Terrible pun, sorry. Chengdu was my final choice as a destination to spend my 9 day holiday from work. Alas, as work doesn’t exactly pay extravagent wages I had to get the train instead of the plane. The ’35-hour-long-journey’ train that is. So I lugged my bag-laden self on to carriage number 4 at shanghai central station only to find I’d bagged a bed next to the only other foreigners on the whole train. They were a Portuguese couple who were slightly older and exceedingly more attractive than I. Apart from these glaring anomolies we got on swell and the day and a half trip to central china went surprisingly quick. This had more to do with the beers than the scenery (by the first night we’d created a pretty impressive can-pyramid that the cleaning lady was audibly in awe of), as the first twelve hours saw us meander by a successive line of depressing industrial towns the Chinese government clearly bought in flat-pack boxes from Ikea. The instructions probably read ‘Caution: May contain traces of smog.’ It’s actually pretty terrible that such a large percentage of china (and therefore humanity) live in these blackened concrete travesties. Ignorance is bliss I guess, as the state controls the media – and therefore glimpses of a nicer world – with a fairly heavy hand. What would these people do if you showed them an episode of the OC? Vomit, probably.
The next day the cement prairies had transformed into sharp, green mountains and winding, dirty rivers. The train pretty much made a beeline through all of this, meaning we were either perched on bridges or cloaked in tunnels. It truly is an engineering marvel, especially when you consider the heaviest machinary the workers had was probably a wheelbarrow.
We arrived in Chengdu in fine spirits and after I’d got my refund for the return ticket I’d accidentally bought for the wrong day (stressful) we got ourselves a rickshaw to the Dragon Town Hostel, which cost 4 quid a night and looked like a renovated temple. China truly has the best hostels in the world (or at least the best from the select countries I’ve been to). Before we set our bags down a young bloke by the name of Nong introduced himself and told us that in ten minutes he was heading to a ‘dance party’ and that if we paid him 20 RMB each we’d get free drink all night. There was unified nodding.
That night was probably the best night in China I’ve had since arriving in Shanghai. Nong turned out to be a professional break dancer from Beijing. I had stupidly told the Portuguese couple about the time I joined a dancing gang in the same city in 2008 (true story – G is my witness) so when Nong invited me to dance on the hydraulic stage in the middle of the circular bar I had very little option. As I vaulted the bar the MC (who was at least 50 and later rapped in Chinese) started trash-talking me. The tension was palpable. I’m not sure what happened, but in the dance-infused blur that followed I believe the packed club was clapping at me as I performed the funky chicken. After me, 4 scantily girls performed a Spice Girls number, two blokes with mullets did some Coldplay before seamlessly segueing into Metallica and Nong held a genuinely impressive break-dance competition. The night ended with street food, lots of wine, novelty hat dancing and a 6am telling-off by the hostel owner.
The next day was chill-out day. We ate spicy food, visited a couple of markets and basically did what hungover backpackers do. I now find myself in the town of Langzhong (pronounced Long John as in silver). So far this has been equally surreal but I’ll write about it later as my credit is about to die.