China Travel - Chapter 5

Nomadic Gatherings by Michel Guntern

China Train Station
China Railway Station by Chengwei Hu on Unsplash.

Buying train tickets for travel in China can often be a problem, with five-day waits and people camped at the station.

And what if you can't speak Chinese?

Next 1. Travel by Train in China:
Window tables were piled high with food and soft drinks for the two-day rail journey and in the restaurant-car kitchen staff sweated and chopped vegetables.

2. Train Carriage Commune:
The whole carriage was like a commune, for two days everybody would eat and sleep together; sharing their lives with no barriers; sixty bunks to a carriage.

3. Meeting The Passengers:
Chee Lu was a 26 year-old medical graduate travelling to Shanghai for two week's holiday.

4. Why Go to Shanghai:
Two young girls were travelling to Shanghai on business. They worked in a Friendship store, but it took some effort to coax any English out of them.

5. First Stop at Huaihua:
The train had travelled for nearly nine hours before its first stop at Huaihua Shi.

6. Reveille to Piped Music:
By nine o'clock most of the morning greetings were over, the window seats were taken, and faces next to the glass watched a moving scene hardly change.

7. Jinhua to West Lake:
Fresh supplies were bought; a selection of biscuits, preserved prunes, cakes, Cola, and orange juice were passed around the hard-sleeper commune.

8. Approaching Shanghai:
People packed their bags, stored away remaining provisions, and the two girls coloured their faces; to the amusement of some of the wrinkled Mao survivors.

9. Visiting Suzhou:
I walked in some of the famous gardens before losing a couple of hours in the bazaar; the restaurant and trading area around the Taoist temple Xuanmiao Si.

10. Shanghai Character:
Couples went to the Yu Gardens and Wuxingting Teahouse to photograph each other; old men in blue to watch them and smile at the changing face of China.

11. Last Night in Shanghai:
It's rules and lack of initiative that plague the traveller trying to secure simple but essential things like accommodation and travel in China.

12. Shanghai to Beijing:
There appeared to be no queuing system in the ticket office and, like everything else in China, everyone pushed to get attended to first.

13. Ticket Office For Foreigners:
If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. The nineteenth-century proverb is so apt for buying train tickets in China; where persistence pays off.

14. Night Before Departure:
It is not advisable to wait until the night before departure to buy a train ticket in China, but in Shanghai I needed to take this route to reach Beijing.

15. One More Card to Play:
When we had the office to ourselves again, I finally secured a ticket to a town an hour away from Beijing. And after all my troubles, at a local price.

16. On The Train to Tianjin:
People on the platform at Wuxi scurried like ants in the sun. Barrows of food and drink were pushed under the noses of the more affluent passengers.

17. Nanjing & Yangtse River:
On the east bank of the Yangtse, Nanjing is famous for the overthrow of the Yuan Dynasty by a peasant rebellion led by Zhu Yuanzhang.

18. No Rest on Sunday:
It was Sunday, but men and women in straw-hats busied themselves in the fields, flailing rice and tying up the stems. Children helped too; carrying water.

19. Late Sleepers, Early Risers:
I struggled to sleep again; the old man below me sucked and slurped his noodles. Even after I presumed him to have finished, he sucked at his teeth.

20. Arrival in Tianjin:
I had a telephone number of a girl in Tianjin, so I thought I might as well spend the day in town before catching an evening train on to Beijing.

22. Family Sun:
Family Sun lived on the fourth floor of a concrete block. He greeted his neighbours with his foreign pet close at heel, they looked up and smiled at me.

23. Next Stop, Beijing:
The Tianjin waiting room was like a cattle station. Passengers for various trains waited in allocated rows behind metal gates.

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