Part of a series of posts about my experiences on a trip to China in October 2015. The series of posts related to this can be seen on my page “Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye”.
The best laid plans…
I am a planner. Before I travel I research locations, accommodation and transportation options. I study maps and schedules and figure things out. I don’t just make a plan I also look at what can go wrong and figure out options so that if things go awry I have an idea about what to do.
I just returned from a trip to visit my son, who lives in Weifang, Shandong Province, China. I left home with a plan. I was ready.
On my two previous trips to China I did tourist type things, specifically Western tourist type things, as part of my visits. This time was different. The duration of this trip was shorter and I went primarily to spend time with my son, since I hadn’t seen him in over a year. Never-the-less I thought I would try to see a couple of things not on the typical Western tourist track, destinations fairly close to Weifang that are important to Chinese people.
One planned excursion was to Mount Tai, aka Tai Shan, aka Mount Taishan. There may be a few more akas. Mount Tai or Tai Shan (since shan means mountain to say Mount Taishan is redundant, although the UNESCO site does so). Mount Tai is a sacred mountain, they believe that it has held spiritual significance since the stone age. More about that later…first we had to get there.
My son was able to take a day off of work and come with me, but we didn’t find out until the evening before. Too late to get train tickets on a fast train.
James got done with work at about 10 am and we took the city bus from his place to the train station. We chose a ticket line and waited for our turn. We were the second from the window when the woman selling tickets picked up her glass tea jar and left. Some discussion (held by others then explained to my by my son) revealed that she was on her lunch break. This was clearly explained by the sign over her window (if you could read it). Since all the other lines were long and all the other workers were scheduled for lunch breaks the fasted alternative was to just wait until this gal got back. When she did we learned that all of the seats on the train we wanted were sold out. We opted to ride in a “hard sleeper” over taking a later train.
Yes, the hard sleepers are hard. There is also not enough room between the berths to sit up all the way. On the plus side they provided a pillow and comforter. I used my backpack as a foot rest and reclined on the pile of comforter and pillow. It wasn’t too bad until the woman below closed the curtain and her husband started to smoke (he didn’t do so in the compartment itself but somehow the smoke found its way in), then my bladder said “times up!”
To get up and down from our middle berth there is a flip down metal foot hold, about 3″ by 5″. I successfully maneuvered myself down and utilized the facilities without needing a clean up crew. I felt a bit cocky at that point, but still decided to sit the rest of the trip on a jump seat in the corridor where I could look out the window and the smoke could blow away.
One question still haunts me: could I have made it up onto the top berth if that had been our lot in life?
To be continued…