Lovely little Chinese locals...
16.12.2009 - 18.12.2009 5 °C
We reluctantly left our small , cosy compartment and made our way off the train. Within seconds we knew that we were inappropriately dressed. It was 7am and the temperature had dropped from 27 degrees (in Hanoi) to a minor 5 degrees overnight!
We followed the crowd out of the station and made our way into the unknown. Nothing and we mean NOTHING was in English - not even an exit sign.
We finally found ourselves outside and luckily armed with our lonely planet guide book map headed to the main road opposite the station. People were already staring at us - but we thought nothing of this - maybe it was because we looked like absolute muppets dressed in shorts and flip-flops while they were all dressed in winter clothes.
We did debate whether to make our way to the hotels that were listed in the guide but after realising - very quickly - that although the names were written in English in the guide book - the hotel signs were of course in Chinese!
We walked past the lobby of a hotel that was right opposite the station and decided to try our luck. Luckily the receptionist greeted us with a very friendly "hello". Her English was basic and after a few minutes of trying to communicate as best as we could - we managed to book ourselves a double room.
The room was basic but it had heating and hot water and so we were happy. Happy and optimistic that this would not be as hard as we had thought.
After putting on some trousers and more appropriate tops we headed out to find Priyesh some trainers and a coat. Amazingly we had lasted the last 4 months (since Melbourne) with nothing but a pair of flip-flops. We hadn't even worn any jumpers or jackets.
We wondered up the main road by our hotel (Choayang Road) and found ourselves at Jinshan Park. It was here that we first came across the hundreds of men randomly sitting our standing around in groups. As we edged closer we found they were either playing Chinese chess, card games or selling random things. Weirdly it was only men - there were no women in sight. We walked past a few people who were selling tiger claws (yes real tiger claws!) on the street together with random bones which we assume were all used for medicinal purposes. As well as the tiger claw sellers there were also people telling fortunes, selling cigarettes and tabacco and even offering bets on gambling games.
Everything was in Chinese so all we could do was stop, stare and walk on trying to guess what the vendors were offering or selling!
We found Nanning was a shopaholics dream. Everything was so modern - lots of malls and skyscrapers and everything was so cheap.
It was also amazing at night when all the Chinese neon signs would be lit up. We had seen the Chinese neon lights throughout South East Asia - but for us this was the real deal as it was in China!
The only problem we encountered was with the clothes. We had heard all the stories back home and from travellers we had met along the way that the Chinese were small. It wasn’t until now that we realised how small. When it came to trainers - mens sizes only went up to a size 9 - which is a problem when Priyesh is a size 11. When it came to womens clothing - I was a XXXL!!!
By midday we had become quite good at communicating in Chinese … we would enter a shop and say ‘nee ha’ (hello) and then point and ask ‘doaer shan chien’ (how much) and then finally point at the shoe size and say ‘geng da’ (bigger). It was only then the shop assistants would all say ‘NOOOOOOO’ lol.
Somehow we managed to find a sports store which had a size 9 trainer which looked much bigger and it fit - go figure! With the trainers found - we then went on a mission to find a jacket. Luckily this was found quickly and soon we were walking around enjoying the city.
During our time in Nanning we didn’t come across one tourist or non-Chinese person. As a consequence of this we found that we got stared at a lot. We guessed this may have been because they had never seen Indians before. But as well as our different features we were also significalty taller then them. Priyesh towered over everyone and people would stop in their tracks and just stare at him with their mouths open.
We soon got used to this - and found it quite funny when people who were often cycling down the road would catch a glimpse and then have to double take; they would be cycling away staring at us trying to figure out what they were looking at.
We loved Nanning. Apart from the language and the staring, it was so nice. We spent our time shopping, trying the local food and just wondering around the city area.
On our first day - we were making our way back to the hotel in the evening when we heard music coming from the park. We walked over and to our surprise the whole park was packed with people dancing - just like they show on TV! It was amazing there was a group of nearly 100 people all doing the same sequence and steps which looked like line dancing. Opposite this was another group of ballet dancers and scattered all around the park were groups of couples all ballroom dancing. It was amazing and we spent ages just watching the people who were really serious about what they were doing. We left after about an hour with huge smiles on our faces - it was amazing to see.
We had never intended to stay in Nanning but we ended up staying a couple of days and we loved it. We then braved the choas of the train station and somehow managed to book two one-way tickets to Guilin. The lady at the desk spoke no English, no one in the station - not even the locals spoke English yet somehow - with our phrase book we managed to do it. We’re now leaving for Guilin which is north from here and about 5 hours by train.
Nanning has left us with a very good impression about China however, the only thing that we have noticed and not been impressed with is the spitting… the Chinese like to spit (to those that know - they ’GOSH’) - its very nasal and very very vocal - and they do this everywhere! So, its no very surprising when we are constantly reminded of the H1N1 epidemic. We’ve been screened at every checkpoint - including the hotel and there are posters warning of the same. They all say the same - stay away from crowded areas...
Do the people who made the posters know that there are some 1.4 billion Chinese people in this country and it is virtually impossible to stay away from a crowd!?!?!
Oh well… on to Guilin… where the scenery is supposed to be amazing.