China by train – Chengdu to Beijing D318
It will be fair to say, that after our last China train experience, we are a bit apprehensive about our second attempt. It took us a whole day of running around, disappointment and frustration until we got our hands on those 4 pinkish small papers that said we HAVE seats on a train from Chengdu to Beijing. Golden papers, no, priceless in the high travel season with another billion or so people.
This time we are not going on a K train, not, not…not. We had agreed on sticking to the T, Z and D trains, which are supposed to be modern and comfortable. And now, with our pink tickets to the D318 train, we are making our way to the enormous station.
The experience is cattle-like: shove, shove, shove, funnel through the tiny entry where your tickets are checked so you can enter…scoot, scoot, unload your bags onto the security scanning machine, while being shoved by a river of people behind, sweat pouring off your forehead…walk through the security check and attempt to shove some human bodies to dig out your heavy bags, while trying to keep an eye on the children…more sweat, Miss Fab is pinned down to the machine, warning, warning, shove more people, push them horrible bodies, grab her hand and save her. With bags back on our backs we start walking again only to be funneled again, this time for hand patting down, which is quite pleasant mind you, and respectful, unlike when you get groped in the US.
And then we are free. We made it! Now we follow the river of people that is going to the big hall where different train passengers are collecting. We find where our train gathers its load and sit down.It feels heavenly.
My heart still sinks when I think of what our seats are going to be. To save some money we bought “soft seater” ones, but when we checked online, we couldnt find the characters that describe our class at all. They certainly didnt look like what was shown as soft seater. So now, resting in the waiting hall, we still dont really know what in the world we will be traveling on. Jokes of no seat cars start flowing around, or hanging class or who knows what other horrible option. But then the gates open and we make our walk and the moment we see the train, huge grins start to hide our sweaty faces.
Whatever it is, it couldnt be worst than our last ride.
“Its NEW!” – I exclaim, my stride is quicker now, the bag not so heavy.
“Its Air-conditioned!” – I dont even feel the Dod in my arms, life is good.
“Its..SOUND PROOF!” – Miss Fab chirps from behind me and now I am laughing out loud.
We probably look like complete weirdos, screaming like that at the now almost empty platform, but we dont care, we are busy admiring our ride.
As soon as we enter, I know this train must be from another world altogether. Its clean, it smells nice and the wonderful feeling of cool air soothes my burning skin and most importantly a big heavy rock falls off my heart and I can relax that the next 15 hours will not be added to the horror list of our journey.
There are purple flowers on the uniforms of the women that push the snacks trolleys.
There is temperature and light control for each cabin. TV monitor for each bunk. For each bunk.
Sensor controlled sinks and paper that never runs out.
Bunks, I did say bunks, because it turns out that we have soft-sleeper seats, which means that they use the soft-sleeper cars (4 bunks per compartment) for seating arrangements. So instead of 4 sleepers, they sell them as 6 seater ones – 3 on each bottom beds and the top bunks are used for the luggage.
It feels like we had died and gone to heaven and if you have read our last train ride in China, you will know and understand why.
Across us are a mom and her 10 year old son, as well as a young man who is a friend of the family. They know enough English for us to have some conversation.
The movies on offer on those flashy flat screens are all either Chinese, or English ones that are dubbed and subbed in Chinese. We figure that our new purchase of Toy Story III is actually subbed in Chinese and setup our own movie screening that could be enjoyed by all. I forgot to mention that there are convenient electric plugs available that make all of this possible.
And more time passes on this very quiet, comfortable, cool train.
Later on we put the bags on the floor and enjoy the soft sleepers, although a bit cramped – Mr Blab and Little B on the top, and me, the Dod and Miss Fab on the bottom. Still its way better than trying to sleep on seats, as we had prepared ourselves for.
The Dod is out in a flash and doesnt budge til the morning. Miss Fab takes her corner at the other end of the bunk and rests quietly on her “pillow” consisting of a scarf filled with rain jackets, and I hear her muster “I dont need any more space, thats all I need…” and I love her for it, it tugs at my parental pride every time she shows such maturity and comfort in simplicity. I take my spot, leaning on the electronic bag and with legs over Mr. Blab’s backpack and so the night passes.
In the morning, only the sun hidden by the dirty air hints at our closeness to Beijing.