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Traveling by Train in China
Mar 31, 2004 13:51
  • SIMON
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I generally enjoy train travel in China. One can travel to most destinations in relative comfort while viewing the breath-taking scenery. I also enjoy meeting new friends on the train.

But there are a few things that make it incovenient:

1) One can't buy tickets in advance (more than 2 or 3 days)
2) One can't buy round-trip tickets -- therefore tourists (both Chinese and foreign) have to waste valuable time once they reach their destination, in standing in line to buy tickets to get back home again.
3) If one buys hard seat tickets, even if you have a ticket with the seat number on it, sometimes someone else has taken the seat!
4) Everyone dashes to get on the train when the gate opens -- dangerous for the old people, little children, pregnant women, and disabled people.
5) Usually no English-speaking conductors on train, so foreign tourists may have problems.

Is there any hope that these inconveniences can be solved to make traveling more pleasant for everyone -- Chinese and foreigners?
Mar 31, 2004 13:52
#1  
  • TEDDY
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Several years ago, my husband and I went to Hukou waterfall in Shanxi province. The waterfall locates in Jixian county which lies in almost the border of Shanxi and Shaanxi. It's really worth seeing !!!

But some terrible experiences on train let our travel a little regreted. We bought the "hard bed" tickets. But one we got on the train, someone was already sat on my bed, he said he was the friend of the train attendant, so his ticket is a "relation ticket" (he had no ticket at all). And then, so many people rushed in and sat on our beds without any inquiry. We felt so tired through the whole trip.

Entering the railway station and coming out is also a disaster. Too many people flooded there, we felt like we were refugees.
Mar 31, 2004 13:53
#2  
  • SIMON
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with other people sitting on my bed. I solved it by always buying the middle or top bunk. It's a little inconvenient climbing up and down, but I can have my bed to myself!
Mar 31, 2004 13:54
#3  
  • DAISY
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During the spring festival, (also before and after), the situation can be worse. My friends now all prefer to take plane instead of taking train at that period.
Mar 31, 2004 13:55
#4  
  • TEDDY
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By air is quite fast of course (especially for business). But travelling by train should have been a great fun which can not be replaced by any other transportation.
When you look out of the train window, You will see the mountain, the river, the small valley and so on...
When I see some farmers or sheep far away, I feel very excited.
And we play games on train...so interesting.
To tell the truth, I really envy the European people, they have the comfortable trains...
Mar 31, 2004 13:56
#5  
  • OLIVIA
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sorry to hear your experience.

i was fortunate in my travel by train to Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Yicheng and a ferry ride to Mushan (3 Gorges ands 3 little Gorges) from HK. we bought semi-soft private cabin (2 beds only) and enjoy the 28 hr ride to Beijing. we could actually witness from a distance of how people live and what they apparently go about their daily lives. at every stops in small towns along the way, we would get off and rush to buy their homemade food. they even kept them warm. we tried the 4-unit soft bunkers on the way to Xian. it does have hotwater services (self-help) or baths. what disturbed me most was the chain smoking by other travellers, which I could bear but to open the window to allow fresh air in for circulation. we met back-packers from Sweden, Britain and Norway as well.

Mar 31, 2004 13:57
#6  
  • ANNA
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agree!
Compare train and plane and bus. I consider train travel is best. Not only because it is comfortable more and more,but also we can know more and more fresh friend in my trip.Certainly,if for business, i would like to choice plane, after all,Time is Money .
Our train and train attendant are all changged now. Train become faster and faster.so did the attitude. But if they can write and speaking In English,all the things will be better.
When i become my train travel, i will ask one ticket of top one, if not, i will change my bed so that i can sleep on the top. anyone else would like to change for me.when i get off, we will change our ticket agian.
do you have the same experince?
thank you for your article.
Mar 31, 2004 13:59
#7  
  • BARBARA
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If you're the kind of traveller who is paranoid about luggage - soft sleeper is the way to go as your luggage is in your compartment with you.

However, for almost all other kinds of travellers hard sleeper is the way to go. There is more air, a bit more room, and you (usually) don't get a speaker blaring music right above you, and if you buy the top bunk (as long as you are relatively agile), no-one bothers you and you get a great night's sleep. There's no door banging open and closed when others go to the bathroom. And it's cheaper!

The best trains in my reasonably extensive experience are those with the "T" prefix. They are (usually) cleaner and less prone to the train staff endlessly parading noisy carts of goodies through the train while you are trying to sleep.

One thing about both kinds of sleeper that is worse than the seats, though, is that you really don't get a chance to practice your Chinese unless it's a multi-day journey. If it's overnight, then usually you're on the train late, everyone goes to sleep pretty soon, and you're off the train early in the morning. (Shanghai to Beijing, for example).

I personally love travelling by train in China. I actually even enjoy the train food, although it's (comparatively) expensive. And holding up the bar with the train staff late at night is _really_ fun and great for your Chinese. Train staff have such great stories, like one barman who regaled me with the tale of the time he served JZ and friends on an inspection tour!
Mar 31, 2004 14:00
#8  
  • OLIVIA
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yes by train is definitely more exciting.

by train, though it's more expensive than by airplane from HK, I get to see people's livelihood, cave homes and modes of travel. I see mules, horses and those huge rotter-tiller used as transports, deliveries etc. Oh ya, their rice field is just next to their ancestors' graves, with no inch to spare and that's how precious arable land is. I also wonder what those big pots sitting besides the graves, anyone? [i have seen big gorgeous Ming pots measuring 4 feet high for the deceased of early chinese migrants in a Malaysian museum)

would certainly choose the 2 person soft sleeper. lots of privacy and quiet ... no human chimney nearby!

well, about expensive food on the train, hmm .... didn't enjoy it.
Mar 31, 2004 14:01
#9  
  • TEDDY
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I love travelling by train in China. I think it is one of the best ways to meet people and live the countries culture.

I think it's a good tip not to book the bottom bed! For the Chinese it is just perfectly alright to use the bottom bed during the daytime for sitting, since otherwise there would be no possibillity for everyone to sit.
I guess this is alright since you can't expect people to be squeezed in the top bunk, right at the neon lights and the speaker with chinese "travel music" blasting into your ear. (and this is the secret why the bed in the middle is undoubtly the best choice!!!)

Sure, the system of selling tickets isn't the most convinient, I absolutely agree, and a person not speaking Chinese will probably have problems with buying tickets or finding their way.
But I think one of the most important things while traveling a foreign country is being open and tolerant to the differences. And if you are, you will have great experiences meeting people from all over the country.

I have to add in 2 years living in China I never had problems with the seat or bed I booked being taken. As soon as I showed my ticket, people always got up.
Besides that, the inspector in the sleeper carrige collects your ticket at the beginning of the trip, puts it into a little book and gives it back to you shortly before you have to get off the train (Great thing- everyone can be sure to get off at the right stop, even during nightime!). So they normaly make sure that everyone has a valid ticket and is in the right bed he or she booked.

I love traveling by train, and even I could afford a soft sleeper sometimes, I usually go for the hard sleeper, because it's much more fun!
Mar 31, 2004 14:03
#10  
  • SUNNY
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Hi,

I'm new in china, but i would love to travel by train, when i get the chance and time.
What is the price in China, for example from Shanghai to Beijing at soft sleeper level? and the food, what does that cost?
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