Back to China! In last China post I started telling our adventures in China. After spending 4 days in Beijing we decided to travel to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Warriors. So we ended up to Beijing West Railway Station that is a HUGE building. The place is bigger than Helsinki-Vantaa airport.
Our plan was to catch a night train to Xi'an, but because all the trains were full and there were no seats left we got a standing room ticket to next day's train. In the train station we realised that many Chinese people were leaving for their holidays and they had booked the tickets months ago.
Traveling by train China is an experience itself. Chinese trains are safe and punctual. Toilets are okay also. Trains have usually 4 classes (depending on the train). We tried to get a hard sleeper tickets. In hard sleeper class there's 6 bunks (upper, middle and lower) and it's quite cheap and comfortable. Soft sleeper is the most comfortable choice and many Western people choose this class when traveling by train. Then there's a soft seat and hard seat classes. Those are equivalent to European 1st and 2nd classes. We got the standing room ticket to hard seat carriage. The fare was the same than as that of the hard seat.
Standing room ticket for the 14 hours train trip to Xi'an. Well, that's something! Standing room ticket is recommended only for the short trips, not over 10hours train trips. I was a bit scared how will I survive. All in all, 14 hours in the train is a looooong time. We didn't know what to expect, but we were sure already before jumping in the train that this trip will be journey to remember!
In the train station there's usually English-speaking ticket counter where you can hope that someone is really speaking English. Everything is in Chinese in the boards and it's a bit hard to understand the language so buing a train ticket can be tricky! ;) Go early to train station, because you may have to queue.
If you'll meet some Chinese speaking on your trip or in the train ask him/her to write your next destination to some paper in Chinese then you can show the paper to the ticket counter and hope that the local person has understood where are you going. :) People in China are very friendly and helpful and very curious to get to know you so you will always get some help!
How did it go? Well, after one hour the train left Beijing, I was feeling desperate. The carriage was full of people and it was hard to find "your own space" because people were walking on the aisle all the time. Sitting on the floor was impossible. We were the only Western persons in the train carriage so we got glances and people were staring at us. No wonder why?
They were thinking why those two idiots are standing here and not sleeping in the soft sleeper class.
Those sitting in the hard seats gave us opportunity to sit once in a while. That was a friendly thing to do. Especially women gave me their seats and I got to sleep in the seat a lot. I was very thankful for them! But of course I didn't want to sit on their places because they had paid them. Standing was okay in the night and sitting on the floor was possible.
My boyfriend was very popular (blond guy) and men were talking to him a lot. There were quite a few persons knowing English, but luckily in the last pages of Lonely Planet there's Chinese-English- dictionary that my bf used a lot in the conversation. I couldn't join the conversation because nobody wasn't talking to me. I was a Western girl. That was a big culture shock for me and the first culture shock when traveling abroad. My boyfriend was "the head of our family" and I was a female so they didn't speak to me. It was annoying because for example persons chatting with my bf asked what's my name and what I'm doing for living and I was standing next to them. When I answered to them they replied back to my boyfriend not to me! :D (Then I started to think on my head that I'm coming from Finland and in our country men and women are equal and.....). After all, it was quite funny and I got used to it.
The time went quite quickly. The last 3 hours before arriving were long, but we survived!
After 14 hours, couple of beers, couple of hours of sleep we arrived in Xi'an. We were tired, so tired. The first thing to do was to find a hotel and sleep. We planned to stay in Xi'an only one night so we decided to buy the train tickets to Shanghai immediately after arriving. And surprise and surprise there weren't any seats left on the day we wanted and ONCE AGAIN we had to buy a standing room ticket for the train Xi'an - Shanghai that was 15 hour train journey.
We did it twice. Standing 14 and 15 hours in the train was something I won't forget. The second journey was more painful. My boyfriend got a seat and I slept on the floor. The air in the train was awful and when we arrived in Shanghai I was feeling queasy. But I was also happy! I didn't complain much during those two train trips and got the real "traveller feeling". I'm not a person wanting a luxus or 3 - 5 star hotel when traveling so for me it was okay to do this train traveling differently. I was excited about it and traveling always teaches you to see things differently and to respect things in a new way!
Still, after those standing room tickets, I was happy girl when sitting in a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing (it took only 5hours). I felt like 1st class person in that train! :)
5 hour bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing was a luxus train trip for us
That was my experience from train traveling in China.