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November 5, 2005 – A journey to Suzhou, China in Asia

A Day Out Of A Possible Movie Scene

Decided to head to Shanghai for a flight to somewhere warmer. By this time, Rick was not getting any better from his bronchial bug(s). So we headed off in a rush to the Suzhou train station after viewing the Master of the Nets Garden.

During the taxi ride, I was trying to get a picture of a town scene. At the same time, I fumbled for some money for the taxi ride. Reached the train station, gave Rick the money, slung my backpack onto my back, and got out of the taxi as touts and scalpers started approaching us. Rick paid and got out, and the taxi began to drive off. That's when I realized that my camera was missing. At this point, I wasn't sure if the camera slipped off my lap in the taxi or if I actually put the camera in my pocket and one of the touts pickpocketed me as I was getting out.

Then the frustrations began. Rick started checking for the camera in nearby taxis that were about to drive off. More touts and scalpers were surrounding us and badgering us to buy stuff and tickets. Then it began to pour rain. Rick and I were both yelling at each other above the noise of the downpour and the touts and scalpers that were aggressively pushing stuff on us. Rick got so annoyed by the touts and scalpers that he yelled out a "ZHOU KAI!!!!!!!!!!" (means "go away", but implying, "get the f#&&@ outta my face!!!"), which to our surprise worked. The angry look on his unshaven face and his loud roar scared off the touts. One of them even muttered "Geez, I'm only trying to sell something."

Both frustrated, I went and stood in line for train tickets to Shanghai, since yelling at each other was going to do no good. Once something is lost in China, it's lost forever. By the time I got to the front, found out that all tickets to Shanghai, which is only an hour away, have been scalped away. This was around 9am, by the way. The next available tickets were at 11:30am and standing only. So I purchased them. Since we didn't want to wait two and a half hours, Rick had the idea of sneaking on an earlier train since we'd be standing anyway. Luckily, the train entrance guard let us through for the 10:10am train.

While waiting at the platform for the 10:10, I started noticing a pile of poo on the tracks. Rick noticed this too and nudged me to point it out. Then I started noticing more piles of poo all over the tracks. I did not see any dogs either.

The 10:10 came and a huge crowd of people came out of nowhere. So, we pushed ourselves and got pushed by the crowd onto the train. Inside, I began to notice that we were walking in filth (e.g., poop/diarrhea, food, puddles of pee, cigarette butts and cartons, peels, shells, and other types of trash) as we were being pushed and squashed forward by the crowds from behind. Finally the train began to move. As people tried to get comfortable, a train employee was pushing her way through and began to sweep up some of the garbage on the floor. Then she just chucked it out the window. An unhygenic cart full of indescribable food squeezed through the narrow walkway passed us and others. A family of three generations (daughter, parents, and grandparents) next to us decided to all light up at the same time, even though there were non-smoking signs posted. Other people chucked crap out the window.

I saw what was once probably beautiful little towns, bodies of water, and countryside littered with trash on the train ride to Shanghai.

We finally reached Shanghai. Rick pushed our way to the front. On the way, I noticed that people were also piled in the bathroom. We pushed our way out of the train and bolted. Note that avian flu outbreaks in China are all over the news at this point.

The day before, I was saying to Rick about what riding a hard seat train would be like. Seriously, once is enough. Not a good idea to take these types of trains when disease outbreaks are occurring in the country.

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