... this fantastic voyage...
Yep, there are two other ways to train travel in China- possibly where you get to see the "real" China. The "soft seat" and the "hard seat". From Xian to Chengdu we chose the former as you get an actual seat, the latter is a matter of ambushing the seats of departing passengers. Quite a sight to see grown men fighting over a space the size of a cinema seat! (This option is obviously way cheaper than the sleepers). However, sixteen hours is too long to spend sitting on your butt while people are spitting on the floor, throwing litter out the window, being crowded in by differing levels of stink and seeing the different manner in which parents/guardians feed or water their children. Some of which is disturbing to my much sheltered and naive eye. There are "No Spitting" and "No Smoking" signs but these appear not to be "rules" but more of a "general guideline". So like the "hard sleeper" it kind of has a marae feel (in terms of socializing) but is a lot more paru (dirty).
There is little or no AC in these carriages (in part perhaps due to the sheer amount of people on the train) so fans have been life-savers! A friend gifted us some Japanese fans for which we have been very grateful, but which the hawkers have been most disappointed to see.
Arriving in Chengdu at 0530 we had been told there would be a rep there to pick us up but due to the hour we were holding out little hope. So pessimistic! We quickly spotted the sign, were just as quickly accosted by another hostel's rep, and quickly lost our rep. Both the sign and the rep had disappeared!! A movement in the peripheral, and we had found him again! Hurrah! We caught up to him in time to hear a couple say "We didn't order a free pickup". Hello? Are you mad? It's FREE!! Well he couldn't understand it either, and assuming we were Chinese (as happens more often than not, especially for my mate) preceeded to berate their foolishness (in Chinese), we couldn't agree more! So he helped us with our gear and we sped to our hostel. In the breaking daylight the area looked quite old and majestic, there's a monestary close by, and even at that hour vendors were peddling their wares. Upon arriving at the hostel, we met the foolish couple who had paid for a taxi to get there. Yes we could hardly believe it either.
As the hostel was full and our room still occupied we had to crash in a recently vacated one. And crash we did.
Lights out. Night night. Sweet dreams.