AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Our destination was Kunming which is 3000km south of Beijing. To get there we could fly, which is expensive or get the train. Plenty of online companies offer to buy you a ticket for a fee but that’s only five days in advance and we wanted to go in two. We arrived in Beijing at 14.08 on Monday 13th. We navigated to our hostel and after changing and getting that all essential internet fix we once again headed for the subway towards Beijing West Railway Station. Beijing West is not geared towards tourists as the trains there head to Southern China to the less touristy areas. This means the ticket kiosks are in Mandarin. However, between us we figured it out and due to the friendly and helpful nature of the clerk booked 2 tickets on the sleeper in the middle bunk to Kunming. (See other post on Beijing for more). We arrived at Beijing West on Wednesday 13th an hour before the train. We followed the crowd through the security check and thanks to ‘The Man in Seat 61’ we knew we needed to head for the allocated waiting room, which was numbered on the huge departure board as you came off the escalators. Entering the waiting room is an experience in itself. For a start it is huge. China has the most rail passengers in the world; that was clear as we stood waiting for the train. There were people everywhere, there must have been a few thousand! Thirty minutes before the train departed the display with English subtitles changes from ‘waiting’ to ‘boarding’ alongside a platform number. The best thing about this system is that unlike UK rail stations, Chinese Rail runs like an airport with the waiting area outside the platform. We booked the hard sleeper car. After looking at photos of the hard seat online we decided to pay more for a bed since we would have 2 nights (a total of 37 hours) on the train. In hard sleeper there are six open bunks and a ladder at the end facing onto the walkway. At the side of the walkway there are some seats, a (very) small table and bin. A carpet runs along the length of the corridor with overhead storage. The squat toilets are at the end of the corridor with three washbasins. It is fairly clean but there is absolutely no privacy unlike soft sleeper which has four beds in an enclosed cabin. Once you find your bunk and put your stuff away the attendant exchanges your ticket for a plastic card. We think the card had a WiFi password...

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