the 52 hour journey across the Yellow Sea
Our first experience of China began the moment we set foot on the ferry to Tianjin in the Japanese port of Kobe. We thought we would be the only backpackers stupid enough to take a 52 hour ferry to avoid the cost of flying, however we were surprised to find 3 other Europeans also taking the ferry (the vast remaining majority were Chinese).
Leaving the sanitation and civilisation of Japan behind, it seemed that the entire ship of Chinese passengers had washed their laundry and hung it out to dry around the ferry before we had even left the port. We established our sleeping arrangements - a room with a wooden floor and rows of mattresses designed to accommodate 22 people (we were relieved there were only 8 of us for this journey - 3 other Europeans and 3 Chinese). Immediately one of our room mates had adorned the room with his wet underwear (complete with skid-marks, despite having apparently been washed).
2 hours: We were bored. Our fellow passengers seemed to have settled in well - all changed into pajamas, smoking profusely and drinking green tea out of plastic flasks.
6 hours: Eventually we discovered the bathroom. Clearly it had never been cleaned. Despite there being 2 cubicles with lockable doors, our fellow passengers seemed to ignore the function of the door, not seeming to appreciate privacy...
8 hours: Glad that we had come prepared with enough food supplies to last a week - clearly eating would be our main entertainment for the journey.
12 hours: We were invited to join in the evening's entertainment - kareoke (obviously). Cowering at the back we were subjected to 2 hours of 'singing' by the crew and passengers whilst family members filmed everything (including us...). We only wished that the crew would be as enthusiastic about cleaning the toilet as they were about singing...
14 hours: Relieved when the entertainment was finally over, we retired to 'bed'. We soon realised that it was apparently socially acceptable to smoke in a communal dorm room. Slightly concerned by our Chinese room mates' apparent alcohol dependence problem, we surprisingly slept without much disturbance.
22 hours: We discovered the intercom system in our room after being rudely awoken by an announcement informing us that breakfast was the most important meal of the day; no caffeinated beverages, mostly inedible. Not impressed.
36 hours: 4 cheese sandwiches, 8 pots of instant noodles and 5 instant coffees later...bored out of our minds and concerned that our food supplies were rapidly declining secondary to boredom.
55 hours: Finally - 3 hours late - we reached Chinese soil. Relieved to be on land again we had been fully initiated into Chinese culture.
The New Low
- drinking instant coffee
- stealing kitchen utensils from the ferry kitchen in order to drink instant coffee