Bad Planning for a Train Ride in China Turns Into a Life Changing Experience
Travelling is a big part of my life I have been doing it since I have my memory, so with that much amount of experience doing it and living in China for over two years my parents decided to come visit me to spend some quality time with their son and at the same time enjoy all the great things that China has to offer.
It was the middle of the summer, I was living in Guilin a very well-known and popular city in the south east part of the country, and it belongs to Guang Xi province which neighbors with Vietnam. I lived there for nearly 3 years and at the same time traveling around China was something that I really did enjoy while I was studying and learning more and more about the culture of all of the different provinces and cities.
That summer time I was travelling before to some northern provinces and to tell you the truth I was very submerge in the whole traveler experience but at the same time feeling like a local, it is hard to explain but for those who have spent some time abroad under a very influential culture and lifestyle will know this feeling.
So there was I returning from Beijing with a just a little time to do some laundry and repack my bags to get back on the road, in less than forty eight hours I had my rout set back to the north, where it was arranged to expect my parents arrival in Shang Hai. They were coming from Hong Kong after twenty seven hours of prior flying from Costa Rica. This journey is a very fun and thrilling one but also is very tired and consumes you physically and mentally if you are not prepared.
So the clock was ticking and I was less than fifteen hours of boarding the train, honestly I was very excited to see my folks again after that long and the thrill was that much that I did not mind the fact, that when I went to buy the ticket there was only ¨hard seat¨ available. My aim was to get a soft or hard sleeper, when the guy at the ticket booth starts laughing and my crazy ideal of being so sure that I was going to get a bed on that train made me realized that it was summer time. The worst time to buy tickets in such short time… At the beginning I was dealing with denial that it could not be possible not to find a sleeper spot, eventually paid for the hard seat which in high season it is also very expensive compared to other seasons of the year if you do not buy them ahead of time.
Some of my friends had a great time laughing at the fact that I was going to spend around twenty seven hours or so sitting on a very hard plastic bench from Guilin to Shan Hai. It is not that bad really but if we analyze the whole structure of the situation you will picture my scene in detail. Riding that many hours at the end is really not that bad, I can get up and walk around, stretch my legs in between the train cars, and also there is plenty of thing you can do in these situations; such as reading a book, write on your journal, practice your language skills with other passengers, etc… there are plenty of things to do.
So there was I armed of good thoughts towards the new adventure to a different city, traffic was terrible that day and trying to get in time to the station was really an act of survival. People were very hasty on the streets and there were cars all over more than usual, but I did it! Made it in time to board the train, it was pretty easy regarding how I moved fast to get there, I was carrying only a small carry on size suitcase and my backpack.
One thing that I can still remember like if it would have been yesterday was that insane scorching heat I started to feel as soon as I sat and the train began to move along the tracks. Nothing to bad I said to myself, I am wearing comfortable fresh clothes and there is a lot of space inside the train car. By that time I was sitting alone in the hard seat bench that allows to fit two persons and in front of me there is a small table and another two person hard bench.
It was soon when the train did its first stop, people started to come in to the train car and soon too I had people filling it until all the sits were taken, that I was expecting, even more because it was summer time and many people take time off to travel around China too. Now I started to write on my travel journal and keeping it up to date with all the thing that happened before going to Shang Hai, and time flies but just sometimes not as fast as you wish to.
I fell asleep for a while in my sitting position and against the window frame, a few hours passed by and I a woke to realize that we were stopping to let more people come in, did not give much of importance at that time because first I was still kind of drowsy and second I thought by the fact that all the seats were taken in car we could not lodge more people inside. How wrong could I have been there in that context? Now… well now I laugh at that peculiar scene that could have just been taken out from comedy movie.
Soon the train was more than full and there was people sitting in the floor and even in between the train cars pass ways, by now I have been sitting for at least seven or eight hours. To give an idea of how full it was, when I had to take a bathroom break took me like twenty minutes to actually get inside the restroom, that knowing that it was probably like ten meters away.
Another factor comes in to play, hunger!!! That day was running to get in time to train station so that implies that I did not have any time to buy any food to get with me on the train, just a small plastic bottle of water that was in my backpack, merely because that is something that is always with me. When I sat first on the train said to myself that I was going to get out in one of the stops an purchase something to eat, usually what you buy on those stops are dehydrated noodles soup, chicken legs or fruit.
When I saw how long it took me to get to the restroom I knew that if I got out of the train to buy something I was not going to be able to go back into that train, so I stayed put and did not go out on any stop. Other choice was to go to the dining car and buy something, it tends to be somehow a little more expensive but it was worth it. When I asked where was the dining car and then to realize that it was like nine cars in front of my, all of my hope of getting a bite to eat vanished instantly off my face.
My bad planning took a hit on me that day but it was not long until I remember to put in practice the traveler manual to that scene. I started to make the best of that case, met some new people who were sitting in front and besides to me; can say that it started to get better at that point. If you get frustrated you will only start drowning in your own bitterness and bad mood, instead try to learn something from that situation.
In the conversation with those nice persons that were actually really interested In know more about who I was and what I was doing in that train, in a hard seat and not in a fancy soft sleeper. I must have made an impression to them because did not take long until I was engaging in all kind stories and jokes with them, at the point where they even shared their food with me as part of their family, something that will not happen in any other similar situation in other country or city ever.
I must confess that from that point out time did flew away and soon I we were arriving to Shang Hai, leaving only all the good memories of that nice time that I had with a bunch of very nice persons inside that train. After all buying that hard seat ticket was not a bad thing, actually it was one of the best train rides that I ever had in my life, and there was no fancy or luxurious accommodations, no expensive food or a really comfortable place to be in. But the fact that I got to meet new people, interact with them and feel as part of the group as long as we were confined in that train made it all worth it.
Life runs fast and this moments that we live without planning are sometimes the ones that make it all a great experience and unforgettable.
Would I do it again? The answer is yes, without any doubt about it.