Taking the train

By greenteapanda

March 29, 2007

Category: Transportation

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I recently took the train, hard seat from Haikou to Guangzhou. When I first got onto the train, there was air conditioning. But once the train began moving and splitting up so it could go on the ferry across the strait to Guangdong province, the air conditioning was turned off. It remained that way for almost 2 hours. Only two windows were openable in the middle of the car, and outside was 30 degrees C. Inside was a furnace.

I was sweating, and annoyed because I specifically took a shower prior to leaving for the train station so I would not smell the next day after the overnight train trip. So much for that plan.

Once the air conditioning was turned on, it stayed on (as did the lights, unfortunately). Since the seats were in sets of three, facing each other, there was no legroom and no ability to recline to sleep (not that it would be easy with bright lights).

There were also many people with much more luggage than me, including a guy that brought a suitcase that was as thick as the width of the aisle. On first attempt, the fruit cart service decided to reverse direction and go back. Everybody, me included, found it incredibly funny.  The second time, the people with the suitcase tried to get the serviceperson to lift the cart over the suitcase – it being much ligher and much smaller. The serviceperson eventually got their way, and the large suitcase was lifted to a precarious position on the luggage rack above the seats.

The atmosphere was the most social I have experienced travelling on a vehicle in China, though some of it was unwelcome. Like the woman sitting next to me that said "I want you" in Chinese, in a way that indicated she wanted a lot more than simply somebody to lean against to fall asleep.

I dozed off for periods of 10 minutes here and there… not much rest for sure.


When I got to Guangzhou, my next goal was to get to Shenzhen (and walk across the border to Hong Kong). After figuring out where to buy the ticket, it took me awhile to find the actual waiting room for the train. The place I had always gone before was boarded up, padlocked, and dark inside. But it ended up still being the place I needed to go. I had to get there through a series of dark rooms leading from the back of the ticket-return office (with no signage in Chinese, let alone English).

I don’t find it reassuring in the least when there is not even enough electricity to go around to power the lights in a high-traffic, high population place like a train station, for a train line that is probably the most expensive by distance of any in China. The conveyor belt for the security X-ray was working, but it did not appear the monitor to examine the luggage had power. Then again, if there was a terrorist, he/she would have difficulting finding any targets with eyesight.


The return trip did not happen by train. The tickets were all sold out. Discount tickets for the airplane have disappeared for some reason. So I took the bus, which from Shenzhen hadn’t had its price raised (unlike in Haikou).


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