No reservations, part 2

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At a little after 5pm I arrived at Beijing West Train Station to begin my adventure.
After a bit, one of my traveling companions arrived, and we decided to grab a quick meal at KFC before boarding the train. We had tickets for the overnight train to Pingyao. Or at least some of us did. The ticket agent was apparently unable to get us four tickets to Pingyao, so we had two tickets (yingwo or hard sleeper) to Pingyao, and two only as far as another city partway.

We met up with our other companions on the train and immediately sought out the conductor to try to remedy our situation. We stretched the truth a bit and played the “stupid foreigner didn’t buy the right tickets” angle, and she had mercy on us and found us another pair of beds for the whole trip.
In this class, there are six bunks three high in each area, with no door or curtain between them and the corridor. Some of the cars don’t have the partial wall at the end of the bed, and instead have a ladder up the outside.

We sat together and talked for a while in the place where two of us had tickets. Each car has an attendant who comes around and matches up your ticket with a little card for your berth. What we didn’t know is that if you’re not at your berth (so the card for it is still in the attendant’s book), they will give your bed to the next person on the waiting list. So when it came time for two of us to go to the beds in the other car, we found them occupied. Which meant another trip to see the conductor. She managed to come through again. I ended up in the top bunk in a different section than the others. It’s kind of a challenge to get up there, and there’s not much room once you’re there – certainly not enough to sit up.

The cars are not heated, and it’s actually cooler on the top because of the vent in the ceiling. But I slept pretty well, and oddly enough, dreamed of trains.

Continue to part 3.

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