Slower than the high speed train, but a more comfortable sleeper from Xi’an, brings the count to 11 nights on board a train. Train travel does seem a very popular way to get around China, the station was again a blur of activity and the waiting room standing room only. I somehow managed to get into the ‘soft seat’ class waiting room by asking where I should be for my train, exasperated attendants let me through after three unsuccessful attempts to understand each other, so a quieter seated area was an easier place to wait for what unusually turned out to be a half hour late train from Lhasa to Shanghai.
Another photograph was requested yesterday from an enthusiastic reflexologist/tour guide who caused some pain to my feet and legs, but they seem that much better for it. I’m still not sure what was the most surprising for him, my travel plans, being from the UK, or travelling alone, but he seemed to howl with excitement at every answer to his questions. Despite the health and education systems he was reassured that yes, there are also poor people in the UK, it is not so different he concluded.
For some moral support in what seems like a carriage full of men, and their various morning routines, I turn to Lillias who quotes Margaret Mead:
“As the traveller who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own” (Cited in Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889)
She also goes on to say:
“The traveller who insists on living and eating as if she were still in England will find that habits which are best suited to the dull and depressing climate to which she is accustomed will not allow of continuation in the clearer, lighter air abroad, and, if persisted in, will cause general disorganisation to the whole system.” (From ‘Hints to Lady Travellers’).