Rewind to 24 hour earlier: Az just arrived in KL from KB at midnight and I have been mad at him since 2 days for cancelling flight ticket I had booked for him to come back 2 days earlier (for packing!). Now we barely have half day to pack for our China trip. I mean, I havent started yet! (My policy is I never do the packing alone while he’s away. No way!). But we end up too tired and sleepy to start packing at 1am (after work somemore) and decided to get up early morning to get started. It’s already insane to do last minute packing when you’re heading for 18 days trip overseas and you have to leave the house before 2pm to catch airport bus, still, we managed to wake up late that morning and hence a rush packing (ugh!). With a quick stop at McDonalds for brunch, 1 hour+ bus to airport, we almost had to kiss our trip goodbye when the luggage check-in counter was nearly closing! We were the last! I was gonna have a heart attack! End of rant.
Now. We arrived around 11pm in Chengdu Airport, and the moment we got worried that we couldnt get through Derek’s phone when using mobile phone belongs to a girl in the same flight, Derek was right at the arrival hall, smiling and waving at us. (Read here how we get to know Derek from CS). We immediately followed him to his car, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly a BMW 3-series, and had a ride directly to his house. And the first thing we noticed when we landed in China other than Chengdu being so cold (brr!!), all the signboards and building signage are in Chinese and we hardly see anything English!
We were meant to get a Chinese sim card for our phone as planned via conversations with Derek via emails earlier, but most counters in airports were already closed, so he stopped by a 24-hour convenient store to get us a sim card, which turned out that they dont sell them there. So Derek suggests that we get home first and search again tomorrow morning.
Derek’s apartment is decent, I could say posh for our standard, and has a nice cozy single bedroom for guests. We placed our huge luggage here (which were not properly packed thanks to last minute packing) and then have dinner with Derek and some chats. Derek’s wife, Money, is nowhere in sight, which Az and I were wondering why. At times we could hear her voice from the bedroom and Derek would go to her and come back to us and say “she’s sleepy and tired so I asked her to sleep first”, and “she says hello to both of you”. Still, we had a rather awkward feeling if we somehow came at the wrong time. Anyway, dinner was nice, although Derek didnt say about who did the cooking. The night is cold, cold enough that we had to wear fluffy slippers to cover our feet from the cold floor, and had to rely on the electric heater to keep ourselves warm during sleep. We’re wondering if Chengdu is this cold, we cant imagine how Xinjiang would be.
In the guest room, there are two brilliant maps attached on the wall. I mean, for the first time I saw a detail map with 3D embossed reflecting its geographical altitude, and now we finally had a clear idea why Tibet plateau is called that way. Its thickness is so significant on the map, and it should be relatively that way on the real earth surface. One is China map and another is world map, and although both are marked and written Chinese, I liked the embossed thing so much that I wanted to buy the maps if we ever find them in Chengdu. For souvenir.
Derek also put a sticky board on the wall, with a Chengdu city map (attached to it, pin mark of his place), also big empty space for guests/CouchSurfers to leave him some notes (for example, the first pic shows a photo of a French CouchSurfer who stayed here earlier) and we thought we had to do the same, but we didnt keep hard copy picture of us right now. Too bad.
Derek’s living room is the most comfy we have seen. You can directly see his garden outside, and the yard belongs to his house only. Although it’s actually an apartment, Derek’s unit is ground floor and has its own private entrance and garden. Nice, huh?
L-R: Derek’s apartment building, Derek’s garden, and Chengdu city. We felt a bit guilty for not spending longer in Chengdu despite Derek’s warm hospitality, but Chengdu is too much a big city like boring KL that we would rather skip and spend more days in rural Xinjiang (now Az questioned me, would I still be interested in going to Paris? It’s even a bigger city than this. Well, that could be another story. I actually want to visit villages in Paris. Whatever).
Therefore, from arriving Chengdu almost midnight, we only spent 12 hours in Chengdu until we left the place (and that included 7 hours sleep). The next morning we went out to get sim card (finally no 3G sim card as we had thought, and we only managed sim card which calls and sends SMS within China only, which we hesitated at first knowing that we wanted to call family back home, but no choice!). And we headed to Chengdu train station for our afternoon train. We wanted to try Chengdu Metro at first but according to Derek it would be hard for us so he’s sending us by car. God knows how we were lucky to have Derek with us at this moment. What are we supposed to do when seeing ALL signboards in train station were nothing but in Chinese!! How could they expect we would know what Lanzhou (our next destination) written in Chinese?? Ah, yay, see, there’s a Foreigner counter! And after like 20 minute queue, we ended up speaking to the counter officer who couldnt actually speak English! =.= And he serves for foreigner counter?? Derek came as our savior, and we collected all tickets Chengdu-Lanzhou, also Lanzhou-Urumqi and Kuqa-Turpan in advance (which you have to pay extra 5 yuan for each ticket not collected in respective departure station). Other than the panic for the sudden non-English environment, we managed to get our train on time.
And it’s going to be a 22 hour journey to Lanzhou.