Sleeper Trains.

Nicholas Quirke was deepening his friendships with the Chinese on 14 July 2021 and it meant he was going to get the opportunity to use his chinese signature. He was relieved to be leaving Manzhouli and returning to Hulunbuir where he had another invite for dinner with Peng’s family. It was something to look forward to after another day of driving and this time through some very heavy rain. The route they took went through what is referred too as the wetlands and as the landscape looked to be submerged in water it was an appropriate name and he couldn’t help but think that seeing the view under the dramatic dark skies and rain was the best way to experience it. From time to time on the journey the determined precipitation abated and they even made a comfort break and explored some of the grassland but time was of the essence as before the meal they had planned to see the World Antifascist War Haila’er Memorial Park. As they made their way to the entrance a down pour of such magnitude occurred that even with an umbrella he had to find a corner by the ticket office to hide from the onslaught. He found the museum fascinating. The fort, much of it underground was built during the Japanese occupation and many Chinese died building the for the invaders and as they explored the zero degree subterranean headquarters he learned some particularly horrible facts about the treatment of the nationals by the Japanese. The tunnels were impressive and trying to imagine the living condition when the temperatures hit minus forty in the winter was a a challenging thought . There were lots of artifacts and a patriotic testament to the revolutionary heroism that drove the intruders out it was an unexpectedly engrossing item to end his trip to Inner Mongolia as he was leaving that evening and for the first time since arriving in China on the Trans Mongolian Express he was taking a sleeper train on his own. But this was not until he had dined in the hotel Peng had checked into with the family. he really was lucky that they were so welcoming and so kind and he found himself a little braver with the conversation than he had been on their first meal and he started to quiz them about the lack of investment in the infrastructure. The response was not what he had expected as he had thought they would put it down to money but they pointed out how precious the prairies were and putting high speed train lines and massive roads would damage the fabric that gives the province its allure. It seemed a satisfactory answer and he remained satisfied. They went to collect a couple of bottles from and he was able to briefly see their their grand lovely apartment on two levels. They were invited in but with the travel approaching and the need to freshen up and prepare himself they declined. It was disappointing as it was probably unlikely that he would ever be there again but he’d had a taste of another lifestyle in another part of the vast country. He felt a little apprehensive about his trip, particularly as he was travelling 3rd class and was in a carriage where the compartments had no doors and 6 bunks. His was on the bottom and though there was a lot of interest shown through looks, bold stares and smiles he was largely unbothered. The train left at 21.03 and he watched some Apple TV, listened to the chatter of carriage and worked on his blog before it was lights out. He found it difficult to sleep though not because of any disturbance from his fellow travellers. It was already the next day before his eyes shut and he entered a night of dissonant dreaming.

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