More Day 5: Leaving on that Midnight Train to Xi’an

An introduction to the last-minute overnight train ride in China.

  • Be sure to assume you won’t have trouble getting tickets.  If possible, wait until the day before you want to leave before you try to get the tickets.  This will create the following interesting results:
    • You’ll have to join a two-day Xi’an tour in Mandarin in order to get train tickets.  Therefore you won’t have any idea what is going on while in Xi’an.
    • One traveler may have to use a bunk in an entirely different train car than his friends, leaving him feeling abandoned and alone.
    • That same traveler may be stuck on the uppermost third bunk, which has about two feet of clearance to the ceiling.  This is hard for the traveler when he is six feet three inches tall.
    • That lonely bunk will be right next to the bathroom, giving the traveler the opportunity for a lot of interesting smells and sounds.
  • Any self-respecting Chinese train-traveler boards a train with two things, both of which make use of the boiling water dispenser that is located in between each train car: 1) a plastic water bottle for tea, and 2) a Bucket-o-Noodles for every meal spent on the train.
    • If you are not Chinese, and don’t want to be drinking boiling hot tea while on a hot train on a hot day, the water bottle should be replaced with several large bottles of distilled water.
    • Bucket-o-Noodles are similar to the Nissin Cup-o-Noodles you ate every day in college, and they can be found in any store or stand near the train station.  The main difference are that they contain about 5 times as much noodles, and require a more surgical preparation of opening several packets of sauce, seasonings, and sometimes lard.  Also it comes with a cool collapsible fork.
  • An American tourist may feel it necessary to bring any assortment of other snacks, peanuts, cookies, and wafers in addition to the Bucket-o-Noodles.  They should be welcome to do so.  In another installment of Butchered English On T-Shirts (And Some Other Places Too)!!!, there is a brand of wafer cookies that promotes itself as “The Taste Fashion.”  Some travelers may find it to be too flavorless to have such a desperately sophisticated tagline.
  • You should prepare yourself to be spending a lot of time laying down because you are too tall to sit on your bunk.  Also, be prepared to have the tv next to your head blaring all night long, and the air conditioner turn on after dark and stay on all night.  You’ll be so close to the ceiling that it will be a constant cold wind against your unprotected body.  Your body will be unprotected because the sheets on your bunk will be unchanged from when the last passenger slept in them.  Despite all this, it will still be fun because it is your first overnight train ride in China.
  • When the sun begins to peek through the drapes in the morning, expect all the men (and women) in your train car to walk by you on their way to the bathroom horking up all the stuff on the insides of their throats and mouths.
  • In the morning, as you approach Xi’an, you may meet some interesting people.
    • You may meet William, a Chinese high school student excited about practicing his English who will write his phone number in your Battered Leather Journal.  You miiiiight promise to call him sometime to hang out in Xi’an and then fail to do so, proving his suspicions that all Americans are liars.
    • You may also meet some ultra douche bag American living in Beijing who thinks studying Spanish is the pinnacle of laziness, even though his Mandarin sucks.  You might take offense, having minored in Spanish in undergrad and lived in Costa Rica for seven months.
  • Unwashed, unrested, you exit the train station to embark on the most befuddling day of your life on the Xi’an tour conducted in Mandarin.

Kristy contemplates the view.  Notice the big bottle of water, Bucket-o-Noodles, and cool collapsible fork.

Triple bunks on the train.

Crowded on the top bunk.  “The Taste Fashion” is sitting behind me.


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