(written August 4, 2006)
It took me a while to figure out where to buy my tickets. At first, I asked and was sent in the wrong direction. Finally at the ticket sales area, I had to ask which line was for Shanghai, as the signs were only in Chinese. Half of the line-ups were VERY long, the other half were very short. A guard directed me to one of the shorter lines. I confirmed with a person in the line that it was for tickets for Shanghai. There was a big argument going on between some of the people in line in front of me and the woman behind the counter. I’ve no clue what it was about, but there was quite a bit of yelling going on, and it lasted quite a while. When I finally did get to the counter, I asked for a ticket for Shanghai. She asked if the 7:15 train was okay. And showed me the screen. The ticket said 7 Yuan. I asked if it was a soft seat ticket. She said, “No soft seat.” I asked if it was possible to get a soft seat ticket. She said, “No soft seat.” I paid the 7 Yuan and got my ticket. There was no specified seat on the ticket, very different from my 24 Yuan soft seat ticket that morning. Getting worried…
I was hungry and so headed for the KFC that is conveniently located mid station. The place was overflowing. There wasn’t much of a line-up to order, but once I got my food, I had nowhere to sit. People were standing around with their trays, waiting for others to finish and get up. I stood at the end of one counter until someone got up.
A couple of guys from Estonia ended up sitting in front of me, so we started chatting. They had been in the country for the day, on a tour of mostly foreigners. They were not sure how they ended up on that tour, but enjoyed it. They had been in China for 2 weeks, in Beijing and Shanghai. The next day they were heading for Hong Kong. Casper and Martin were their names. Martin is an actor (a “star”) in Estonia. Casper is a show writer. They were very interesting to talk to. A nice break from a day of hearing constant Chinese chatter. They had the same type of ticket as I did, only for a train at 8:15pm. I lost track of time a bit and was running late so I ended up not getting their email addresses. Oh well.
I went into the station to find my train. There were different waiting rooms for each train. There were so many people sitting around the waiting room for the train. I was wondering if they all had the same type of ticket. Then, a bell rang and the light started signaling that the train was on it’s way in. Everyone got up and started piling through the gates and over the gates. Deciding not to get left behind, I pushed my way along with the front of the people. The train was not there, so everyone just waited along the side. There were no marks as to where the doors would be, so everyone was a bit spread out. When the train did finally pull in, it was a rush to the doors. Everyone had to wait, though, to let people off the train. Then it was all pushing and shoving to get on. Being used to pushing and shoving in Korea, I was right there in the front pushing my own way on the train. I managed to get a seat at the window, in the right direction (going backwards would have made me sick). The seats were hard benches with high backs, facing each other around a little table. There was no air conditioning, and the fan above was not working. I think it was around 40 Celsius. NOT NICE. The train was so dirty and smelly. There were toilets at the ends of the cars. I didn’t venture to use one, but could smell them almost the entire trip. The train was so slow. When it was moving, it wasn’t so bad, as the windows were open and I had a bit of a breeze blowing on me. People were standing in the aisles and between cars. Everyone was hot and sweaty.
The train stopped in a place called Gun San (Gun Mountain) to let some people off and then kept going. Then it stopped. In the middle of nowhere. For no apparent reason. And sat there. And waited. And waited. There was no air movement at all, I felt like I was suffocating. Several trains passed, but our train didn’t move. Finally, about 45 minutes later, it was on its way again. When I finally did get to the Shanghai station, I was soooooooooo glad to be off that train. Pulling into the station, I questioned the girl beside me as to whether or not that was the last stop. She said yes. I asked because I had read that a lot of the trains stop at another station in Shanghai before the main one. It turns out that the girl spoke English quite well. She was from Xian, and was a university student studying International Trade. If I had known that sooner, the train ride might have been a bit more enjoyable. She was in Shanghai to visit her uncle. A friend met her at the station and they helped me find a taxi to take me to my hotel. (Some taxis said no, for some reason).
Xian is another place in China that I would really like to go. That is where the terracotta army is.
Boy was I happy to be back in my hotel room. I had a nice quick shower to scrub the train off of me and crawled into bed.