The summer sun tends to bring out the travelling bug in people. Therefore, let us brush up on our touristy vocabulary before embarking on that great trip to the Chinese hinterlands. Please note that by rural China I mean cities with less than a million inhabitants. This actually is quite small for China.
BTW, I boycott anyone who travels domestically by plane for leisure, so I will just assume that you are being a good boy or girl and take one of the many trains for your trip to rural China.
An old school Chinese train
You can find a train station in literally every Chinese town or village and you probably know that it is called 火车站 huo3che1zhan4 in Chinese. Most Chinese now buy their train tickets online and get them at the station by scanning their IDs. But as a tourist you may still have to resort to the old school 售票处 shou4piao4chu4 ticket offices. Those you can find basically everywhere, especially close to train stations. They usually take a 5 RMB commission for every ticket printed so make sure to budget ahead. Nowadays, for some tickets you have to show your passport, especially for the high speed trains. Supposedly, the ministry of the railroads wants to avoid shady back market dealings during peak times like Chinese New Year.
After getting your train ticket you want to make sure to board the right train. Make sure to get your bearings right especially if you have been assigned a seat or bunk somewhere. If you haven’t been assigned anything you are in bad shape as you may have to stand for the length of your trip.
Standing room only
There are the following classes on traditional trains:
- 硬座 ying4zuo4 hard seat
- 软座 ruan3zuo4 soft seat
- 硬卧 ying4wo4 hard sleeper
- 软卧ruan3wo4 soft sleeper
And two classes on the new high speed trains:
- 一等 yi1deng3 first class
- 二等 er4deng3 second class
First class and soft sleeper are comparable and basically the best you can get. The other classes are bearable but if you want to travel in a little comfort, go for a hard sleeper at least, especially for overnight journeys.
To be continued