We left our hostel in Songpan at 6 o’clock on Sunday morning and arrived at our hostel in xi’an at 3 o’clock Monday afternoon… The journey took 35 hours!
The night after the horse trek
We returned to our hostel in Songpan after our 3 day horse trek and realised that there wasn’t a bus to xi’an (our next destination) as we’d planned. Instead we would have to get the bus back to Chengdu and then get on a 16 hour sleeper train to Xi’an.
I’d somehow hurt my foot in the last few hours of the horse trek and by Saturday afternoon I was unable to walk on it. We weren’t sure if I’d somehow fractured the bone or if a blister had gotten infected so I stayed in the room whilst Leah went out to book our travel tickets.
She returned with our tickets to Chengdu (an 8 hour bus leaving at 6am tomorrow morning) as well as amoxicillin bought from a pharmacist encase my blister was infected. It’s crazy what you can just buy here without a perception, it was so much cheaper too (£1.80 rather the £8+ we’d pay in England)!
I hobbled to the restaurant attached to our hostel called Emmas kitchen and ordered vegetable fried noodles for dinner whilst Leah tried the yak burger – we saw lots of yaks roaming free on the mountains the past few days so she said that at least here they’ve had a pretty happy life….
Bus back to Chengdu (6 hours)
Our bus ride back to Chengdu went quicker than expected – we got back two hours early!
As we were travelling over breakfast and possibly lunch we bought some new snacks to try on the journey. We bought some local Songpan bread in the morning which looked really tasty but only tasted of the curry powder swirled sporadically through it. We also bought some raisin bread which was delicious and filled ourselves up on fruits!
We also had the pleasure/ experience of watching 2 Chinese movies (with English subtitles!). They weren’t particularly any good but they helped pass the time! One was about a guy who fell in love with a girl but it didn’t work out because she was already promised to marry someone else (classic stereotypical China choosing duty over love). The other was about ninjas in the desert…
When we arrived at Chengdu station is was absolute chaos! It was raining really heavily outside so everyone was scurrying about with their umbrellas primed at English girls eye height. At the ticket desk we were told that the only tickets to xi’an available for the day were hard seats (there weren’t any beds left) for a train departing at 9.50pm…
There wasn’t anything that we could do but book the seats and hope that we’d be able to sleep for a lot of the journey!
After using the wifi in a dumping chain restaurant to book our next few nights accommodation in xi’an, we were both pretty hungry. I ordered two portions of vegetable dumplings (they weren’t even good I was just so hungry!) plus cold mushrooms and cucumbers. Leah ordered two portions of meat dumplings and tried to order a vegetable dish but ended up with two meat skewers instead!
We passed the next few hours looking up how much a flight to xi’an would cost and also how long it would be to drive there. The extent of how long the journey was going to take was finally hitting us.
All of the flights to xi’an were full for the next few days and it would only take 10 hours to drive so we tried our luck in a taxi… We tried four different ones, they all just laughed at us….
By 6pm we’d moved onto kfc wifi from dumpling wifi. There were lots of people in there just using the wifi or seating area that weren’t buying any food. One couple were even playing a card game on the table!
Just before 8pm we headed to a small restaurant opposite the station and had dinner. It wasn’t the most successful meal that we’ve had in China so far but it was mostly edible. I ordered green beans and they came with meat on, leah ordered aubergine and that came with peppers (which she’s allergic to) so we just swapped dishes. We also ordered a mystery Chinese dish off of the vegetable menu and bean sprouts appeared! It was the first time we’d seen them on the menu and they were really good!
16 hours to Xi’an
Looking back now, our train journey was actually horrific but hilarious!
The following all happened within the first 17 minutes of departing Chengdu train station:
– people were smoking in the gangway of the non smoking carriage with the doors open (directly in front of us)
– a women sitting opposite us flemmed (not just spat) on the floor of the train
– the man next to us flemmed in the bin (more acceptable)
– someone was eating an egg
– people were eating spicy noodles
– the women opposite is picker her nose and wiped it on the share table
– we tried to by face masks from a vendor walking up and down the train to no luck – leah ended up making one with her scarf instead!
After a few hours my foot was really starting to hurt and swell. We’d been moving around quite a bit these past few days and although I was sitting down on the bus for 6 hours earlier I wasn’t really resting it very well- I’d also continued to carry on walking on it this afternoon…
I tried to ask the security guard walking up and down the carriage if they had an ice pack I could use and what followed was hilarious!
At first he thought that I was saying that I wanted the thermostat turned down as I was too hot (he walked me over to the thermometer in the carriage…), I showed him my foot in a bid to get him to understand and he came back with burn cream…
After a few more attempts at explaining using a Chinese-English translator app I gave up and returned to my seat. Leah and I thought that if I elevated it the swelling might reduce so made a table using our rucksacks.
After a few more hours the captain of the train came over to look at my foot! I think they were worried that I was going to die or something but all I ever asked for was an ice pack or something cold… I told them I was fine after their burn cream attempt but he was not having any of it and proceeded to attempt first aid on my foot…
The facilities on the train weren’t that great (I wouldn’t recommend the experience to anyone else). The guy was convinced the problem with my foot was my blister so he sprayed something yellow onto my wound. I hoped that it was just iodine because when we checked the bottle afterwards it was a few months out of date. He also tried to crumble a pill into the wound but I panicked encase id have a bad reaction to it and refused – trying to explain that I’d already taken ibruprofen for the swelling.
By the time all this was happening it was almost 3am and a little crowd had gathered in my carriage to see what was happening. I can’t believe how much attention my foot was getting- I wished I would’ve repainted my toe nails now!
5 hours since I asked for it, there was still no ice pack. Instead I had the captain of the train wiping my foot with iodine ( I hope) and a tissue. He’d tried to get me off of the train and to go to hospital but I’d refused – we’d be stranded half way to xi’an! I’d said thank you and that I was fine about 50 times by now but everyone still hovered close by. Two English speaking Chinese guys were even brought to our carriage to translate – leah and I begged them to tell them we were fine now and would go to a hospital in xi’an.
Around 6am I had finally gotten to sleep when I was awoken once more by the captain. He had made me a cold compress for my foot!
I can’t knock the train staff for their attentiveness on this journey. They were all so nice, and their heart was in the right place but I was so happy when I hobbled off of the train at Xi’an!