Night train from Beijing to Datong

Eighteen minutes past midnight. Night train from Beijing to Datong.

The lights go off and an awkward silence settles in while everybody curls up in their soft beds trying to calm down the excitement of the journey ahead. Well…I am feeling this way, at least. The only Chinese person in this four-bed compartment is already asleep by the time I write this, no excitement, just another journey to work perhaps.

Did I say soft bed? It isn’t soft at all. Even my feet are softer. (Yes, I just squeezed my feet to get the comparison accurate). But they provide us with a nice soft pillow and a duvet. The air-conditioning is working, so not bad at all for a 6h journey!

Getting train tickets for China can be a complicated process, some tickets are only on sale 2 weeks in advance and a non-chinese speaker can’t really buy them online. Plus, soft sleepers can sell out fast, unless you find this savior website that books it for you: Ctrip. We paid online with Credit Card, got a booking reference through email and took it to a train station to exchange the reference for a ticket. All good, after asking 4 people, we found the ticket office and got the tickets fine. Now this might sound silly, but it felt like a big achievement! Like everything else we do in China, from ordering mayonnaise in MacDonalds to ordering the traditional Beijing duck in a restaurant and being taught how to eat it. Everything takes time, patience, mimic skills and a dash of luck.

But that’s a story for another day.

Here I am, lying in the dark on the top bunk-bed being rocked to sleep by the train in movement. Looking forward to see where am I going to wake up.

I would have wished you good night in Chinese, but I am still struggling to say ‘thank you’ with the right intonation. So I am just going to learn one thing at a time.

Good night.

Andreia Leite

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