long absent part of AsiaWheeling. I am talking, of course, about whist, the game of many notable adventurers, not least of which was of course Phileas Fogg. We, being two men only, play the German variant of the game. At one point during the ride, the fellow riding below us on the train was accosted by the rail police and asked to produce his  identification documentation. When he was unable to do so, he was berated by the officer, attracting our fellow passengers’ attention and then a small crowd. Eventually, after a great show of emptying all his stuff from his bags, the rail cop removed a smart phone from his pocket, and photographed the kid, making a note of the crime. He then disappeared, and the kid repacked his stuff. No more fuss was made for the rest of the ride.

The Chinese landscape changed slowly from luscious valleys and dramatic mountains to large fields of industrial equipment. It was night when we arrived in Guangzhou. We quickly headed to the bullet train section of the station  and purchased tickets to Shenzhen. The train left less than an hour later, and raced through a totally new, and strikingly futuristic China towards Shenzhen. The city that spread outside our window for the entire ride was like something from Blade Runner; it was lit with many brightly colored lights; it appeared to be occupied mostly by machines and smoke; and it spread endlessly in every direction. We ordered some startlingly expensive peanuts and two ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beers and watched the scenery fly by.

We climbed off the train in Shenzhen and began to unfold the cycles, attracting the usual crowd of passersby, ensnared by the majesty and mysterious beauty of the Speed TR. For the first time, when they asked where the bicycles are from, we were able to proudly report “Here. They are from Shenzhen.” This was, of course, met with no giant surprise, since it is very likely that if you, dear reader, were to take a casual inventory of the things that are present right now in the room where you sit reading AsiaWheeling, most of the manufactured goods, especially if they were made in the last five years,  would be from Shenzhen. It is a manufacturing powerhouse, which attracts all kinds of people from all over China and the world.

After taking a little break to allow some select members of the crowd that had formed around us to take a little ride on the Speed TRs, we bid them farewell and headed out in search of a hotel. It was already past 10:00 pm, and as we began asking at hotels, we soon found that we were no longer in the hyper-cheap part of China. After a few hours of riding around and comparing places, we finally found ourselves forced to pay nearly $30.00 (U.S.) per night for an immaculately clean room with a three-head deluge shower, hyper mod cubic beds and fixtures, and free Internet in the room. Believe it or not, dear reader, it felt like highway robbery.

Ah, China. The value for money you offer is astounding .


Comments

  1. laura | July 31st, 2010 | 2:00 pm

    you have amazing travel karma, always getting a ticket or seat on the last train/bus/mule out! pabst blue ribbon?! you guys are living large! ;) that music on the train would have driven me batty… but love the videos!

  2. Mark/Dad | August 1st, 2010 | 9:37 pm

    I love the picture of the elderly gentlemen and the velvet clothed table.

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