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From Lijiang

For years I’ve wanted to visit Southwest China and Lijiang in particular, but flights here were always so pricey. I finally figured it’s cheaper to fly to Kunming and then take a bus to Lijiang so I could see its UNESCO World Heritage Ancient Town.

N.B. There are no fast trains to Lijiang and the slow trains aren’t much faster than the bus. I wager my bus was cleaner than the train.

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The bus station was a bit confusing, but once you get past the noise and construction, getting a ticket is just a matter of showing the clerk the name of your destination in your guidebook, showing your passport and paying. I left from Kunming and the ticket was 217 rob ($32). A friend had taken the bus and suggested it was a pleasant journey as you get to see a lot of mountains, rice terraces and rural homes along the way. That was true, but my bus attendant made sure we sit in our assigned seats. Till I was on the half empty bus I had no idea there were assigned seats. So I was on the aisle the whole way. I could glimpse the scenery, but it’s not a great view. I did get a lot of reading done.

Since I’d taken a photo of the address of my hotel, I thought I it would be easy to get a taxi there. I showed two drivers the enlarged Chinese address and they refused me. The number I had for the hotel didn’t work.

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A kind old man with an electric cart wanted to help. I figured he’d has as much trouble as the other two. So I just took out my Lonely Planet and pointed to an address of a hostel near my hotel. I know that the Hostel International staff tend to speak English well. Once there I could walk or get a short taxi ride to the hotel. That plan worked. It took longer and I was tired, but it worked.

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Today I’ve spent most of my time exploring Lijiang’s Ancient Town. It’s full of shops, inns, cafés and craft shops. As is often the case most of the shops sell the same goods. I don’t think you’d make much money selling tea, drums, silver or traditional scarves here. The scarves and tea seem good quality, but I’m not in need of either.

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Sepia Saturday

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From LOC, Flickr Commons. Date: between 1865 – 1870

The prompt for this month is “Travel or Transport,” which provides loads of inspiration. My favorite is the image above as it’s so whimsical.

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LOC, Flickr Commons. Doesn’t this beckon you still?

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I’ve never traveled this way. Would you like to try? (LOC, Flickr Commons.)

Sepia Saturday

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This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featured buses and transportation as a theme. If you think about it, it’s amazing all the various conveyances used to help us get around. Here’s a few I found on Flickr Commons.

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Washington State, woman driver, no date

Traffic, London 1927, London Transport Museum

Traffic, London 1927, London Transport Museum

from Florida Memory, 1922

from Florida Memory, 1922

It Was My Fault, But Then

I didn’t make it to Wuhan as planned for the holiday. I got to the airport and discovered I’d forgotten my passport. Drat! It’s the most basic travel item.

I did have a copy of it, which in some places is enough. (Not many, so I knew that was a long shot.) However, the agent at check in said “No problem and gave me a boarding pass. If she had said no way right then, I could have jumped in a cab and gone to the apt and back just in time for the flight.

When I went to security the clerk said he’d have to check into this. I waited and he called another clerk over and they talked a while. Then they got a woman in a more impressive uniform. They all talked. Lynn had mentioned that when Immigration told her they’d have her passport for 9 weeks, she could travel with a copy of it and I had a tiny bit of hope I could. Then the most important woman said, “Follow me.” I hoped we were going to an office where they could look me up in the computer and see I was legit. Maybe they’d issue me some paper so I could return as well.

She then led me to the Information desk to a woman who didn’t speak English. They talked. I lost hope as I wasn’t moving up the chain of command, I’d been thrown down. Now too much time had elapsed and a round trip to the apartment was impossible. The security woman left and the Information clerk was on the phone. Finally, she handed me the phone. The speaker said, “Are you the woman with just a copy of your passport?” I said, “Yes,” and she told me to give the phone back to the Information clerk. They talked and then I got the phone again. “You can’t fly without the passport.” This I’d sort of known so I was frustrated that the first person I encountered hadn’t said this. Then I had a chance to get the flight. Now I didn’t.

I got back in the check in line to see about a change for today. After waiting, I was sent to another desk, then another. I explained my story and handed over my boarding pass asking for a change. With another woman who spoke English, I was told that for 420 rmb I could get a flight on Friday (today) at 15:25. I found out the flight number and arrival time. I texted Lynn with this information, asked if I could pay with a credit card and got a lengthy explanation about if I wanted to I’d have to do that over the phone, etc., etc. I just gave the agent the cash.

It seemed we were done and I was set. Then I asked for a receipt. A search for the pads for receipts ensued. Finally they found it and the girl started filling it out. Then the second girl told me “There are no flights tomorrow.” What???

What was all that information you gave me? Was it made up? How did you arrive at 420 rmb? How could you take my cash, Southern China?

