Sunday 17th July 2011
Once again I have chosen a train journey to record my thoughts and, while watching the Chinese countryside pass by at incredible speed, I can think of no better place to describe our last few days as an English Gooner in Asia.
Shanghai is our next destination, a few days in what promises to be another intriguing city and maybe at last a chance to relax a little after a trip that so far could be decsribed as nothing less than hectic!
One last night in Kuala Lumpur saw another bar next to a swimming pool many many floors up a skyscraper with stunning views across the city, a situation that pretty much summed up the first half of the trip.
Arriving into Hangzhou on our early Friday morning flight, however, it was immediately clear this would be a whole new experience.
Described as one of China's most beautiful cities we were a tad unfortunate that our short stay was shrouded in smog. We did our utmost to enjoy the delights as you would expect, in particular in the evening where we managed to find a small street market with tables where seven of us enjoyed some simply fantastic freshly cooked local delicacies, plenty of liquid refreshment for less than 15 quid between us!
Saturday of course was matchday and our first experience of the Chinese railway system. Widely used by the locals it proved a fast, comfortable and very cheap way to get to Yiwu City... if like us you had pre-bought reserved seats that is. The queue for tickets at Hangzhou station was 50 deep and double that in length!
Arriving at the location for the match I think it is worth mentioning the driving. Although up to five lanes wide it really is a free-for-all with no apparent regard for traffic lights and right of way. For those of you old enough to remember, think Penelope Pitstop and Wacky Races. Our taxi journey to our latest hotel was bordering on terryfying!
In a part of the world known for its heavy rainstorms we had been very lucky so far with little or none experienced. About an hour before the match the heavens simply opened! Most of us got caught in it but in such heat it was refreshing.
In a less-than-inspiring game on this occasion, the local fans were equally as fanatical as our friends from other parts of Asia and with a crowd of 20,000 or more it made for another noisy night.
Carlos Vela heads back to the UK as the only member of our squad who can say he scored in China but I'm sure they all leave with some fantastic memories from the trip.
Mine will continue with a few days in Shanghai and with our arrival imminent I will sign off for now.
Then of course it's back to a city many of us has have fond memories of - Cologne.
Zaijian & Xiexie!
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