When I started to loose track of weather temperature.
11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012
Korla, August 17th 2012
Cool weather embraced me in Korla. It was like twenty something degree Celcius. I didn't jot down. Peng Lung, the driver I hired through Cory was already waiting outside the exit gate of Korla Railway Station. Unlike my previous driver in Turpan, Peng Lung was a very young guy. He offered to carry my backpack.
As I had required to Cory beforehand, Peng Lung brought me to the train ticket booking office. After twice succeeding purchasing train ticket on my own, I stepped into the line confidently. I meant to book a ticket for Korla - Akesu and Akesu - Kashgar. I showed the agent the piece of paper which had the travel date, time, train number, destination, desired seat, all written in Chinese characters. She checked the computer and then said something to me which I understood that there was no hard sleeper. She must be asking how about hard seat, I thought.
Considering that it was a high season, I agreed to take a hard seat. So I said, "Kěyǐ."
I received the two tickets and walked out the line.
(Whenever I think about my time in Korla, I feel weird. Several years ago someone had told me that there are people who bring luck and there are those who bring the opposite. I didn't buy that. I'm not a superstitious. However, here in Korla... let me tell you.)
I checked my ticket to make sure the date was correct. Since the first time I boarded China's train, when I couldn't even say 'xièxiè', the most thing I could read on a ticket was the date, because the characters are exactly the same as in Japanese. The order, year, month, date, is also the same. Without taking Mandarin course, merely reading the date should be no problem for me. However, this time I read the date on my ticket and thought it wasn't the date I desired to travel. I started to panic.
I looked for my driver and asked him whether I could change the ticket. He said that was possible. He went back with me into the booking office. After talking to two staffs, he told me to wait. While waiting, I looked at my tickets. What?? Isn't this right?? Ah ya, ya, the dates are right. Nothing's wrong.
We went out of the booking office and got into the car. As my drive drove, I looked again at my tickets while wondering how I could be so stupid not being able to read just the date. How come?? But then...
Oh, no! What is this?? Does this mean "no seat"?? And yes, there's no seat number as usual. I asked my driver.
"Yes, that means you won't sit."
What??! Apparently this was what the agent was asking me, and I had said, "Kěyǐ."
Although I'm traveling on budget, I'm not going to torture myself by standing for 8 hours on a train, not to mention going through the night. The ticket for Akesu - Kashgar was also a no-seat ticket. "I'm sorry. I want to exchange these tickets. Can you bring me back to the place just now?" I begged my driver.
"I'm sorry to trouble you."
"Méishì, méishì!" That was the first time I heard such an expression instead of 'méiguānxì'.
I remember Melike from ORT suggesting me taking a bus from Akesu to Kashgar. Therefore I asked my driver about that and he answered, yes, there is a bus to Kashgar. So I told him that I don't mind buying a hard seat for Korla - Akesu, but would like to exchange the ticket for Akesu - Kashgar with cash, if even the hard seat is not available. Peng Lung, my driver, said, he understood.
Back at the booking office, Peng Lung assisted me talking to the booking agent. Apparently the seats for my desired train to Akesu were all booked. I was given an option of the next train, the same K train. Only soft sleeper left. I agreed.
Peng Lung gave me the cash in return of my Akesu - Kashgar ticket. "No hard seat?" I asked.
"Okay, then bring me to the bus station."
He said what I understood that we shall go to my hotel first. Anyway, he didn't bring me to the bus station. Meanwhile I tried to call Cory, but couldn't reach him. I wanted to ask him to tell Peng Lung to bring me to the bus station.
Peng Lung got off the car quickly and went into the Jinyue Hotel's lobby. I rushed myself alongside. "I already have reservation," I said. Peng Lung did not slow down.
At the front desk Peng Lung talked with the staff. Hey, hey... what's going on? What does he need to talk about? I have made a reservation and isn't he just supposed to bring me to the hotel? I didn't ask him to asking anything to the staffs either.
Another staff at last took my printed reservation letter which I had made through Ctrip. At first they said my reservation wasn't recognized. What??
I became furious. With all my might I tried to explain that I've already made a reservation and this paper is the proof. Peng Lung and the hotel staff talked and talked. Aaarrrggghhh! This is not my first time checking in a hotel in China alone. Usually I just present my reservation letter and everything went fine. Although the staffs couldn't speak English, they weren't dumb to comprehend that I wanted to check-in. Check my passport if you wish, give me my key. Why such a fuzz??!
After whatsoever conversation between Peng Lung and the staff, they asked something from me which took long for me to understand. Between my anger and frustration, I took out my passport and asked them whether it was that what I wanted.
The front desk staff took it from my hand. She opened it, looked at it, moved aside several steps, and brought it to Peng Lung. She pointed something on it, Peng Lung answered, she said something again, Peng Lung said another thing.
"Hey, hey!! That's my passport! What are you talking about?! If there's something you want to know, ask me!!" I yelled in English.
(I still don't understand what they, my driver and the front desk staff, had been discussing over my passport. So rude!!)
Next problem. Peng Lung told me that Jinyue Hotel doesn't accept payment with credit card. I had to pay cash in advance, plus a deposit money of 400 yuan! That was ridiculous. My room rate was 190 yuan and I had to pay deposit more than twice the amount? But it wasn't that. I certainly didn't have that much cash. I had wanted to exchange my US dollar in Turpan but couldn't find a money changer. Thinking that Insight Guides: Silk Road said: "The city of Korla... is today one of Xinjiang's wealthiest cities, with a rich agricultural economy boasted by heavy industry ...", I assumed that there would be plenty of money changers in Korla.
We went out of Jinyue Hotel in vain. I asked Peng Lung to take me to a money changer or bank.
More was yet to come...