The girl told me that Xiamen Airlines had a flight tomorrow. Right, but at least I had a reservation with Southern China so there’d be some money that could be applied to the new ticket. With Xiamen at the last minute I’d be lucky to get something for 1000 rmb, which I didn’t want to spend. (Already by flying rather than taking the train, I was spending more than I’d like.) And still I’m perplexed by the 420 rmb I would have been charged had I not asked for a receipt.

I decide just to go home on the airport bus and think this over.

I called Lynne and explained that contrary to what I thought, I wouldn’t be flying tomorrow and she encouraged me to find a fast train ticket.

I was so tired just from the red tape and somewhat miffed at myself for forgetting my passport.

Last night I did look for trains and it seemed that midday there were some tickets. I also tried elong and ctrip.com, but paying with an American credit card, just doesn’t work though the site says you can. (The site rejects the transaction.)

This morning I woke up and went to the train station since the booking agent near school is closed. I wasn’t looking forward to the long line at the station. I did see a booking agent office in front of the station and went there. He could look at all the stations from Jinan. No luck.

I’m just tired of all this business and will read and watch DVDs this afternoon. It would have been good to see Lynne, but things haven’t worked out. I’ve texted Brooke twice to see if she can get a refund for my return ticket on Monday. I have to cancel 48 hours in advance. She made the reservation so I need her to cancel it. She’s not responding. I don’t like losing the total 1500 rmb if I don’t have to.

I realize the fiasco is my fault, but if some of the airline staff had acted differently, I could have salvaged the trip. Oh, well.

Pullman Cars

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If I could ride in one of these original Pullman cars, I’d do it in a minute.

Maybe I need to go on the Orient Express

Old Pullman Cars

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If I could ride in one of these original Pullman cars, I’d do it in a minute.

Maybe I need to go on the Orient Express.

Pullman Journeys

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There’s a new Pullman Car service between Chicago and New Orleans. A few old style Pullman Cars restored to their 1950s version with a dining car, club car and porter service offer a kind of time travel. Click here to see the CBS Morning feature on these Pullman journeys.

In the fall there will be Pullman Cars going weekly between New York and Chicago.

If they had the 19th century style cars, I’d take one anywhere. The 1950s isn’t a decade I think was so special. Still if someone else were paying, I’d try one.

Sepia Saturday

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This week’s prompt shows railroad tracks heading towards the horizon.

I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because when I think of trains I tend to remember all the train accident cases we had to read about in law school. The 19th and early 20th century had frequent derailments and accidents at stations.

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1925 Tennessee

This Montparness derailment in 1895 is so transfixing. What a horrible accident!

Paris 1895

Paris 1895

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

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Here’s how it works:

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other great photos:

Image

Night Train to Datong

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Soft Sleeper (below there’s a table with a fake rose)

I had four days off in a row and took the opportunity to go to Datong so I could see the Yungang Caves and the Hanging Temple. Datong’s off the beaten path and there’s only one train a day there. I’ve taken the night trains here though it’s been a while.

I was delighted when I got on board though. Clean bunks. Just four to a room and a fake red rose on our little table. I wasn’t crazy about having the top bunk, but what I could I do? I was lucky to get tickets. I had a good time chatting and sharing sunflower seeds with a woman in the next cubicle as we looked out the window. And — I actually got some sleep.

Hard Sleeper, clean, but ascetic

Hard Sleeper, clean, but ascetic

Last night I expected the same kind of bunk. I assumed that the way out was the hard sleeper since it’s been awhile since I took a slow train in China. Also, the soft sleepers in Thailand are so posh. There’s two to a room and you have a sink and mirror. You’ve got more space.

Well, this isn’t Thailand. The first night was the soft sleeper and now I’m suddenly less impressed. I realize that my second ticket was much cheaper and I had a hard sleeper and I was on the top bunk. The thought of climbing up that ladder didn’t thrill me. I knew I’d go up and down exactly once. Also, my goal was to use the bathroom as little as possible, which I did. I do have to say the bathroom in 2nd class was no worse than the one in first.

This ride started earlier so we left at 4 pm which meant a longer time perched by the window on the fold down chair. I did get to see the landscape and finish my novel. I did succeed in getting up and down the ladder without bodily harm, but I didn’t sleep a wink. There was just too much noise. The guy across from me really has some breathing issues. Not just snoring, but all his nocturnal breathing should be looked at. It made waking at 4:30am to disembark at 5 am easy enough.

Still the journey was straightforward and there were no problems. I do wonder if it isn’t better to go soft seat on such a train. As uncomfortable as my night was, the train was better in some ways than Amtrak. A sleeper bunk is at least affordable. If I had a lower bunk, it would have been fine. I could sit up better and wouldn’t have to deal with the fear of falling from that little ladder.

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