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Review of Z19/Z20 Train Between Beijing West to Xi'an
I just returned from a 10-day business trip in Beijing. Over the weekend of June 24-June 26, my colleague and I took the Z19/Z20 trains between Beijing West and Xi'ian. We got the 2-person "luxury soft sleeper." Although the overall visit to Xi'ian was excellent, the "luxury soft sleeper" did not live up to the advertising on this site.
First, the "luxury" mattress is literally a twin-sized box spring covered by a thin blanket and a sheet. We were given a fairly plush comforter, which we doubled up to serve as a mattress. The pillow was wafer-thin; airplane pillows are thicker. If this is luxurious, I shudder to imagine what the regular berths are like. On the trip to Xi'an, I got about two hours of sleep, on and off, over the 12-hour trip. I fared a little better on the return to Beijing, netting about 6 hours of sleep, mostly because I was exhausted after trekking around Xi'an all day.
Second, though the cabins are billed as "no smoking," that doesn't apply to hallways or vestibules. Due to the poor ventilation, the stench of cigarette smoke seeped into our cabin throughout the trip. Train personnel were the worst offenders. I saw the push-cart vendor smoking his way down the hall. My colleague went out to stretch his legs, and passed a conductor smoking in the little office at the end of the car.
Third, the cabin's air conditioning left a lot to be desired. Even turned on full blast, the A/C left me sweating (to be fair, it was in the 90s and humid all day). Eventually, I discovered that the bathroom had better cooling and ventilation. Once I propped open the bathroom door, the cabin cooled down to more comfortable levels.
Fourth, the TVs didn't work. They wouldn't even power on. When I told the conductor, "the TVs don't work," he said "no." End of discussion. Bring books, snacks, and other entertainment, because you won't get it from the TV. The cabin had an electrical outlet, and my colleague was able to stream movies over the cell network (though I'd hate to see his data bill later this month).
The one reason to reserve the "luxury soft sleeper" is the separate bathroom. That lived up to the hype. It was clean, with toilet paper and running water (though no hand soap or paper towels). On the morning we entered Xi'an, my colleague wandered the train to stretch his legs. He reported long lines for the bathrooms, and a smell that would repel flies. We were thankful for our own facilities.
Now, all this said - knowing what I know now - I would repeat this trip in the "luxury soft sleeper." The overnight train is an inexpensive way to see Xi'an in a day, without the hassle of booking a hotel. The Chinese countryside is varied and interesting, and there is something romantic about traveling by train. However, I would bring a camping mattress for the "bed," more reading material, and Lysol or something to mask the cigarette smoke.
|The bottom bunk, showing the box spring "mattress."|
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