To Beijing – The Train Ride

I have a lot to say, so I’m going to try to do it in installments! Also, these are more straightforward what we did posts, without a lot of deep thought!

The second trip to Beijing in less than a week began on Friday afternoon as we tried to get a taxi into the city. For some strange reason, there was only one taxi, and its driver was nowhere to be seen. Eventually, we got a ride in a private car. (The legality of that is in question, but we did feel rather highfalutin’ being driven in a comfortable car!) We were four – DH and I, our friend from Spain, M., and of course, American T. I must say it was a really incredible feeling leaving Shijiazhuang. Other than my little trip to Beijing for the check-up, I had not left in 4 months. Finally – a chance to see more of China.

We took the afternoon train from Shijiazhuang, a trip that usually takes 3 to 4 hours. Trains criss-cross all of China and are a popular form of transportation. They say that just before Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) it is nearly impossible to even get a seat on a train or bus as the entire population travels to their hometowns to celebrate with family. There are different classes depending on the train route. On our route – considered VERY short, as some trains travel 20 to 30 to 50 hours from one end of China to the other – there were two classes, soft seat and hard seat. The difference being the amount of space and cushioning on the seats. We took soft seat and I was very comfortable.

I kept my eyes glued out the window for most of the ride. The views were similar to the highway views, except that we got a closer look at some of the villages. Granted I saw only flashes from the window of a train, but rural village life seemed pretty extreme, in some areas I saw what could be called hovels, and in others I saw simple brick homes. I was suprised to see a large number of graves, lining the edges of fields and in some cases, right in the middle of a planted field. They appear to be tall, rounded masses of dirt, sometimes with a marker and sometimes not. A Chinese friend told me that this is the way village people bury their loved-ones. Again, I am reminded of the immense population of China. We passed hundreds if not thousands of graves and hardly went a mile without encountering a small village.

The monotony of the trip was occasionally interrupted by a saleslady walking the aisle of the train. They sell assorted things – drinks, snacks, noodle-bowls, fruit, magazines and for some reason, socks. On the trip back, a woman gave a presentation on the merits of the socks she was selling for about 5 minutes.

We arrived at the Beijing West Train Station in the early evening. The station is fairly new and has lots of signs in English and Chinese. It has a very unique design, somewhere between traditional and modern.

Beijing West Train Station

I couldn’t wait to get into the city to see what it was like, but I was pretty disappointed that my cold just kept getting worse. My throat was killing me and I was starting to cough. I’m sure I was very charming company.

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