I am a great believer in travelling light. When you’ve lived in China for a while you realise that they have got this down to a fine art, an art that I have tried to imitate. The benefits are enormous. No check-in queues, no heavy baggage to cart around, lift up, and haul around behind you everywhere. So some years ago I became an avid convert to travelling light.
Unfortunately, the theory and practice and often poles apart, and for me, this trip is one of those. With the best of intentions, theoretically, I had too smallish bags and my laptop. In practice I had two check-in bags, one medium and one small, both stuffed to the gills, my purple neck pillow for the plane dangling from one overweight carry-on bag, my laptop which carried the overflow. I was also carrying my bulky blue padded jacket, that just wouldn’t fit into any bag no matter how I tried. I knew my luggage was overweight, I didn’t even try and shove in a handbag or money purse, my cash came in a plastic bag.
Now, when you get out of a car, put stuff onto a trolley and wheel it into an airport, there is not too much drama. But when you have to manhandle the lot into taxis, hotel rooms, train stations, up and down stairs and escalators etc, it becomes a tad difficult. Add to that a fourth bag. I bought a blow-up mattress and other necessities in Xiamen and had to get them to Putian, so another bag was needed. Getting all this around Xiamen train station, where the paving is all uneven and higgledy piggledy, and thousands of people all elbowing their way around, I needed a Sherpa. And fortunately for me, Sherpas are available around Chinese train stations.
These are not your Norgay Tensing type, but Chinese men and women with little trolleys, who for a fee will carry your luggage for you. Alex found one of these women, a tiny little thing, but with the strength of an ox and the elbows of a (I don’t know how to describe her elbows, she got into corners no person should get, by just barging in and hauling us in behind her).
This woman had us first in the queue of hundreds waiting for the train, and once the gates were open for boarding, she was through like a flash, dragging our bags and us behind her and she took off like Phar Lap. She galloped down the underground tunnel, around the corner, up the escalator and along the platform as if she was winning the Melbourne Cup. She unloaded the bags into the carriage, got her 30 RMB and was off down the exit before I could thank her. She was a life saver!
The same could not be said for getting everything off the train in Putian. Poor Alex and I were left with four bags, one handbag, (which I had bought in Xiamen), laptop, neck pillow, not to mention Alex’s own bag he had over his shoulders, and the wheels fell off. Literally. The largest of the small bags, weighing a mere 20 kgs, gave up the ghost. By sweet-talking it, it condescended to be gently dragged along, down two long flights of stairs, along another underground tunnel, up an escalator, out of the train station, over a huge cobbled courtyard, into a taxi, out of a taxi, along another rough path, up three flights of stairs and into my room at Alex’s house, whence it expired.
From now, I’m not going anywhere unless I’m travelling light. Honestly!