The hostel warden, an ambivalent ex-pat – disillusioned would perhaps be too strong an adjective to use – although he bore all the hallmarks of a Texan that he is, got a bit bamboozled as to which room to put me in. I ended up occupying the bottom bunk in an en suite variety, sharing it with two Chinese young women who had the king size bed. Forced to play what he called ‘musical rooms’ depending on who’d booked in advance and checked in and out, he would put me in a dormitory room for the following night. Hopefully it would be the last manoeuvre until the duration of my stay.
I got up by mid-morning, sat myself down on the sofa in the hostel lounge and recuperated from the accumulated headache I had endured during the hours lying on the non-adjustable recliner on the bus.
The hostel was getting quite busy with wayfarers toing and froing. The Chinese women checked out; others who had booked or to see, on the off-chance, if there’d be room, checked in.
I went back to the en suite to gather my belongings and leave them at the reception until I was given the go ahead to move into the dormitory. Thomas, a guy from Guangdong and a domestic assistant, wanted to express his fluent English while changing the beds, so talked non-stop about his aspirations of studying in the US. His connections with a warden from the US, to some degree, would pay off.
Having chilled out and festered, I had immersed myself in plenty of chat, talking to fellow travellers about their experiences in China, Laos, and some had already returned from Vietnam; a steady stream of visitors. Travel, however, is all about inspiration, finding the right moment, the occasion to experience something different, not to miss out. I called over to the warden.
“Is there anything to see in Nanning?”
“There should be a folder somewhere.”
He tossed over an orange file. I thumbed through the plastic covered pages full of sightseeing delights to visit in and further away from the city.
After asking for directions, I tore myself away from the couch and the lounge and paced up the road to the nearest attraction, Nan Hu Park, a big manufactured lake area slap bang in the middle of modern high-rise buildings. ‘Hu’ in Chinese literally means ‘lake.’ Not as imposing or as dominant as those that make up Shanghai, the urban landscape gave way, in any case, to massive empty water that comprised most of the park.
It was quiet, relatively relaxing, watching the declining sun light up the still waters which dropped behind buildings, although not after it beamed an enchanting ray from the top of one building as the water turned a complimented dramatic gray.
Saying “ni hao” to friendly Chinese lingering by the water enhanced the experience, as I returned their salutation.
The daylight merged to a purple hue looking onwards at a prominent nine-arched bridge, until dusk and nightfall enveloped after entering an area of bonsai trees. I took pictures of the impressive lit-up surrounds which emblazoned curved white hotel fronts, and lights from the main road fizzled into golden channels on the inky water.
I sprung my legs back to the hostel suitably in high spirits after enjoying the tranquil setting and a satisfying occasion – my mind feeling more relaxed. I even laughed at the expense of the Chinese streaming along the side of the road on electric scooters stopping or swerving to avoid pedestrians. Why not? They laugh at me.
Having been given the go-ahead to move my rucksack into a dormitory and claim a vacant bed, I could not help but wonder at quite an array of computer equipment also taking up residence. It consisted of a CPU box, monitor, keyboard, mouse; in fact, the full desktop works. I could npt help thinking it might be left there for anyone’s use.
“Does that computer work?” I querulously asked a French guy I was sharing the dorm with.
“It’s my computer.”
“What? You’re kidding?” I almost fell over in astonishment.
Travelling around with complete desktop equipment – the CPU was on castors – not to mention a fair-sized blue wheely suitcase, is almost unheard of, or at least unthinkable. Being shouldered with the responsibility of lugging it around would freak me out.
Still, he said he needed the equipment as he was travelling to Vietnam to take up a temporary job in one of Hanoi’s French hotels. However, I am certain he could have set one up quite cheaply in Hanoi so long as he had all his hard drive files, thus saving him the bother.
He used headphones – quite courteously – I may add, to drown out any sound he was listening to, so as not to keep other dorm occupants awake.
It felt weird, alien, if not altogether humorous, particularly the part about me thinking it was a spare computer. This had the warden thinking that was either hilarious or a huge joke.