I’ve looked at flights and such before but never got around to committing to anything. So this morning I search for a flight today along with a train and hostel. I book my flight and pick out an overnight train. I ask the hostel employee to write down the train in Chinese that I want, if she knows if it is still available. She’s confused. Kunming? Tonight?!
I got this reaction from Mother and Older Sisters. Kunming is very far away. Yes, I’ve seen a map. Confusion. China does have airplanes. My roommates were satisfied that I wasn’t taking the long train ride there, something like 33 hours.
The hostel employee was not confident in my plans. She confirms the train again. Are you sure? Yes. I’m confident in Chinese aviation to get me there in the agreed upon time of two hours. She’s still concerned but hands me the note anyways. I go out to buy steamed buns at the store for breakfast.
As I eat my buns, I book one night at a hostel and start screen grabbing important info like the name and address of the hostel, the airport and train stations– all in Chinese. Pointing to words goes a long way.
One of the airport shuttle stops is at the train station. I hop on the metro to get there. I’m concerned about time. I didn’t really factor in getting to the airport from the train station. I decide to skip the ticket office and get to the airport shuttle bus. I didn’t know the schedule and had to wait for the bus anyway. I make it to the airport with enough time to collect my ticket and eat more steamed buns. There’s a sleeping booth you can rent but I can nap on the plane.
I’m surprised when the airline attendants begin passing out food. It’s not a meal but a box of carbs– bread, cake, cookies and a snack of dried peas. They come around with drinks twice. Then we land in Kunming.
I’m quite pleased with the view of mountains and trees. I continue walking to the exit and the view changes as hundreds of high rise apartments come into view. Ugh. Can it ever be nice?
I take the shuttle into the city. I’m a couple blocks from the train station. The station looks worn but I’m amused by the ticket line. They installed railings to form lines and also have a turnstile near the attendant so no one can cut the line. They have to build order.
I hand my note and she points to the short line next to me. I’m annoyed but realized that she was sending me to a person who knows English. This is a first and unexpected as guidebooks say English is rare in the area. The hard sleepers are booked but she suggests an earlier train. Awesome. I’m also pleased to have the middle bed. Climbing to the top was not fun the first time.
I have time to find dinner so I leave the station to wander. I buy ice tea, my addiction in China. I’m drinking two years worth of sweet drinks in three weeks. I finally find a place with some people eating and choose a soup with… fried chicken? Okay. It’s no soba noodles with fried shrimp but it was warm and filling.
I go back to the train station and roam the halls till I think boarding will start. I get in line and people start to follow. I’m pushed by an elderly couple who want to stand in front of me.
I’m starting to feel traveler’s fatigue with the language barrier and rules that may or may not make sense. Ice tea is comforting and delicious. I curse them out softly.
The gate is open and I’m prepared for the pushing and shoving. I’m on the train and think I’m in the wrong section. This hard sleeper area is different than the last.
There’s no luggage rack so I have to make room for me and my backpack. I guess I could have shoved it under the first bunk but it’s already full.
There’s a couple foot rests and a hand railing at the top. There’s nothing graceful about this. Grateful for the short climb to the middle bunk, I understand why they are available. People ignore the foot rests and step on your bed sans shoes. I keep a plastic bag available for my shoes because I don’t know where I should put them.
Before I strain my neck or something, I lay down and watch a couple Simpsons episodes and then try to fall asleep.