"...standing room only..."

The day after conquering Huashan, Moses somehow found the energy to visit the Terracotta Warriors – perhaps Xi’an’s most famous historical site. Adrian and I, however, opted to spend the morning sleeping in our hostel bed which might be considered Xi’an’s least famous historical site. Nevertheless, I recommend it.

Waking up at 11:45am for a 12pm checkout, the two of us waited happily for Moe to return. We ventured out briefly to run a few errands before meeting Moses back at the hostel and then headed to the train station to catch our overnight train to Beijing. Being the cheapskates that we are, we had opted for the 150Â¥ seats rather than the 450Â¥ sleeper carriage. This, in theory was fine and we figured we’d manage at least a few hours sleep during the fifteen hour train ride. How bad could it be?

We left with what we thought was plenty of time to catch the metro to the other side of town and then walk the remaining 8 kilometres to the station. Oh how wrong we were. Arriving at the metro, we realised we had timed our journey to coincide perfectly with Chinese rush hour. Which would have been fine if the Chinese had any concept of queuing. Unfortunately though, they don’t. Standing at the platform, I watched as the train pulled up and Adrian and Moses pushed their way inside along with the other commuters. Then, just as I was about to step aboard, a woman in a bright yellow shirt slipped an arm between me and Adrian and in an instant usurped my spot in line, just as the train doors were closing with her, Adrian and Moe on one side and me on the other. Aboard the train, the Woman in Yellow looked at me through the window, looked at a now fuming Adrian and guiltily shuffled away, disappearing into the mass of bodies filling the carriage. Cursing the Woman in Yellow I waved a sullen goodbye to Adrian as the train sped away, leaving me alone on the platform.

I was not impressed. Waiting aboard the platform I shot dirty looks at every Chinese person staring at me who, ordinarily I would have smiled at. Today was not the day for it and I wanted more than anything to blend in, rather than stick out as the white girl with weird hair. Eventually, the next train pulled up and after a few more dirty looks at my fellow passengers, I met Moe and Adrian at the next stop. By this time it was getting late and we hurried towards the train station, crossing our fingers that we’d make it in time for our 6:18pm train.

At 6pm, things were looking bleak, by 6:10pm they were dire. Running as best we could towards the station, our heavy bags slowing us down immensely, we fought against the aches and pains from the hike the day before. 6:15pm, we arrive at the station but nobody can tell us where to go. 6:16pm, we’re running around like lunatics to every window we can see in the hopes of glimpsing our train number. 6:17, we find what looks like the right waiting room and rush inside before being stopped and turned away by the lady at the door. 6:18, we run towards the lounge opposite that she points us to, panicked and bewildered. No, this isn’t the right place, and now Moe is missing! We run back to the lounge, yell at the lady who blocked our way before and rush towards Moe who is wildly gesturing, yelling “Where were you guys?!” 6:19pm. It becomes clear this was the right place, Moe was just about to be let on the train when we disappeared, turned away by the lady at the door. The train left without us. God dammit. And God damn the Woman in Yellow.

“Curses upon the Woman in Yellow and curses upon seven generations of her family!” I’m not making this up. We were irate. The only thing to do was to feel bitter towards this woman (and seven generations of her family) and buy tickets for the next train to Beijing. By that time I had given up and was, thankfully, assigned the task of looking after the bags while Moe and Adrian sorted out the tickets. Two hours later, the boys returned after what sounded like the biggest train-related debacle since the Great Train Robbery of 1963. They had bought new tickets for a 10pm train that night – 150Â¥, but this time it was standing room only. “That’s okay,” they thought, “we can sleep in the aisles.” This plan seemed reasonable until they did slightly more research and turned up a photo of what one might expect from this class of ticket. Shoulder-to-shoulder, crushed against each other, against the walls, against the chairs of the patrons who had bought our previous seated tickets. Overnight. For fifteen hours.

Needless to say they hurriedly returned the tickets (for only a half refund) and we all sheepishly shelled out the 513Â¥ for the bullet train the next morning. We retracted our curses upon the Woman in Yellow and let her next seven generations off the hook.

The next day we happily climbed aboard the bullet train and after five hours of luxury, we arrived in Beijing. Thank God.



  • Andrea:

    08 Jul 2014 12:11:31

    Well it sounds like a happy ending to me. Thank god 😘😘😘

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