25th May train ride day.
We were both worried the first time we decided to travel by overnight train. We had heard lots of rumours and various stories about people doing rude and wonderful things,not so wonderful in one case of doing there business in a bucket. Stuck in a confined room with someone and there former breakfast doesn’t fall into fun for anyone.. Hopefully.
After the previous saga with the train from Shenzhen to yingde not happening at all because of being sold the wrong ticket for the wrong day, we decided it would be best if we travelled early to the station in order to get the tickets we had ordered and paid for online. So there could not be any confusion we used a service provider who ordered the correct tickets for us a few days before and of course spoke perfect Chinese and English. We had a E number to show the ticket counter and we were able to get our tickets without any fuss.
One of the best things about China so far has been how cheap the taxis have been a hour or so journey over say a 100 kilometres is around £10 English pounds.
We had the correct address and name if the station, Hangzhou east in Chinese and the taxi driver new exactly what we were after so off we went. The taxis here are old and dated, bent and buckled but perfectly useable, if you ignore the lack of seat belts in the back.
What seemed like a non stop start and stop ride through countless traffic lights and people using there car horns for no apparent reason we arrived at the train station. Hangzhou north. Confused we showed a police man the iPad with the train station address and he gestured us to walk around. Turning the corner after a 5 minute walk and there was Hangzhou East. The same building just labelled different. It made no sense as it was all one giant atrium and everyone left from the same terminal.
Queuing to board the train nice ordinary line of mixed nationals? No, people Make there way to the front by what ever means and directions they possibly could. We have come to understand that this is the norm in china but still kind of grates on you.
Carrying the bags onto the train and moving towards our carriage, everything in china is done in a way that is easy to understand, carriage 11 beds 23 and 24. We opted to pay the extra but if cash for a soft sleeper. Main reason was that the doors could be locked and that the smoking rooms were not in the open and could be shut off so no fumes and of course our camera gear and possessions could be stowed away correctly and safely.
We bordered with one other Chinese man, he spoke very few words in English about as many as we know in Chinese. He made it known to us though via pointing and grunts and moans that we were on his bed. 24 top bunk, we tried to explain that can’t be right and he then went off and got someone who could speak English to explain that we had it wrong. Upon showing our tickets to the English speaking Chinese man he informed us that we had the correct beds and that the man was wrong. Wrong to the extent he was on the wrong train at the wrong time. He only found this out when the women who exchanges your ticket for a bed token made him aware and quickly made him leave the train at the next stop.
Next stop? We assumed it would be a straight through train without stops, this wasn’t the case people would board the train all night and we would have 2 other people board the train and share the room with us, one was a young women around 26 who talked constantly on her phone at the top of her voice. Which after a while she must of seen it was to loud and walked outside the carriage room and spoke outside.
The next women was older, more out of breath and struggling to move her bags. She couldn’t place them into the storage boxes and decided it would be best to out them under the table. Which was fine as no one was sitting there. On the trains there’s four bunks per room, everyone sits on the lower bunks during the day and makes there way to the beds in the evening. By climbing up. The older women had the top bunk which must of made things difficult. She crawled up and decided that the duvets and pillows for the rest of the people in the carriage were for her. Using them to make her trip a comfy one and quickly falling asleep.we didn’t like the idea of using a pillow which stopped her bum from grating to the bars anyways.
The train had to travel 1060 odd kilometres. Maximum speed never seemed to be to fast and the train meandered and crept along the tracks. It’s a wonderful feeling to not feel rushed or in a need to get somewhere fast, the stars and clouds in the evening were bright daytime there was plenty of scenery to stare at and that made the 19 hours train ride seem fast or at least give the false appearance of being fast.
People exited the train at various hours the old women deciding that she needed her suitcase from under the table now without asking for help to move when pulling her suitcase out smacked me (kraig) in the head
Arriving at zhangjiajie station a women came and exchanged our tokens for our original tickets and informed us that the next stop was ours. Which was extremely helpful as we only had a rough time scale to rely on.
Leaving the station we made our way to the taxi rank and showed them the address of the hotel of course they didn’t understand the location or road name, it was lucky Someone was listening and walked over to help, speaking very few words of English and snatching the iPad from my hand he said do your trust me, we both sort of agreed and he told the taxi driver were to go. We got in and eventually arrived at the hotel.
The problem was the hotels name is called shanke you hotel. But is signposted and the logo of the outside says thank you hotel. Neither the less it was thanks to the man for us getting there. Some people can obviously be more trustworthy then they appear. We both understand that judging a book by its cover is not always the best policy but after all we only have each other here.
Our room was clean fresh and had a large circle bed taking up most of the room. Perfect, and was a upgrade to our original booking.