Chengdu - Guilin

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The train journey was yet again a memorable experience. We arrived at the station about an hour and a half before our train and everything seemed so tranquil. Apart from the odd queue jumper it remained that way until half an hour before departure when the pushing and shoving commenced. Now we have experienced 'boarding' on several occasions before but this was worse than ever. We were approximately 20th in the queue but as soon as boarding started people appeared from every direction. We wouldn't normally be too bothered but as we were sharing a 4 berth and had been queuing for an hour and a half to make sure we were first in our compartment we weren't going to give up now.

But the pushing and shoving just got worse and worse. When we got to the ticket gate Ross was pushed, he tripped over the Mule and fell into somebody else who in turn fell over. It was just crazy. This was the first time on the trip Ross had had enough and said a few choice words very loudly. It's amazing how quickly the pushing and shoving stopped, well at the front of the queue anyway as people backed away from the scary Western people.

Very frustrating but we noticed some of those pushing had only paid 29CNY for their tickets which surely was a standing only ticket however far they were travelling. We can only imagine they wanted to get on the train to get a good place or nab a seat as we witnessed on the last train. The thought of standing for up to 26 hours sends shivers down our spines and if we were in their position would probably do the same too.

After a reasonable sleep we feel even more privileged and lucky to have bagged a soft sleeper as there was only 1 soft carriage on the train, there was 8 hard sleeper carriages a buffet car and the rest was seats. After our last train we had said if we can't get a soft sleeper we would settle for a hard sleeper and although it is definitely better than a seat or standing now we have seen one it is not something we would like to do unless it's the last resort. Triple decked beds with no separate compartments so there is no luggage space above the corridor, we just wouldn't have anywhere to put our stuff. We are so glad we waited in Chengdu for a softie, never a truer saying it is worth the wait.

On the journey we made friends with a little Chinese girl who was very cute and kept us entertained for hours. At first when we waved at her she shied away, the shyness lasted for a few hours until somebody taught her to say 'Hello' and with a little bit of confidence she was back and then wouldn't go away! Laughing and giggling the fun didn't stop even when we shut the compartment door, she started banging on it! Even when Ross got off to stretch his legs at one of the stations she proceeded to chase him around the platform. A bit of fun but towards the end we were both wondering why did we start this?

Transport update!

This was our 12th train so far and we have covered approximately 10,000 miles and spent 231.5 hours on the train, yes just under 10 days! Not to tempt fate but so far every train has been on time, but that's not hard in China when the traditional network has several ¼ hour blocks of pathing time every now and then for single line working, freight trains or faster trains to pass. We are enjoying our trips on the rails and the experiences we have had and Ross is considering writing a book 'Life in the corridor' as some of the things you see and hear on the sleepers are just unbelievable. The next couple of trips are by mini bus then we are back on the rails to cross into Vietnam before working our way down the country by train. Most of the overnighters are now behind us and although we look forward to sleeping in a hotel we wouldn't have changed them for anything. Flying in comparison is boring.

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