EPIC train journey (42 hours)
Trip Start Jul 28, 2009
51Trip End Jul 27, 2010
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Where I stayed
On a sleeper train
What I did
Not much, socialised etc as you do on a train
I know what your thinking “you’re mad for to go on a 40 hour train journey”, but its not as bad as you might think. You sleep for the vast majority of it. So think of it more as 20 hours on the train, which is still pretty bad when you compare it to joinery times in England, but this is China! (T.I.C). We met up with 4 others from the teach and travel teaching program, Rob Bostock (from Manchester), Kieron (Scottish), Anya (German) and Sebastian (German). So there was 6 of us in total, all sharing a cabin. The recipe for a good train journey is quality conversation, plenty of food and a good book (in my case, Billy Bryson and his travel tales ‘down under’, in preparation for Australia!)
The quality of conversation came from exchanging stories about teaching. This lasted for several hours, because obviously there was so much to talk about from our different experiences.
Although i had bought lots of snacks for the train journey, the best food that i had was what we called ‘station food’. Something that you don’t get in England, because we have co-ops and spars on every platform, whereas in China, when a train pulls up to the station, 20 women with food carts run to that platform selling all sorts of things. fruit, pot noodles and best of all cooked goods (bread mainly, but its a nice change from the sweet bread that we get down south which is more resembles cake). Elaborating, the bread down south is very sweet. Its not the best, so since I’ve been in China I’ve stopped eating as much bread as I did in England, because to put it simply, it’s disgusting!! As you head up the North of China they seemed to stop adding so much sugar and start to make it a more wheat based bread. I must have bought about 3 different types of bread on the way up to Hohhot, all of which getting slightly more savoury as we went further north.
I was in Heaven, munching on all the savoury bread that I could!
Unfortunately Im not a big reader, and never have been. In fact I've always thought it was a little uncool to read and instead have spent copious amounts of time on the xbox, pretty much spending a lot of time achieving nothing. However, now I’m seeing the benefits of reading. You can burn away hours of your jounrey with reading, which is exactly what you want on a long train journey. Reading generally kicks in once the quality of conversation dies off from teaching to less interesting subjects like relationships and people you don’t know.
Our arrival to Hohhot was quite special, we were due to arrive at 6.30 in the morning, so we woke up at 6 just to make sure that we didn't miss our stop (however in retrospect it we were terminating at Hohhot, but because of our collective lack of knowledge in Chinese, we weren’t quite sure where the train was going!). By the time we had woken up the sun was rising, and it was spectacular. A never-seen-before landscape to my eyes combined with warm sun rise oranges from the sun to compliment it, stunning stuff to say the least. What was also quite interesting was over night the physical environment had changed from what looked like large collectivised farms on flat land to rolling grasslands and picturesque mountains. We had arrived in Inner Mongolia and i couldn't have been happier(and also quite happy to get off the train).
And of course the first thing I did was whipping the old camera out and snapped away.