One of my most epic travel journeys was a 45 hour hard seat train from Kashgar to Beijing. But that was nine years ago. Could I hack it now?!
Hard seat trains have it all. They are cheap cheap cheap. Most travellers don’t take them and most Chinese do, so you are actually in with the locals. Everyone gets tired eventually so a natural bonding and camaraderie occurs as people jockey for or gracefully compromise on position. And a phrase book brings hours of fun… if an english speaking student doesn’t find you first!
Pot noodle is the order of the day as you squish in amongst bags, people and their food supplies. Hot water is free at the end of every carriage.
My first hard seat this time, 11 hours over night, I shared with a lawyer, an engineer and two students amongst others. But my next one was even better with no air con, but open windows and spinning ceiling fans… I had wind in my hair as I watched bright green paddy fields, and crops of corn and sunflowers whizz by. My kind of heaven.
I admit I didn’t get a lot of sleep on the over nighter but hey, I’m older now so I won’t be doing them back to back like the old days!
P.S. For those that read Chinese, yes I did sit in the ‘old age, infirm and kids’ part of the waiting room… but my pack was heavy (post most likely coming on that!!) and I only read the sign once I had caught my breath! There were no other seats anywhere!