Have you ever found yourself in a situation you desperately wanted to leave, but were stuck? For a whole 19 hours? We made the fatal mistake of assuming that Chinese trains would be the same as the lazy, calm, long distance Russian Trains. What followed was the train from hell...
So, we were in Shanghai ready for the final stint of our 50 day train journey from London. Officially train veterans now, we were seemingly well prepared and excited to make our way to Hong Kong.
At the station hours early, well stocked with snacks, with all our tickets printed and ready to go. How hard could it be right?
The Dreaded Security
As the departure time approached, the departure hall began to get busier and busier. More and more people filled the formerly serene seats around us and the noise began to reverberate inside my head.
As I said before in 5 Reasons Why China is Fucking Mental (For A Westerner), I was suffering from some culture shock and was starting to reach the end of my tether.
After we put our big bags through security scanners for what seemed like the 100th time, we joined the end of a very long queue to board the train. The literal horde of people, all desperately trying to get home for the Chinese New Year, were crammed against the entrance. People were pushing and vying to get in front of everyone else. There was shouting, there was commotion.
There was a general lack of orderliness that I found deeply annoying.
We stepped back from the queue and voluntarily waited at the end; uneager to enter the fray and step onto the train from hell.
And why would we? We had our bunks written out clearly on our ticket. Why race to the front of the queue, when we had assigned spaces waiting for us?
The Gauntlet Begins
Soon enough, the gates opened and the competition of who could set foot on the train first began. We watched for a time before reluctantly resigning to the fact we would have to join in. Despite being one of the last to join the rush we were still subjected to the customary barging, cutting up and use of weaponised suitcases.
We quickly find our carriage and bypass a woman having trouble with the ticket man. We sail on and begin the search for our bunks.
It was utter carnage.
The train was full of people with over sized suitcases filling the corridors, making it almost impossible to navigate through. As we slowly meandered our way through the sea of people we notice, to our horror, that the beds are three on top of each other.
This is totally common for the lower class hard sleepers, it was just our lack of research. But hey, no biggy. We have our assigned bunks.
We reach our carriage and it’s full of people trying to manoeuvre big heavy bags in a tiny space. There is zero room for me to enter so I just wait patiently. Whilst we wait, we try and work out which bunks belong to us.
But, they’re not numbered. Or lettered. Or differentiated in any way…
That’s when it dawned on us!
The reason why everyone was fighting to get on first was because the bunks WERE NOT assigned! If you got to your cabin last, you were destined for the lofty heights of the top bunk. Not a big deal for us to be honest, but a little old lady with mobility problems and you see their issue. It all began to make a little more sense!
Of course, this didn’t change the fact I was trapped in the corridor with no way to enter the cabin or get out of the way.
Cue crazy woman.
Crazy woman who we had bypassed a little earlier on. Crazy woman was clearly someone who was not up for sleeping in the top bunk. I get it, it’s a climb. There’s not much space, it’s hard to get to and it’s impossible to sit up. This train is literally the train from hell…
…I get it
Yet this woman somehow thought it appropriate to physically push me in order to get me to move. She was literally ramming me with her shoulder and shoving me with her hands. I tried to ignore her. I gestured at the obviously full cabin in the hope she had it in her to wait for the mere minute it would take for them to sort themselves out. Desperately, I hoped she would understand that no matter how much I wanted to move, it wasn’t an option right now.
She was not having it. At. All.
I resorted to loudly and quite angrily, snapping in her face to stop. A message that would I am sure, have gotten through any kind of language barrier. Yet she still vigorously persisted. There was nothing I could do, stand there and wait. Infuriating is not even close!
The Looooong Journey
So after escaping the now incredibly irate old lady, we clambered up to the top bunks, rammed our luggage into the tiny little rack above the door and breathed a sigh of relief. Sadly, the relief was short lived.
James made a trip to the toilet and dismally reported that they were squat toilets. I can only imagine how disgusting they were because I never actually saw them. I deliberately didn’t drink enough water so I wouldn’t need to use them. Successful as I was, it did mean that I drank minimal water for close to 19 hours, which was not fun. Welcome to the train from hell!
Then we had the joys of being the only foreigners on this absolutely full to the brim train. Not a problem in most situations. However, as foreigners can be openly stared at in disbelief in China, things can become uncomfortable. And uncomfortable it was.
I did not leave my bunk the entire trip!
Mercifully, the loud boisterous atmosphere of the train died down as soon as lights were off at 11pm, allowing us time to sleep in peace. However, the lights are turned back on again at 7am. Unnecessary given light from the sun is ample enough. Unfortunately for us, our heads were directly next to the extremely bright fluorescent lights, making for a very unpleasant awakening.
So much for a lie in!
As if the train from hell could get any worse, the shouting started. I have observed that Chinese people can be very loud when they talk. It has never really affected me before so it was never something I took much notice of.
However, when lying on a bunk, vehemently trying to get back to sleep, this loud talking can become quite aggravating. Ear plugs didn’t even work. Like cockerels crowing with the sun, the train began to fill with the shouts of people. If I could understand the language I am sure I would have been able to effortlessly listen in on multiple different conversations.
I officially given up on getting any more sleep by 8am. Quickly, I realised that I would be on this train for at least the next 5 hours.
I could have cried!
The last few hours were a blur of dehydrated, drowsy nothingness. I spent it trying to block out the racket going on around me.
And wishing I had splashed out on a private cabin…
Have you ever had a similar experience? Whats the worst journey you’ve ever had to make?
Let me know in the comments section!
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