Come on ride the train …

6 10 2009

12:07 a.m., Oct. 7
So we’re sitting on the train from Luoyang back to Nanjing, a 10-hour ride. Because of the nonsensicality of the Chinese train system, we were forced to purchase hard seat (essentially second-class, the worst seats available) tickets. In addition, after arriving at the train station, we discovered that we didn’t even have seats. That’s right, folks, we had two tickets for a 10-hour train ride, standing room only. Luckily, we were able to score seats on the bar/dinner car for 30 RMB each, making our ride slightly more comfortable. Now we’re sitting in an overly lit dining car, four people to a table, and our fellow denizens of said car are either trying to sleep with their heads propped up on the tables or smoke. Chinese people love to smoke.

Let me backtrack a bit and explain how the Chinese train system works. Unlike the U.S., train tickets can’t be purchased online, except for high priority routes like Beijing to Shanghai or Hong Kong. So train tickets must be purchased at the railway station you are departing from. Adding to the uncertainty, tickets are released only 10 days (occasionally as little as five, sometimes up to 15) days prior to the date of the ticket. So people rush to buy their tickets as soon as they’re available in order to get the best seats, thus leaving only a handful of decent seats after the first day or two. Added to this, as I said, the tickets must be purchased from the station you’re departing from, thus making it impossible to buy return tickets in advance, unless, once again, you are on a high-priority route. This causes huge problems when you’re only going to a place for a couple days and can’t get the tickets well in advance, which is exactly what put us in the position we were in.

Luckily, we stumbled upon the previously unknown (to us) loophole that allowed us to buy two seats on the bar/diner car. And the verdict on the diner car? Well, the seats are probably a bit bigger and more comfortable than the hard sleeper seats, but the lights stay on, bright, all night.
I’ll blog more on the trip later.
-Jeremiah

Pictures
1. Sleeper seats
2. Missy brightens up the dining car

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One response

7 10 2009
Kelly

“fellow denizens of said car are either trying to sleep with their heads propped up on the tables or smoke. Chinese people love to smoke.”
I love this, that’s such a funny image! Hope you guys had a fun time!

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