It’s October and I am currently in China so there should be no chance of hearing Christmas songs early, should there?
While you are entirely forgiven for believing this, I am afraid you are utterly wrong.
While eating lunch in a cafe in Guilin on Friday, I was treated to Good King Wenceslas looking out on the Feast of Stephen. Not a snowflake in sight.
Today, I was on the Metro and the small girl’s English language audio song book started playing the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. We were up to eight maids a milking before the family got off the train.
I was hoping that being away travelling this year would give me a slightly increased chance of winning Whamaggeddon this year.
(Whamaggeddon is a competition among friends to try to avoid hearing that 1980s classic “Last Christmas” by Wham, which seems to start becoming wall-to-wall radio play by the 3nd of November.
The game became so popular in the UK in 2018 that some radio stations reduced how often they played the song, sort of spoiling the point of the competition really).
So with Santa being invoked ridiculously early, did he bring back my missing train ticket?
No… but the hotel did find it and it was waiting for me at reception, thankfully.
So today I spent the morning planning tomorrow’s day trip.
I was spoiled in Guilin with the hostel booking two trips: the Li River bamboo raft ride and the visit to the Longji Rice Terraces.
The tour company staff at the hotel in Nanning didn’t speak English and with me not speaking Chinese, they seemed reluctant to try to help.
From my internet searching, there doesn’t appear to be many places that offer one day trips – the vast majority all seem to be offering three, five and six day tours.
So, this morning I headed to the ticket office for the bus station with my request, to buy a ticket to my chosen destination for tomorrow, translated into Chinese.
Two travel advice websites advised buying bus tickets and gave the same Chaoyang Road address for the Langdong Bus Station Ticket Office in order to do so. On arrival, I was told that I was at the wrong place, even though the lady was standing in front of a sign that said: ‘Langdong Bus Station Ticket Office’.
I felt slightly confused.
She found a colleague to speak to me in English and it emerged that I needed to go to the actual bus station. They even showed me which Metro stop I needed.
So, off to the bus station and this was the first time I’ve used one in China. All my journeys have involved railway stations, the metro, bus stops or being picked up at the hostel.
The Metro arrived and I left the station. Metro stations here have all been in separate buildings to the railway stations that they connect to. It was clearly the same for the bus station.
It was a vast building and I walked in to the main concourse to be confronted with multiple display boards, all in Chinese. There were several banks of ticketing counters and self-service machines.
I walked through.
Because I want to go to a tourist site tomorrow, I thought there would probably be a photo of the area next to an information stand.
Sure enough, over one of the ticket booths was a photo of the place I want to go to.
I queued up, said hello and presented my prepared statement to the official. She wrote down my timing options. I chose one.
I asked her about a return ticket. She looked confused.
I borrowed her pen and paper and drew an arrow pointing to the destination and an arrow in the opposite direction. It worked.
She gave me the return journey options and I saved myself about £3 on the ticket.
I mentioned in one of my posts while in Beijing about the friendly curiosity or nosiness of people when buying tickets. Everyone gets involved.
I realised the man behind me had moved forward and was standing next to me watching what was going on.
He was a little sheepish when I turned to him and said: “Ni hao”. I’m not sure if people feel a little embarrassed when they are caught staring.
I’ve certainly seen this when I have caught people surreptitiously trying to take my photograph.
Buying a bus ticket is an everyday, mundane activity but when I am successful in the completion of this when in another country, I really feel like I’ve achieved something.
Where am I going tomorrow? If you can read the ticket in the featured photo then you’ll know otherwise you’ll have to come back and read on to find out. Spoilers…