Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Of train travel through China;

I started my trip in Beijing, but I still needed to get to Shanghai; 800 miles to the South. I could have hoped on one of the trains that speed across the country at 185mph, but I wanted a slightly slower sleeper train so that I could hop on at night and wake up in my destination. I booked a ticket through my hostel for a bed on one of the first class sleeper cars and headed off to the train station.

The Beijing Railway Station.
When I got to the station I had no idea where to go but I had 30 extra minutes so I wasn't in any huge rush to get to my train. In the huge station I looked around for the waiting room for my train, but I couldn't find anything with my train number. After looking at my train ticket a few times I noticed that it said it was departing from the Beijing South Rail Station. That is when I got my first idea that something was wrong. I took out my city map and saw that about 8 subway stops from the Beijing Rail Station was the Beijing SOUTH Rail Station. I had that awful feeling where your stomach sinks and you know you've made a mistake. I had gone to the wrong station and my train, which I had already paid for, was going to be departing in less than 30 minutes.

I grabbed my bags and ran out of the station to the plaza outside. As I was sprinting across to the subway entrance a taxi driver noticed me and pulled me into his unmarked taxi. I was able to tell him about my mistake and show him my train ticket and departure time. We made the deal that I would pay him 200 RMB ($30 USD) if he got me there in time. In China, 200 RMB could buy you about 15 taxi rides so this driver really wanted to get me there on time. We sped off the the craziest and most terrifying taxi ride I've ever been on. We blasted through a few red lights and drove on the shoulder of the freeway all while the driver was honking at cars and flashing his lights so they would move out of the way.

We pull up to the rail station with about 4 minutes till my departure time. I run into the terminal. Throw my bags through the security x-ray and ask which way the gate from my train is. I get all my bags back on then sprint across the terminal to my train. I probably looked like I was competing on the Amazing Race. I made it to my train just in time. As soon as I boarded the train and found my cabin we started moving and pulled out of the station.

My train in the Nanjing Rail Station.
Now that I was finally on the train I could relax. I was exhausted, sweating, and jittery from my suspenseful and adrenaline filled taxi ride and sprint through the train station. I shared my sleeper cabin with 3 Chinese men who could speak a little bit of English. After talking with them for a little bit, they invited me to the party in the next cabin over with their coworkers. About eight of us crammed into this tiny sleeper cabin where they start offering me beers and food. My new Chinese friends were all young car designers on their way back to Shanghai from a car show. Some of the people in the group could speak English well so I told them all about my experience so far in China and how I came to China to perform with the marching band. They didn't know what a marching band was so I showed them some of the videos of the Husky Band field shows I had on my laptop. We had a great time swapping stories and sharing photos till late at night. Then they made sure I knew which stop to get off at in the morning and double checked the arrival time for me. What started as a miserable train experienced turned into a fun night thanks to these people. They were excited to have an American with them in their cabin and hear about my home, and I was just as thrilled to meet them and hear about life in China.

Our train cabin party at about 120 MPH.
The station I arrived at in Nanjing (just north of Shanghai)
The view of the city of Nanjing from the train station.

1 comment:

  1. Not only is the people of China accommodating, there really is a lot of great tourist destinations to chose form around the country.
    study in china