It’s only in the movies and TV shows where I see train trips covering thousands of kilometers.
A very long train travel is an alien concept in the Philippines, as it lacks the large and contiguous territory of China, Europe and the US.
Because of that, I didn’t know that such train journeys were so much fun. Until my mother and I went to China.
On top of the agenda on our first full day in Shanghai was to book tickets for the train travel from Shanghai to Beijing.
I bought the tickets in the city itself because I was afraid to buy them online for various reasons.
The Chinese characters on some of the book-your-train-tickets-online sites made me feel unwelcome.
Trust was another issue. I was reluctant to disclose some of my personal and credit card information to those sites.
The main reason, however, was that my research showed the existence of several train stations in both Shanghai and Beijing. Passengers must make sure that they’ve bought tickets for a train departing from a specific station.
Shanghai to Beijing train
We had “soft-seater” tickets for the train journey from Shanghai to Beijing. We left at 9:31 PM.
I was seated between my mother and a woman in her late 50s or early 60s.
Even though I just sat for the entire duration of the 10 to 11-hour trip, I considered it almost perfectly comfortable.
“Almost” because the woman on my left side kept coughing, which really made me uneasy.
She even made me more uncomfortable when she spat phlegm into a tissue, which she then placed on the tray table in front of her.
First day in Beijing
I saw our tour guide about half an hour after our arrival at the train station in Beijing. He immediately asked if we already had train tickets for the return trip to Shanghai.
I knew that soft-sleepers were the most expensive train tickets, but I opted for them because I didn’t want to stand for about 10 to 11 hours at night inside a train filled with strangers in a foreign land.
He said the prices of those train tickets were almost the same as those of the plane tickets for the domestic flight between Beijing and Shanghai.
But I didn’t care. I wouldn’t get the chance to experience sleeping in a soft bed while on a train trip spanning almost 1,500 kilometers every day.
I haven’t experienced that in my country. And I can’t. Such train journeys are nonexistent in the Philippines.
My mother and I checked out of our hotel at 12 noon. We still had nine hours to see the sights in the capital city of China, so we decided to go to a luggage storage facility to deposit our belongings. It cost us 30 yuan, or about US$4.40.
Then we explored Beijing on our own.
Beijing to Shanghai train
I was impressed by the clean four-berth cabin that we were in. My mother and I occupied the double-deck bed on the right side. There were free slippers for the passengers, similar to the ones provided by hotels in China.
But I was not impressed by the manners of the man occupying the lower berth on the left side of the compartment.
He rudely hushed me up while I was speaking with my mother in Filipino.
Fine. Maybe he was really tired and wanted to sleep early.
But after telling me to shut up (I assume in Chinese), he called someone on his cell phone and talked loudly for about five minutes.
Again, fine. I was in his country.
Back to Shanghai
Upon arrival in Shanghai, we immediately looked for a left luggage office where we could deposit our stuff for 30 yuan. It was about 8 AM. We could only check in at the hotel at 2 PM.
At about 1 PM we returned to the baggage storage facility near the train station to claim our things.
That act officially ended our almost 3,000-kilometer train trip that had taken us from Shanghai to Beijing and vice versa, in the heart of the third largest country in the world.