Now as most who read my blog know I try to put a positive spin on situations that are perhaps less than perfect. This however is not one of those times while we saw amazing sites on our whirlwind tour of Xinyang we also saw a seamier side of people. Don’t travel with people you don’t know!!!!
We got to the train station early, traveling and being from a foreign country prepares you for delays as our identification is looked over verified. We checked in and surprisingly had no problems getting then we waited for Jessie, Jeff, and Bill to arrive. They showed up minutes before the train left the station. Their logic was that trains are always late so getting to the station with less than 30 minutes is the norm. This should have been a warning but we went on and got on the train anyway. We left Zhengzhou 郑州 at 11:35am and the scenery changed almost instantly from city structures to countryside with farm land with the occasional small city dotting the landscape. We have been told that it is raining in Xin Yang but when we left the city it was also raining. On our way to Xin Yang 信仰 we made many stops and one of these was Zhu Ma Dian 驻马店 The train ride though started late was uneventful and pleasant. The train was Chuck and Nate’s first train ride!
We were picked up by a friend of Jeff’s at the train station in Xin Yang and driven to our hotel, the Hong Chang Hotel. After checking in we were told that Nate and Bill whom we just met that morning, were to be roommates, their room wasn’t on the same floor as ours or Jessie and Jeff’s room. What was supposed to be a relaxing holiday changed for me in that moment. I told Chuck how I was not happy and he told me that I just needed to accept this as the way people do things here, do I really have to remind him that we aren’t Chinese? After a rest we went to have dinner and we ate with one of Jeff’s bosses and several dishes had been selected for the meal ahead of time. There was a shrimp and mushroom dish and a delicious fish soup. I had totally thought that I would be able to keep to my diet, but it is hard when so many lovely food options are put in front of you. After dinner I found out that my teaching assistant, Ted, is also from this city. I shared with him pictures of our meal. Jeff told us that we needed to be up and ready for breakfast the next morning at 7am, really this is vacation and I’m getting up before I do for work?
We had breakfast and went to a park. Purdon Forest Park was created by an English man named Purdon and there were miles or kilometers of wooded area. I put on lots of bug repellent but it must send a secret invitation to some as I came out of bite as I left park with lots of bites on my arms. Anyway in the park we saw many streams, trees, and official rocks with red seals cut into them we also so lots of foot bridges. For the girl that likes bridges going across foot bridges with rushing water underneath was quite an experience. There was also lots of climbing that didn’t help my heel spur or ankle that is healing from a run in with my e-bike. We got lost in the woods and my ankle and heel started to hurt. Jessie the Chinese teacher from Middle School 77, started to mimic my every word. I had to tell her that even though I knew that she meant no harm in repeating everything that I said but now wasn’t a good time to do that. My face must have said she was going to be in some real pain if she didn’t stop because she nodded and I heard not another word that I said repeated. I will say that the air was cleaner and clearer than in Zhengzhou. The mountains surrounding the city also keep the temperature nice and cool, the days were hot but you needed a jacket or sweater in the evening.
After leaving The Purdon Forest Park we went to Cork Mountain where we saw the working retreat/headquarters of Chiang kai-shek where we saw people dressed in guard uniforms a communications room and underground tunnel. After seeing that I stayed in the tour bus that we hired and the rest of the group walked to see the different exhibits. At the end of this wildly tiring day we went back to the train station where we got the bus to take us to the forest and Cork Mt. and while there Chuck, Jessie and Jeff got our train tickets back. Nate, Bill and I went to the KFC and ordered dinner and had a rest for which my foot and ankle were greatly pleased with. Jessie doesn’t like KFC I guess because we caught taxis back to the hotel and she asked if we were going to join them for dinner. What? Didn’t we just eat, what was KFC? Anyway we got our orders to be up by 7am the next morning.
We got up and packed our things and headed off to the lobby. Once we got there Jeff acted like we shouldn’t have done that and everything was put into Jessie and Jeff’s room and then they did something that would never have been done in the states, they handed over the keys to all three hotel rooms. That’s right our bags Chuck’s and mine, Nate’s, Bill’s and Jessie and Jeff’s bags were now in a room that been turned back over to the hotel. More on this later at check out.
After putting everything into the one room, we then headed out to breakfast which consisted of black rice porridge, dumplings, and fried noodles; some opted for boiled eggs and some of the fish that Jessie brought from her dinner the night before. Then we got into taxis and headed for the reservoir for yet another day of sightseeing this time involving a boat. Alone, my family and Jessie, Jeff, and Bill boarded the boat without me after I had a fit about me NOT going near a boat; the shore was close enough for me, thank you. I described in great detail what would happen should I get on the boat. I happily waited on the shore for everyone to return. I hope and pray that all goes well.
It is a beautiful day nice and clear with crystal clear water. I wonder why if you are going to show people a good time on holiday you can’t ask them what they would like to do? Or tell them what you have planned. It seems the way here is to foreigners what to do, like we are children who need to be told how to feel and think. Sitting on the boat launch I can see the shore birds (mainly Egrets) as they walk up and down the shore searching for food. I also get to see the wakes that departing boats make in the water and the lines of people buying ticket to board the boats.
I did meet two young ladies while I sat on the boat dock. Stella and Cherry took pictures with me and we talked for about 45 minutes. Stella attends a university in X in Yang and Cherry her friend is from another city and college down for the holiday. We talked and then exchanged QQ numbers. QQ is a Chinese instant messenger very much like Facebook in America. However, while I was talking with the girls, I was in the middle of our holiday from hell.
I was on t he shore and my family was on an island and not even sure that they would make in time for us to make our train back to Zhengzhou. After losing his cool on the water, my husband got the boat turned around and their group headed back to the shore. That was only the beginning of our train catching woes. Remember our luggage in the locked room? When Nate, Jessie and I got back to the hotel our first order of business was to go and get our belongings and after a heated conversation with the housekeeper who had just cleaned the room and refused to hand over the key as the room was now again the hotels Jessie told me that in small cities you don’t get the service that you do in large cities. Really, by American standards we told them we had left the hotel and they had to watch our baggage and then deal with being told that we should be able to use the room. Once the rest of our party had returned to the hotel we then went down to the lobby to check out and there were some very false charges leveled against the boys room first. Each room has the complimentary items like shampoo then each room has items that you pay for like bottled waters and adult products the hotel asserted that Bill and Nate opened to boxes of adult products. Then they talked about a bed being broken and I have no idea whose bed they said was broken. If you stay in Xin Yang avoid HONG CHANG HOTEL. They are without honor and charged us 150 RMB over the price of the rooms.
This epic screaming match lasted 30 minutes ending in our paying for the charges so we could get to the train station in time. However after paying we had to get taxi’s whose drivers weren’t taking the after lunch nap that so many in China embrace. Since we were unable to get seats on the regular train we got seats on the bullet train, but it runs on a different track one found at the east station of the city a 30 minute drive from our current hotel location. When we finally found taxi’s we made a mad dash for the train station. When we got to the station it was minutes before the train left and unlike the train on the way down, this one is on time or early and they don’t wait around for you. If you are late, oh well! We get on the bullet train and a fast hour and a half later we are in Zhengzhou at the east station. We took buses home as taxis wanted to charge us 100-200RMB for a ride that cost 30-40 RMB. And that is our holiday saga and why you should listen to your 12 year old.