Our experiences in China have been as vast as they have been wide. We have lived in poor dusty areas, and now we live in a much cleaner and more organised city. We have taken broken dirty buses that are falling apart, and then some which have air-conditioning and comfy seating. The hardest part for us in not knowing what to expect – so we have learnt to either have no expectations (lets face it, that is not easy because as soon as you think “no expectations”… you immediately form an expectation) or even better than that to just expect the worst. That way, when you step into a comfortable situation you can rather be filled with gratitude and relief. It sounds pessimistic, but it works!
Let me take you back to a train ride we did in November 2011.
We did a weekend trip to Ti’an with The Mosby’s. We had heard that one of China’s five most sacred mountains was located there with a 6,000 step staircase to the peak. Our journey consisted of a gruelling hike to the top, a night on the summit, watching the sun rise above the clouds, and then an exhausting hike back down the following day. It really was an incredible weekend – despite all the muscle aches we had for days that followed.
Living in a country where you don’t speak the local language, or know the ins and outs of the transport systems, we were shocked to find that there were no buses going back to our city, Dongying, when we returned to the bus station on Sunday! Instead we had no choice but to take a train from Ti’an to Zibo, and then try to change from there.
Although looks can be deceiving it appeared that our train was much nicer than the one we had first experienced. Maybe we were in luck. Still, we expected the worst.
My oh my, how pleasantly surprised we were! The inside of the train was clean, uncrowded, and there was no stench of urine. BONUS! We found our seats and settled in for the ride. For at least 15 minutes I was grinning from ear-to-ear, happy about the smallest of things. Clean floors, comfy reclinable seats, no crowds, plenty legroom, TV’s and an amazing speed of over 300km/hr. We were definitely in for a huge upgrade from our last train experience.
Happy and comfortable, we entertained ourselves on the four hour journey from Qingdao to Beijing. The toilets were clean, stocked with toilet paper AND they had liquid hand soap – if you have never lived in China, you won’t know that these things are RARE!! Each train carriage had an attendant, and she kept everything clean and working smoothly. This was more like a flight than a train ride. We were more than happy with this journey!