In short, all train rides in China

2012-05-22China travel Guide

Now I enjoy having fun as much as the next guy, I really do. You ask me to go rock climbing, I’m down. You ask me to go jump over some fire, why not! You ask me to jump off a cliff into water, and you know what I’ll do it, you know why? Because all those things, granted are a little dangerous, but are fun! However, I believe everything has a line, and yes I cross that line a lot, but you know what when it comes to fun sometimes that line should be deeply etched into the ground, I draw that line when comes to riding trains in China! I see that line and I respect it, but sometimes I have to go and cross it.
My first China train trip was also my first train ride in my entire life, and it wasn’t a short whatever kind of train ride, no this was a train ride from Guilin to Beijing. That’s like going from the very bottom of Florida, all the way to the tippy top of New York State. It was a 22 hour train ride.
When I went to go by the train ticket, the train station was like how it always is, a crap load of people, and a lot of waiting in line, but you know what I was down for it, it was going to be my first time riding a train in my life, and I was exciteeeeeed!!! When I finally got to the window after waiting about an hour I asked for a ticket to Beijing, the clerk asked me what kind of seat I would like. I asked what they had; she said they had soft sleepers, hard sleepers, soft seats, hard seats, and standing. (Yes standing means you don’t get a seat.) After asking what the prices were and thinking about how hungry I was I went for the cheapest one, standing (roughly 140RMB). When I told my friend about this he instantly told me to go back and switch it for a sleeper, of course I said no. He mentioned something about how I was going to definitely regret it, I said I wouldn’t and that it would be a good experience for me, he said it would not….boy was he right.
I got on the train and I found a spot with no one standing in it yet, which is not an easy feat! And I marked that space; when people started crowding me, I just friendly stared them down until they moved. This worked pretty well. Starting off standing I was strong, I went about 4 hours without leaning on anything, after about 6 I was leaning on the seat behind me, after about 8 I was leaning on the seat behind me while using the seat in front of me to support myself, after 10 hours I was sitting in the isle and moving whenever the food cart came through, which was about every half an hour! Now through these ten hours I was talking to all those people sitting around me, very nice people, and I realized something, there was a group of people that had "borrowed" some empty seats, yeah we became friends fast, and after about the 12th hour they started letting me sit in their places whenever somebody went to the bathroom, or to eat. Those 5 to 40 minute spurts of sitting were like heaven! When I did finally get to Beijing I didn’t get to relax, I got to the place I was staying and then was out the door to get some food in me, and then to work.
A few tips for riding the trains in China.1. Don't be shy, 2. Don't be shy, 3. DON'T BE SHY! If people want to talk to you, just talk, you never know who you’ll end up talking to, what they do, and that person might become a good friend later on. I met one of my good buddies riding the rails on another long train ride from Guilin to Beijing, that time was 27 hours (but that time I had a seat, slightly better). Also they might let you sit in their seat if you're standing. If you're hungry and somebody offers you some food, sit down and eat with them, talk about where you’re going, ask where they’re going, or how long they’ve been riding, make it a competition, "oh, you’ve been on for 18 hours already, not bad, me? Oh I’ve already been riding for 32 hours, that's right what now sucker!"
If you’re tired of sitting still get up and walk around a bit, go to the food cart and get some noodles, and a beer, or some Chinese liquor and grab somebody walking by cheers them a cup and start talking. Remember riding a long distance train can be boring especially by yourself, so to pass the time, get to know some people. Bring some cards with you, a portable DVD player, your computer, a book, some music, snack food and drinks (because train food isn’t that great and it is expensive!); just bring something to kill some of that time. Also remember DON'T BE SHY! Oh, and go bananas.
---By Daniel (VisitOurChina)