We got up around 8:30 am and struggled to finally book a business hotel in Yichang since most of the options in the affordable range were full. There wasn’t much on offer. Then we went out to eat breakfast after having packed and checked out. The flat bread stuffed with diverse fillings that we ate wasn’t very good and the deep-fried fat taste did not make us happy. especially in the morning. We got on the metro and went to the Lu Xun park and museum which was really nice even though it was raining. There were many original books from Lu Xun as exhibits for us to see. After we left the museum, the rain was even heavier than before and we stopped at a bakery where we bought some sweet things to make up for the unsatisfying breakfast. We got back to the Hostel by metro then and ate the sweet stuff on the roofed part of the terrace. Since we were still a bit hungry we went to the same restaurant as the evening before and had some zhejiao (similar to Jiaozi), one steamed and one fried. After this we made our way to Shanghai Nan Zhan. Arrived at the station, we were a bit puzzled because we hoped for a coffee shop but there was none – the station was served by Z and D trains only. Those are cheaper trains which are almost exclusively used by the lower strata of society. One can be pretty sure that there will be no “upper-class” Chinese people so this station lacks the customers which can afford a coffee at 30 kuai. Luckily, we were prepared: I took out our tumblers and the tea leaves and I went to get boiled water at the hot water dispenser – in all train stations and trains in China there is a public one available to make tea and heat food or prepare instant noodle soup. The social class using those are easy to tell apart from the Shanghainese upper class people: they wear cheap clothes in weird combinations, they carry loads of baggage including buckets, big plastic bags, agricultural products and bedding with them. Many of them are not very clean, some of them even smelly and they bring along their own fruit and drink bought outside the station where there is a much cheaper supply of the latter. While most of the upper-class Chinese carry paper bags with nice presents for their relatives (such as expensive cookies and alcohol, sweets for the kids etc.), the lower-class people carry around their sleeping kids. They don’t have buggies or the like, children are carried on the arm and whatever is not fixed to the upper body of the mum/dad/grandma just hangs down towards the floor. The kids do have the ability to sleep everywhere and in any position, no matter how uncomfortable it looks. Some are just placed on top of a huge stack of baggage. At shortly before 5 pm we got on the train and I climbed to the upper bunk to store away our baggage. While Markus studied the guidebook to know more about Sichuan, I wrote two postcards and wrote into the diary for the first time in a week. I’ve always been too busy or too tired to take care of writing matters.
The next station, a guy who presumably did not shower in weeks got on the train with his wife and started putting his baggage into our compartment. I felt a bit unhappy about that, but as we were really lucky it turned out that he did not carefully read what his ticket states – he actually had to stay in the neighbouring compartment.
The luxury you have being a European traveler:
In China, the upper and lower social strata are very far apart. Most rich people even hate the rude, loud and dirty peasants and workers. They are just that, it’s a fact. The question of hatred is a different one, though. As a European, you can experience both since you have the choice. One learns after some time where to meet which, since they are separated by money and place. There are very cheap trains and very expensive ones, departing from different stations. There are different housing quarters to be found in similar places in each cities’ layout. The question about where to look for food is the decision about whom you want to eat with. One can eat decent food for one euro and for a hundred euros. There are places so exclusive that they are out of reach for any regular middle european person. An unimaginable amount of service is on offer. They wait for guests, park their car while they go inside the restaurant, they guard the car and wash the guests’ hands before he gets to the table. Everything seems to be available for money. This is what I watched lingering outside a luxury restaurant with huge windows. I wasn’t chased away loitering there because of being White.
In cheap restaurants, one is adressed in Chinese right after entering the place. One has to say right away what is to be cooked for one’s meal. For locals it’s entirely clear what they have and what they don’t. There’s usually just one waiter/cashier who carries a money bag around their waist. It’s often a family business: either the man or the woman are cooking (or both), one of them or their child/ren do/es the dishes and service. It’s not usual to drink along with food because many dishes contain soup. Beer is to be shared on the table with the people you came with. They offer beer warm or cold, either is normal.
So you have the choice, as White person you’ll be admitted anywhere as long as you can pay, even if you’re not dressed appropriately.