Back to China / Powrót do Chin

I’m leaving the place where the time has frozen (in a way), at least for local Chinese who are still cultivating old traditions, and head for modern amnesiac China, where they sometimes try to refresh their memories by going on a trip to places like Penang.

Just a stopover in Singapore (one of the most entertaining airports I have ever seen – better go through the security check as quickly as possible and use all those – mostly free of charge – benefits that the airport offers: video games, cinema room, gym…) and I’m already shaking the humid and cold hand of Shanghai. Luckily I’m bringing a backpack full of warm memories of my trip through Thailand (and through that little tasty bit of Malaysia)…

Z miejsca, w którym czas w pewnym sensie się zatrzymał, przynajmniej dla Chińczyków, którzy wciąż kultywują dawne tradycje, wracam do Chin współczesnych,…

The desert or a cherry on top of my travel cake is Penang – the island on West coast of Malaysia. I reach it after one day of hitch-hiking – it is slightly more difficult to practice it here as people really don’t understand what you mean; some others, though, are quite touching with their reactions: one Pakistani guy wanted to hand me money or even host me as he was convinced I would never reach my destination; I eventually got a great 7-hour ride with ultra-nice couple from Georgetown.

And this dessert is delicious indeed, multi-flavoured as Penang’s culture, history, architecture and cuisine. This island is no exception for the whole Malaysia either – the whole country is a mixture of cultures: Chinese, Indian and Malay. Ever since the country gained independence in 1963, efforts have been constantly made to create a harmonious and tolerant society, with much success. Only sometimes you can feel the…

This is where I say goodbye to Thailand. I didn’t have the time to experience the bad reputation of this border town. Before I reach Malaysia I notice the results of floods that visit the region of Golok river every year (hence so many houses on pales).

Tutaj żegnam się z Tajlandią, nie zdążywszy posmakować nienajlepszej reputacji, jaką cieszy się to nadgraniczne miasto. Przed przejściem na stronę malajską zauważam za to skutki powodzi, które co roku o tej porze podmywają okolice rzeki Golok (stąd często spotykane domy na palach).

A bus to the outskirts of Delhi, then a minibus with two European sadhu-clowns inside, with their forehead painted and Quechua sleeping backs in their hands… A short quarrel at the entrance to the airport building (I didn’t care to print out the ticket reservation, and it seems to be a problem here; furthermore, my final destination is London… – “On what grounds are you allowed into UK? Do you have the right visa?” – “European Union state citizens don’t need visas to enter UK, and Poland is a member state of EU” – “Please wait, we will check on that…”) and I’m on my way home.

I run through those thousands of kilometres again in my mind… Eight and a half months on the road, so many places, so many people met, so many experiences, so many images I can see before my eyes… There I climbed a glacier wearing sandals, there I bathed in a…

 

Before I get on the train to Agra, on the platform I meet lots of friendly people whom I educate a little about Poland and Europe, and who in exchange teach me something about India and (finally! I’m so ashamed…) some words in hindi.

On the train I meet a delightfully nice family who invite me to their place; unfortunately I have to refuse – I hate booking tickets in advance! The youngest fellow, Krishna, wants to join me in my trip back to Poland, where he is planning to eat chocolate all the time. I promise to meet the guys during the wedding of one of twenty year old brothers – he doesn’t know yet whom he would marry, but the date is already fixed…

I arrive in Agra in the middle of the night and begin my walk towards the most obligatory Indian tourist attraction, Taj Mahal that is. Taxi drivers can’t stop to…

My piece of junk reaches Margao only 4 hours late (on the way the coach staff try to get some extra money from me – luggage handling fee and … handling fee). From hear I head for Palolem beach, recommended by Jankiel, who is already there, waiting. Before I get on the right local bus, I go to the railway station in order to book a ticket to Agra. I’m only 131st on the waiting list. OK, there goes the berth…

And the Palolem beach itself… Well, if you looking for solitude, peace and quiet then you might be disappointed… But on the other hand, the parties that go on here are relatively quiet and not so frequent. And the beach, built up with colourful coco-houses (I lodge in one of them – 200 rupees for a room with a bathroom, just a little dirty) has its special charm…

Jankiel tries to convince me to be the only…

The train from Chennai to Mumbai (25 hours) is cramped but I’m lucky to have my berth for myself. Inside and outside mountains of rubbish are growing – the Hindus never use dustbins. The floor inside the train becomes filled with colours and nobody of the train staff ever cares to clean this mess up. This is sometimes done by “private enterprises” – unbelievably dirty boys who, on their knees, wipe the floor with a dirty rug and then stretch out their palm, waiting for some coins… There are so many beggars crossing the train, they get on at every station and walk all coaches in an endless procession. The old lady has hardly finished moaning about her misery when the singing blind boy walks in; the skinny bearded grandpa is still waving his palmless arm in my face when the legless guy limps holding onto his cane… And others are queuing – gypsies hitting the drums, a…

I take the advice of Kris and skip sightseeing Chennai (formerly known as Madras) and I get on the bus or even two that carry me to Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) – the kind drivers explain to me where to get off. I only notice the noisiness, chaos and crowdedness of Chennai, as well as a corpse in a plastic bag carried by two skinny guys, I can also smell the presence of the river – before I can even see it in her pitch-black elegance, my nostrils get struck with a vile stench…

The buses somehow manage not to fall to pieces before completing the 60 km in just above 2 hours. I am relieved to get out of the hot, sweaty interior and start an intense sightseeing in Mamllapuram – there is an immensity of temples, one more impressive than the other, with all the amazing sculptures… The most famous one is the Shore Temple, picturesquely thrown right…

Late evening I land in Trivandrum, a city located on the very south of India. Luckily, my strange looking visa doesn’t seem any suspicious to the elderly dust-covered mister sitting at his dusty old desk in that somewhat small and dusty arrival hall.

The moment I step out I get surrounded with an army of taxi drivers offering me transportation to the centre where cheap hostels are located (or at least I hope so, as this is what I read on the Internet). The prices the drivers are suggesting have been prepared specially for the whitey that I am – I kindly refuse and start looking for a place to stay near the airport. The centre can wait until the morning, when public buses will be working again… And in the meantime I should rather find a place to hide against the pouring rain. I jump between the puddles and avoid hungry dogs wandering about, I refuse…

In the evening, after 4.5 hours ride on a coach (surprisingly fast pass through Malaysia-Singapore border; though maybe I should not be surprised after all – every evening half the Singapore leaves the place to stay for night in a cheaper place on the other side) I get to the city-state, international center for all business. I will only stay here for one day – I will only have time to walk the Mount Faber park, get the avant-gout of India (in its clean and organized form) in Little India, check out Chinatown (no quality found, especially after Malacca experience) and have a close look on some skyscrapers (they stand so close on to another that they must be hitting each other in windy weather). And I will fill myself up with Milo Ais – oh, I’m going to miss it a lot…

Evening metro to the airport, bus transfer to economic terminal and I’m ready for the…