We had been told it was best to get all out train tickets in one hit, due to queue times for picking up tickets. Most train stations in China are packed, with lots of lines. On reaching Beijing main Train Station, I can honestly say I panicked. I have never seen so many people in one place in my life. There were easily 5000, if not more, people milling around, all yelling, and no concept of a queue. So it was pack yourself in and battle through.
Once you’ve got your tickets, which is quite frankly an experience in itself, as you’ve got to figure out the right queue to be in out of the possible 80, and tolerate lots of eye rolling and blank stares, you then find yourself battened down amongst another 500 odd people all vying to get on the train first. There are a whole lot of line cutters, so you need to just keep on pushing, otherwise you’ll fall over. It felt like the beginning of a marathon as everyone jostled for positions.
We found our place on the train, thanks to some fantastic directions from China DIY Travel. A fantastic company to deal with, if your looking to travel on the train system in China. They buy the tickets for you, as it is impossible to do in advance, unless you speak Chinese and have a Chinese ID number. Once you’ve arrived, you then pick the tickets up at any Chinese train station. Perfect and easy!
Definitely a better experience, as far as comfort levels go, compared to the other trains of Asia, although trying to catch the drinks man is an exercise in futility! I’ve never seen anyone speed so fast through a carriage!
You’ll know your destination is coming up when the conductors asks for the card she gave you in the beginning of the journey. Once you’ve made the trade for your ticket back, it means that your destination is coming up.