By the time I got onto the train to Kunming, I was exhausted– exhausted from lugging a backpack and two suitcases around the Guangdong Railway station while looking for a bank, exhausted from getting offers for overpriced services, and most of all exhausted from from sleep deprivation. In the end, though, I did manage to get done what needed to be done. I changed my HK dollars to RMB (losing 100HKD to a slight of hand artist first), I made it from Guangdong Railway Station to Guangdong East Station via the subway for 4RMB instead of the 50-100 that taxis kept offering me, I got my ticket and I stayed awake long enough for the train to arrive.

When I was finally able to board the train, it was an immense feeling of relief. I stowed my luggage, climbed up to the top bunk and fell asleep before the train even started moving.

An interesting travel companion

One man I shared a compartment with was particularly out-going. At first after hearing all the r sounds in his Mandarin, I thought he was a northerner or maybe from Kunming on his way home. It wasn’t a terrible guess since he had, in fact, spent the first ten years of his life in Beijing, but after that he’d lived only in Hong Kong. As far as I could tell, his Cantonese was the same as a any other Hong Konger, but he’d never felt the need to alter his “standard” northern Mandarin into the heavily accented HK version. I suppose that’s pretty understandable. Anyway, the guy was full of stories. He told me about a ruthless gold-digger from Guangzhou. He talked about how he got into EFL teaching dispite having questionable English skills himself. Most surprising were his plans for after he got to Kunming.

On Chinese Police

“Be careful about Chinese police,” he told me. “They aren’t like Hong Kong police. You really don’t want to make them angry.”

“Why?” I asked. “What happened?”

“Well, there’s this one time I was on a train. It was a long distance one like the one we’re on now. In one of the compartments, there were four or five off-duty police officers, and they were smoking!!!”

I didn’t understand. “Lots of people smoke on the train,” I answered. “What was so bad about them?”

“There was a no smoking sign! They were police! I went into the room and said, ‘How dare you!!? It is your job to uphold the law and you break it yourselves! Have you no shame?”

“Uhh… what did they do then?”

“They continued smoking! And they spoke to me very coldly and told me to leave.”

“That’s it?” I couldn’t believe this guy. I wouldn’t ever talk to police like that in any country.

His plans for Kunming

“So, what are you going to do after you get to Kunming?” he asked me.

“I’m going to look for a visa-granting Chinese school for foreigners. I’ve got a friend to stay with. How about you?”

“Oh, I’m just traveling. I’m going to get a hotel room and go the supermarket to buy some paper underwear.”

“Paper underwear??!”

“Yes. It is available.”