11 November 2019

Chenzhou west railway station

Want to talk about water?
Time to catch a train back to Hong Kong and return to Europe. The station at Chenzou is impressive as ever.

Or maybe it is normal for a city of 4 million to have a modern railway station with fast trains and proper facilities.

Like wifi. There is free wifi everywhere in the station, though it is not super fast and at times a bit erratic.

Several shops sell food, drinks, small stuff.

Everything is payable electronically with Wechat or Alipay. I am, again, one of the few, maybe the only, customer using cash. Oh wait, this really old man is another one I feel less lonely! Not that I did not try.

Vacuum packed duck meat
But I have not been able to use WeChat pay as I do not have a Chinese credit card. The app allowed me to register a European Mastercard, but when I try to use it to pay it tells me I have no funds. When I try to add funds, for example, my wife tried to send me money from her Wechat, I get a message I am not allowed to receive funds either. So I am stuck, though I can still use the app to communicate with my friends!

As for paying, I am resigned to always be the only one using cash in the supermarket, in the farmer's market, restaurant, everywhere really, though my Mao portraits banknotes have never been rejected. At the station's toilet dispenser I was saved as I had paper tissues in my handbag!

Something which is advertised here though you can not just buy it on the spot and take it away is a Japanese style WC, with all the bell and whistles they come with. All kinds of buttons, to wash, dry and even a "lady function" as the ad says (in English), who knows perhaps it is a front-toward-the-back water jet? Arab toilets have it the other way, back-to-front, to wash the rear of either gender. This is new to me. I am convinced that the first person to import bidets to China will get rich quickly. This high-tech gadget is manufactured in Italy by a company called Faenza.

Strangely empty station in Chenzhou
The fast trains come and go every 6-10 minutes. They are marked white on a large electronic board when they are still far away, then become green when it is time to board, usually 10 minutes or so before they arrive at the platform. This way only passengers for the next departing train can be on the platform at any given time. The train numbers become red when boarding is closed! It's my turn soon, got to gather my stuff and get ready to sprint!

Siedo accanto a due signore che parlano cantonese, non capisco una parola ma riconosco l'accento, che subito tirano fuori pezzi di frutta esotica che non riconosco e uova sode.

Buona parte dei passeggeri mangia roba che si è portata da casa. Mi ricorda i treni che prendevo da bambino in Italia, dove le mamme avevano sempre panini pronti, di solito con prosciutto o salame, prima di tutto per i bambini e per se stesse pure

Filiamo via sui lucidi binari lisci come velluto e arriviamo puntualissimi dopo due ore e mezzo a 300 kmh. Controllo passaporti (ancora necessario per accedere al territorio di Hong Kong dalla Cina) e dogana e poi attraverso ancora una volta la larga striscia gialla che indica il "confine" tra quella che convenzionalmente tutti chiamano "mainland" e la "regione autonoma speciale" che è Hong Kong.

Arrivo a Hong Kong in una splendida giornata di sole, e dopo aver fatto chek-in alla Finnair a Kowloon (a Hong Kong si fa check-in in città e si mollano i bagagli prima di andare in aeroporto) mi accingo a fare un giro per la città quando noto televisori della MTR la metropolitana) che avvisano di disturbi al servizio dovuti a dimostrazioni degli attivisti pro-democrazia.

Rapido controllo sul mio telefono (finalmente posso accedere a tutti i siti e il wifi gratuito dell'aeroporto è velocissimo) e apprendo che ci sono sommosse significative un po’ dappertutto, con anche un ferito grave colpito dalla polizia. È la terza volta che si spara da giugno. Decido che forse il giro in città lo farò un'altra volta.

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