We went to a travel agent to investigate buying tickets. It was a bit confusing. There were no classes of travel, but you could buy a hard bed (upper, lower or middle), a soft bed, or a super-soft bed. After a few probing questions, we realized that the quality of the bed was not the only consideration. Hard beds had 6 people to a compartment, but no door; soft beds 4 and a door; and super-soft 2, and of course, a door. So we asked for super-soft, since I suddenly had memories of an overnight train from
When we arrived at the train, some of the compartments looked quite nice, but as we walked to our carriage, they seemed to be deteriorating. “I don’t like the look of these,” said Sally, as I handed our tickets to the conductor. “No, wong place, down there” he said pointing to the portion of the train we had just walked by. And so we entered one of the nicer cars with 4 bed compartments and lots of pink frilly covers. We then waited for our traveling companions to arrive.
They never came! Fortunately, we were traveling on May 1, the equivalent of Labour Day over here, and it’s not that busy. We had the compartment to ourselves, and it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps the travel agent knew this would be the case, and therefore didn’t sell us the more expensive ticket. (I say this in part because Sally is convinced we are often getting better treatment in restaurants, hotel, tourist spots, etc because we are Caucasions…)
The 4 berths were made up as beds, and while there were quite comfortable, with adequate headroom, I was wondering where we were supposed to sit. As I walked up and down the carriage, I realized that most people were settling into their compartments. They were getting out food, whiskey, cards. They were obviously there for the trip. I started looking for someone who might speak English. I discovered a lovely couple two compartments away. “Do you speak English”. Oh yes, they said, and after a couple of minutes I discovered that he was in the diplomatic service, and they had been posted to
She didn’t comment on her work, but from the stylish way she was dressed, she could have been a fashion designer or model, or just the wife of a diplomat.
“Where are we supposed to sit?” I asked. “Is there a dining car or bar car?” They politely confessed that they didn’t know, since although they lived in
Over the course of the trip, we had wonderful conversations about the different places we had both visited, the differences between people of different countries and cultures, and why the Chinese were very similar to the Jews. Since I knew more Chinese people than they knew Jewish people, they had to take my word for it. But to help teach them about Jewish Culture, I recommended that they watch some Woody Allen movies, especially Match Point, which is one of his last, and
As I write this post from the Train, we have had breakfast (a mixture of traditional Chinese food, and a Chinese take on an American breakfast) and lunch, which included a bordeaux I picked up in the Railway 'duty free' shop. But I am concerned that the time is passing too quickly, and I will not get to do many of the things I had planned to get done during the trip. I am particularly enjoying watching the changing countryside, which quickly transforms from farmers' fields into major urban centres, some of which look just like
While there are lots of older dull grey concrete apartment blocks, there are a surprising number of new high rise developments which could be anywhere in
Thank you John and Helen for making this seem like such a short train ride. I wish it had been longer! We look forward to seeing you in Vancouver.