Sunday, November 6, 2011

FROM BEIJING TO XIAN: THE TRAIN TRAVEL ADVENTURE

a relief after a series of ordeal
Going to Xian is never easy.  In a country where English is not the medium of communication and that road signs are written in characters appearing strange, as if you have entered into another dimension of the world...every minute is an adventure to unfold.

The Terracotta Warriors Museum, located at Xian City, is one of our planned itineraries and we promised ourselves never to leave China without visiting such place. But we never thought this would be an adventure we shall never forget for the rest of our lives.  

We decided to visit Xian City for a day and took the last trip through the train at night and be back the following day to Beijing.  Looking for the railway station was a challenge for us in the first place, as locals don't understand English so you can't rely much on them when asking for directions and so we have to trust our instincts and our skill in map reading.  It was winter time when we went there so you can just imagine how cold it was walking on the streets of Beijing looking for a place that will save us from the weather outside, from which we shall take temporary refuge.  After 30 minutes, we found the railway station.  And now, buying the tickets to Xian and the seat numbers became a challenge once again.  Fortunately, we were able to manage and the rest is history.

Imagining the Harry Potter series and related movies where long hours of travel on a train is fun, the contrary was our experience.  The train was like an ordinary bus going to the provinces here in the Philippines.  Our tickets were the ordinary ones and not the "soft sleeper trains" as they call it, which is popular for tourists.  We were actually traveling with the locals which is a new experience for us and a hard sleeper at that.  And so we slept in a sitting position.  Since we have no room for complaints and we have to accept whatever it is that we have, we just conditioned ourselves of what to expect in Xian after this ordeal.

train to Xian
the numbers were our guide as destinations are written in Chinese characters

imagine sleeping for hours in this train
  As a guide, below are the official train schedules, so you won't experience what we went through... (courtesy of http://www.beijingchina.net.cn/transportation/train/train-to-xian.html)

Train No. Departs Arrives Duration Seat Fares(RMB) Hard Sleeper Fares(RMB) Soft Sleeper Fares(RMB)
T151 Beijing West
1:59pm
Xi'an
3:42am
13 h 43m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417
T41* Beijing West
3:52pm
Xi'an
5:37am
13 h 45m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
T55 Beijing West
4:43pm
Xi'an
6:12am
13 h 29m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417
T231 Beijing West
4:59pm
Xi'an
6:47am
13 h 48m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417
T75* Beijing West
5:52pm
Xi'an
7:14am
13 h 22m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417
T7 Beijing West
6:29pm
Xi'an
7:44am
13 h 15m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
Z19* Beijing West
7:57pm
Xi'an
7:58am
12 h 1m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
Z53* Beijing West
8:03pm
Xi'an
8:12am
12 h 07m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
T43/T46* Beijing West
8:30pm
Xi'an
9:00am
12 h 30m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
K1363 Beijing West
9:52pm
Xi'an South
12:43pm
14 h 51m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417

After more than 14 hours in that train, we then arrived at Xian City greeted by a portion of the Great Wall of China located in this city with the freezing cold weather that is totally unexpected.  We arrived at around 7AM in the morning, as we took the T55 train.  Before we proceed to our destination, we purchased tickets first at their ticketing office in the station, for our trip back to Beijing on that same day at night.

Everyone was talking in a language that is so unclear and we cant definitely understand and so instead of speaking English we begin speaking our dialect in the Philippines, "waray".  We inquired from a stall which is for customer service and it was a relief they know how to speak English and so we learned that we were taking a line which is not for Beijing.  Since it was a long weekend in China during that time, then tickets were easily sold out for our supposed to be soft sleeper trains back to Beijing.  We don't want to experience sleeping again in a sitting position for more than 13 hours.  But we have to bear with the situation, we don't want to be stuck in Xian and forget about the itineraries we have planned for Beijing.  And so we took that available schedule back to Beijing although the seats available are also on different coaches of the train. 


waiting for her turn to buy our tickets back to Beijing


arrival at Xian Railway Station with a portion of the Great Wall of China as backdrop

For your guide, train schedules from Xian to Beijing are as follows: (courtesy of http://www.beijingchina.net.cn/transportation/train/train-to-xian.html)


Train No. Departs Arrives Duration Seat Fares(RMB) Hard Sleeper Fares(RMB) Soft Sleeper Fares(RMB)
T76* Xi'an
3:26am
Beijing West
4:11pm
12 h 45m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417
K1364 Xi'an
2:22pm
Beijing West
5:18am
14 h 56m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417
T42 Xi'an
6:18pm
Beijing West
9:10am
14 h 52m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
T232 Xi'an
6:30pm
Beijing West
6:28am
11 h 58 150/237 256/265/274 400/417
T44/T45* Xi'an
7:00pm
Beijing West
6:12am
13 h 12m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
Z54* Xi'an
7:21pm
Beijing West
8:24am
13 h 03m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
Z20* Xi'an
7:30pm
Beijing West
8:18am
12 h 48m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
T56 Xi'an
9:14pm
Beijing West
9:57am
12 h 43m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417
T8 Xi'an
10:34am
Beijing West
2:28pm
15 h 54m 158/250 270/281/290 424/442
T152 Xi'an
11:04pm
Beijing West
11:15am
12 h 11m 150/237 256/265/274 400/417


Then, we are bound for the Terracotta Museum, which visit will be the subject of a separate blog entry.  The bus below will lead us there.




On our way back to Beijing, tired and exhausted we went back to the Railway Station so early hoping we could be able to relax.  To our dismay, it was the most chaotic and crowded of all the railway stations that I have visited in the world.  I just took photos of our situation as a remembrance of what we have went through.






After staying at the railway station for hours waiting for our scheduled trip and it was almost time for us to depart but we have no idea which part we should enter leading us to the train that will lead us to Beijing, we began to worry.  After wandering in the area, we had a chance to ask a local who knows how to speak English and so a panic on his face appeared and immediately told us that the train was ready to leave in a few minutes.  He directed us to where we should have waited... with an adrenaline rush we run as fast as we could, as if we were running to save our lives from complete danger.  To our surprise and relief, we actually bought soft sleeper train tickets.  GOD is really with us all the time...





Thanks to my travel buddy Fate for this experience.  I will never forget this trip to Xian City not because of the sites we have visited but because of the ordeals turned into an adventure.

For the faint hearted, visiting Xian City should definitely be planned ahead of time.




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