Spring Break - Day 5 and 6.
China Midnight Train Ride from Hell
As stated in an earlier post, Day 5 started with us taking an unexpectedly long train ride from Dali to Kunming. Eight or nine hours later, we arrived in Kunming and immediately inquired at the train station about a late train to Guilin. We figured we’d be able to relax in Kunming for the evening, then board the night train and sleep for part of the next 18 hour ride to Guilin. It turned out that the only train lo Guilin was leaving in less than two hours. Even worse, there was only one hard sleeper left which meant two of the three of us would have to bear the journey on a hard seat. We accepted the circumstance, bought our tickets, and rushed to find dinner before boarding time.
Kunming was cloudy, grey, and lacked the friendly locals that Chengdu is known for. We picked a restaurant close to the station, only to find that the food was ridiculously overpriced (to locals and foreigners alike) and was served by exceptionally inhospitable men. We chose our dishes out of a cart whose heat lamps warmed the aesthetically displeasing food. While doing so, a local man came up to me and starting pulling at my arm aggressively and awkwardly. Needless to say, our dinner was gross, uncomfortable, and irritating.
We rushed back to the train station to take our seats and formulated a plan to keep our sanity in tact. For those that aren’t aware, a hard sleeper is a mattress on a three section bunk bed. The train’s small compartments has two of these three part bunk beds - each compartment has six beds each. We decided that we would trade off every few hours so that we could each get a few hours of sleep… our plan did not work.
Somaya and I took to the seats first, while Mary slept in the hard sleeper. After shift one, Mary ventured ten carriages over to the seat section to trade with me. She said it felt like she had ventured into the poorest section of the Titanic.
Our plan to continue trading off failed miserably as the train attendants were rude, uncooperative, and unwilling to let us switch spots. This resulted in Somaya and I sitting in the seat section for the greater majority of the ride, where it’s freezing cold and smells of sweaty hair, dirty socks, and billows of stagnant smoke courtesy of China’s many chain smokers.
We estimated that we would arrive in Gulin by Noon the next day. When 11:30AM rolled around, I was anxious and excited to jolt out of those train’s doors with promises to never meet again. When 11:31AM arrived, we were told the train was actually not to arrive for another three hours… if ever in my life I’ve known depression, it may have been at 11:31AM. >_>
I didn’t take any pictures during said train ride, as my hostility and irritation prevented me from engaging in conversation or photography. I’ll always have my journal though, in which vicious updated were periodically penned.
Eventually (one decent but cramped 8 hour train ride, an uncomfortable 2 hour break, and another horrible 21 hour train ride later) we tiredly and gladly abandoned those train tracks in search of comfort. In efforts to leave you on a more positive note, pictured is our first purchase in Guilin. Mary bought us these coconuts, which were imported from Hainan. These were fantastic.
Next up: bamboo rafts, water buffalo, and better days on the last days of break.