Maria Holland

The Midnight Train, Going Aaaanyyywhere!

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2009 at 10:00 pm

After grabbing a late dinner, Aleid and I went to the train station for our 10:15 train.  After a wait, we got to board and check out our living conditions for the next 14 hours.  We had bought hard-sleeper tickets, but the name isn’t really that appropriate.  First of all, the hard-sleepers aren’t any harder than the soft-sleepers; or rather, the soft-sleepers are no softer than the hard-sleepers.  (With that said, both are softer than the bed in my dorm room.  I once considered compiling a list of things that are softer than my bed but gave up when I realized the list – including most rocks – would be prohibitively, and perhaps infinitely, long.)  So the hard-sleeper berths are really just second-class beds.  In the soft-sleeper cars, each room has two sets of bunkbeds.  In the hard-sleeper cars, each ‘room’ – or perhaps more aptly each ‘cubicle’ – has 6 beds on three levels.  There are no doors, which gives you no privacy, no security, and no control over the lights.  It also turns the entire train into one big sleepover – with strangers! 

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We put our stuff away and then climbed up to our bunks on the top level, about 7 feet off the ground.  The upper bunks are the cheapest (hence our berth of choice) because they are less convenient and don’t offer enough vertical space to sit up. 

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They do, however, offer a great vantage point for observing the rest of the train.  The best part of the show was our conductor – he was so funny, he should seriously be on TV.

The lights went out at 10 and came back on at 6, but I slept until 9 or so.  (This is why I love traveling by night train!)  The top bunk is fine for sleeping, but once you’re awake it’s somewhat like torture.  The trip was ‘only’ 14 hours, though, and we arrived soon enough.

Two bus rides later, we arrived at our hostel (枫枫旅馆).  It’s in a kind of shady area, but the staff are nice and very helpful.  We got settled in our room (30 元, or just over $4, per night) until they called us to say that lunch was ready.  After lunch, one of the women laid out a plan for our next few days.  It was more expensive than we were thinking, because the entrance to the scenic area is quite pricy (about $20), but we ended up with 2 1/2 full days of Wuyishan for 475 元 ($65). 

The plan for that afternoon was to see 天游, or the Heavenly Tour Peak.  In a place like Wuyishan (basically, Wuyi Mountain), most activities are 爬山-related.  (爬山 literally means ‘climbing mountains’ but is more like hiking.  Actually, the best description is really really intense stair-climbing, up a mountain.)  This was one of my favorite mountain climbs, as we could see where we were going.

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The view was beautiful the whole way up. 

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I think it was right about here

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that I had one of those realizations: I’m climbing a MOUNTAIN in CHINA, where I currently LIVE, while TU is having FINALS!

After we made it back down (legs shaking by the end), we took a bus into town.  We walked around, doing some shopping for souvenirs.  Best find of the night – a toothpick-holder shaped like my new obsession, 茄子.  (Interestingly, despite my love for all things containing 茄子, I think the English word, ‘eggplant’, doesn’t really sound that appealing.) 

The high of the day in Wuyishan was 7°C (45°F), so the only time we were warm the whole day was while climbing the mountain.  We returned to the hostel around 8, to spend the rest of the night burrowing under comforters and piles of clothes, trying to finally be warm. 

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