Beauties of train travel

Lanzhou Travel Blog

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After the freezing morning I went to Kuqa's train station in a hope to buy a ticket to "as far east as possible". I learned, with a little joy, that there is a direct train from Kuqa to Lanzhou that departs at 22:53 (thus I would have to kill a day in Kuqa ) and that arrives in Lanzhou at 11am. Good, to spend only 12 hours in a overnight train was a piece of cake for me. "A hard seat, please" I shouted to the lady behind the counter whose face suddenly showed a litttle amuzement. "Why's that?" I asked myself and walked out from the train station. But only after 30meters my, perhaps still frozen, brain realized that the distance between Kuqa and Lanzhou is about 2400km and there is no way the train could make it within 12hours. "Ohh, my God, it must be 36hours and I have a hard seat"...I was about to return to the train station to get an upgrade to a hard sleeper when I realized that I should really see and personally EXPERIENCE the same travel conditions in which many poor Chinesse people travel accross huge distances because this is only what they can afford. So I kept my Hard Seat ticket and was "looking forward" to the journey.

I can tell you now, never again! :-) The train number 2662 being the lowest quality class train in China offers, well, not much. In every carriage, you can find over 120 places to sit and if you are lucky you will have your fellow passengers sitting either to your right or to your left. I've got an unlucky ticket so I found myself squeezing in between two Chinesse people on a 1.5 meter long bench. A bench and a bench backrest, both being plain and unshaped, were attached to each other in a mighty angle of 90 degrees!!! In every normal carriage/train, there's a drinkable water boiling machine which can give you hot water instantly but we had only a 50l container that was filled up with hot water by carriage attendants only twice a day.....100l of water for 120 people a day is not much given huge water consumption for instant noodles,.... and that's why the container was emptied as soon as 30minutes after its "entree". Even poor Chinesse people like their mobile phones, now with abilities to play music - LOUDLY. It's not unusual to listen to 10 various songs being played on maximum volume in your carriage at 2am! I could overcome all of that but there was one little component that killed my patience. Namely, our carriage had no heating!!! Aaaaaaagh,we all were freezing and at 4am it became so unbearable that I had to opt for a warming-up walk. My mp3 player was playing Michael Jackson's song at the time so if you have never danced to his songs on a Chinesse train in between carriages in order to get warmer....I now can say I have!!! :-)...My little night expedition of the train discovered that 3 carriages behind the ours had the same climatic conditions, however, that the carriage in front of us offers a certain level of warmth. I didn't hesitate and stayed in there standing for few hours. At around 6am, I noticed a number of frozen zombies coming in from my carriage....Only at 9am we could all return to our places because the sun just started to do his job....and I knew one thing, there's one more night to survive. We arrived in Lanzhou on time the following morning and I was happy to spend the whole day sleeping as I haven't slept properly for the last 3 nights...

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photo by: portia