Posted by: Waheeda Harris | June 10, 2014

Life on a Chinese train

I had several opportunities to experience life on the trains in China (not the bullet trains, but the regular passenger trains) and learned how to store my gear quickly, share a six-pod compartment and sleep…

China - train life

Most sleeper areas were the same – a six bed compartment that had an overhead storage rack, a bed with a pillow and duvet and a small hook. We were encouraged to keep our valuables close and to store our luggage below the bottom bunk or up above.

I became the master of middle bunk on my train journeys, using my small crossbody bag for soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper, wipes, ear plugs, sleeping mask and bottled water to be close at hand. My small daypack, which was at the end of my bed, had a clean tshirt, camera and my other valuables like passport and money, which came in handy when the snack trolley arrived:

China - train trolley

And I also learned to negotiate each car – with two fold out seats per compartment, we shared the bottom bunks until someone wanted to snooze and I learned how not to get onto the second bunk (bellyflop from the ladder) but to go up a rung and then crawl onto the bunk. And we met our fellow passengers, who were very curious about us non-Chinese, using the trains.

China - train corridor


One end of the carriage had three sinks, toilet and the garbage bin, while the opposite end had the hot water dispenser. Nearly everyone in China had a glass bottle with tea leaves that was refilled constantly and everyone brought or purchased the instant noodles as snacks as hot water was also available in train stations too.

And everyone was friendly and curious – mainly the older people and the children would try to talk to us. I felt safe and never worried about my stuff – not just because I was part of a group, but because everyone was doing what we were doing – going from A to B, the easiest way to travel from city to city, spotting the changes in the countryside and the learning that going to bed early was common and getting up with the first light was also common, made easier by always having a sleeping mask and earplugs.


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