In my first post about backpacking, I mentioned the 25-hour train journey we took between Yangshuo and Chengdu. This was the longest single journey I’d ever been on, and started at about 13:30 in Guilin. Nick, who was feeling delicate after getting to bed at 3:30 the night before, had a very poor first experience with a squatter toilet in the train station. Let’s just say his aim was off.
My first thought when I heard about the Chinese sleeper trains was a very optimistic, “Hogwarts Express?” When I saw them, I revised that. Harry Potter would have been more Lord of the Flies if Hogwarts had put the kids on this.
The ‘compartments’ (they’re not very private, opening straight onto the walkway at one side of the carriage) each hold six small beds. The bottom bunks are the most valued, as they have headroom and easy access to luggage. The top bunks, which are the most cramped, are the least favourite. Naturally, I’ve had a top bunk assigned on each of the four sleepers we’ve taken to date! So has our tallest member, Jason. Watching his feet stick out into the corridor and catch passing Chinese people in the face was a highlight of the trip.
With 25 people (an Aussie girl, Zoe, joined us in Yangshuo), keeping entertained wasn’t difficult. Nick organised a pub quiz, with everyone submitting questions: we ended up with more than 200. Strong team names included ‘Quiz On My Face’ and ‘Fat Kids Don’t Get Kidnapped’ (Sarah showing her dark side).
A highlight of the quiz on the first day was one of the teams (whose name can’t be repeated in a family-friendly blog) being awarded extra points for spontaneously breaking into a rendition of ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ when a Mary Poppins question came up. Trying to sneak extra points from Nick became a pastime almost as popular as the quiz itself.
We finished the quiz on day two, as Nick kept expanding the music round: it began at 10 questions, but the final count was 54. Perks nailed most of them; her specialist subject, apparently, is Eurovision.
Chengdu is next; I hope you’re ready for pandas.