Travel Journal

To Xi'an 19-20 July

(Tuesday 21 June 2011) by Julia Bartholomew
The 'hard seat' train to Beijing. Inadvertantly managed to get myself a 'hard seat' ticket on the 13 hour train to Xi'an. It's the lowest in the pecking order of Chinese train classes though I'm grateful to at least have had a seat unlike the masses squashed along the aisle in the train. I was impressed by the sleep-squatters who managed to catch forty winks whilst in a squatting position. Had to be careful not to topple them over clambering over them on the way to the loo, a trip I only made once as holding on seemed a better option than having to go back in that place! I looked up what the Rough Guide says about hard seats: 'you'll often be the focus of intense and unabashed speculation from peasants and labourers who can't afford to travel in better style'. That's a bit of an exaggeration. It's true I was the only non-Chinese in the carriage and people were mildly curious and also the only person equipped with travel pillow, eye mask and ear plugs. What was really striking is that no one seems to mind the discomfort. People just cheerfully stood about, wedging themselves into every available space and waited patiently for 13 hours.

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