The sleeper train from Beijing to Xi'an
Xi'an Travel Blog› entry 4 of 8 › view all entries
We got to the station way too early intending to put our bags in a locker then head off to see more sights. Beware of dodgy dudes who try and pull you away from the official cheap lockers (Y15 for about three hours, and possibly longer that's just how long we used it!!) to their own lockers or worse! After securing the bags we thought we'd check out the melee of the station waiting rooms and concourses which is hard to describe unless you've seen it. Rather than suitcases or backpacks the preferred mode of luggage in China is the good ol' cardboard box tied up with string and second hand sticky tape. Not only that it seems the Chinese travel in the style of Mariah Carey, that is they have dozens of boxes each. You need to leave your western sensibilities at home and scrum down, push, shove and barge your way through a clown. Before you leave home practice hacking up phlegm and perfect the art of the long slow spit to the ground (indoor or outdoor is fine, carpets also no problem!!) and you'll fit right it.
You'll notice from our blogs so far that we've stayed away from the subject of toilets. That's just how we'll leave it just saying that is enough. What we will say is that you'll be walking down the street here and suddenly you'll be engulfed in a mystery cloud of sewer smells so pungent that you can taste it. Eeeerrrgh! No wonder you see so much vomit on the street!
Sorry if this sounds derrogatory, and there is some amazing sweeping work being done by the hoards of ladies with twig brooms but really the tide is against them.
Anyway, we digress, back to the train station.
We wandered upstairs and found an internet cafe. You have to give your passport to the stern lady at the desk. Choose a computer (carefully as the first three we tried didn't work) and then expect to be watched quite closely as you wait for a page to load. You really can't call it surfing the net at these speeds, maybe paddling the net or dipping a toe in the net would be more apt. To make sure the soldiers, secret police and army who patrol by can see exactly what you are waiting for there are mirrors behind you which allow them to wait for your page to load too. So much fun. An hour and a half and close to nervous exhaustion at the frustration we left. Lesson learned.
To the waiting room and an aborted attempt to play backgammon later (as it's not a game the Chinese seem familiar with it draws too much attention, and not speaking Chinese trying to explain the rules of backgammon without verbal communication, well that's a game in itself!!) and we were finally on the train. We were in a compartment with two Chinese gentlemen who seemed quite pleased to have two curious foreigners to entertain them for the journey. As we pulled off we all hunkered down to our respective meals, beers and snacks. It didn't take long for the first efforts at communication. It turned out that they were both Railway Police officers, off duty and on their way to their home city of Lanzhou in Western China. They insisted on buying us beers and forced Adam to drink a 56% proof clear alcohol drink which was as lovely as it sounds but wouldn't let Steph touch it as she's a lady. Charming!! Little did they know that it's Adam that's the lady compared to Steph in the drinking stakes. As the evening wore on they co-opted the only english speaking train attendant into the compartment to translate which was actually really cool. We both had a great evening and at 9.30 just when we were starting to worry about how long it would all go on they suddenly said "sleep" and that was that! The night went by relatively quickly the rocking of the train is lovely as you sleep and all things considered we had a reasonable night.
Arriving in Xi'an we had no idea where to go or what to do as it was 7:20 in the morning. A Chinese guy came up to us and thinking it was yet another dodgy taxi driver we kind of, no we did give him the brush off. Turned out he was from our hostel and was at the station on the off chance we'd be on that train. Feeling guilty we went to a nearby hostel where we had to wait for about 45 minutes for another couple, Paula and Steve who were on the plusher Z series train behind our humble T series. Same price but the Z is more modern and with better service. Once at the hostel we were very happy with it. It's a really old building and very beautiful. Hopefully one day we'll get to upload some pictures!!!