Monday, 13 July 2009

The Qinghai -Tibet Train, China

When we got on to the platform, we searched for the rail car labelled 5 as printed on our tickets. We found the rail car we were supposed to hop on. The place was packed with people and their suitcases. The passage was blocked as passengers tried to give way to each other while they looked for their cabins. Ours was Cabin 7, beds 14. Mine was the one on top, my sister in the middle while my mum took the bottom bed. It was crazy! We had a difficult time trying to fit our luggage into the cabin, much less keep it under the bed with the tight spaces around. If we placed our bags on the beds, they should be pushed to the inner side for fear of theft. We shared our cabin with three Chinese from Guangzhou, whom we befriended soon enough. Our rail car was mostly filled with people from several different tour groups, mostly from Guangzhou.

The train left at 8pm from Xining and arrived in Lhasa at 9.30pm. We have been advised to bring food to the train. Instant food is a convenient choice as hot water is easily available. The restaurant serves food but it must be pre-ordered before you go to the restaurant to eat. The food is served at certain times. Food from the trolleys that go along the rail cars should not be bought as these are overnight food and may cause tummy upset.

We took a tour around the train and we realised there were three types of seating in various rail cars. There were those with seats only and those with beds, of which we have the hard sleeper (6 beds with no door) and the soft sleeper (4 beds with door). We had opted for the hard sleeper because I figured a trip wouldn't be fun without a little bit of difficulty - no pain, no gain. I was glad we made that choice because our cabin mates from Guangzhou were friendly people and one actually shared stories with my mum about his trip to Mongolia. I also want to go!

The soft sleeper cabin is a lot more comfortable with only 4 beds. Each bed has a tv on its wall with the controls attached to wall at the other end of the bed. They had wall cushions lined along the wall for comfort when you sit on the bed. There was definitely more vertical space as there are just two beds on each side of the wall.

Each rail car has two toilets. Though they are not dirty on most occasions, they are always smelly as the water amount from the flush is miserly. We have a wash basins area at one end of the rail car.

The lights in the train go out at ten at night with prior announcements about ten to fifteen minutes before the lights are switched off. After I pushed my camera bag to the end of my bed, I arranged myself for sleep. Soon, I fell asleep out of exhaustion, without brushing my teeth. It had been a wonderful day, almost unreal. Just a day ago, I was dashing from one place to another trying to get tickets for this trip, trying to push away the very possibility of not being able to make it and now, that is all history. If there is anything, the little misfortune made me cherish this trip more than I would have and I enjoyed thoroughly including the visits to toilets that were so unearthly smelly and dirty. They were all part of a brilliant experience! Like the old saying goes, no pain, no gain. I am embarking on the highest railway in the world!

Tibet, here I come!

This is the top bed. There is barely enough vertical space for you to sit. Throughout the journey, I sat either at the bottom bed or on the seat along the corridor, climbing up only when I needed to rest.

The beds and walls had bars and handles which allowed an easy climb for me to the top bed.

There is my sister's luggage pushed to the inner side of the bed.

Soft sleeper with individual tv for each bed and cushion lined along the bed. The hinged lever on the right is actually a step for you to climb to the upper beds.

Each bed also has an oxygen supply outlet and a hinged-netted shelf which you can pull down to use.

Oxygen supply vent when the lid is lifted.

Oxygen supply vent when the lid is closed.

Hot water dispenser.

Bins for recyclable and non-recyclable waste

Caution signs on doors, just like the ones we had on Nippon Maru.

Wash basin area


Seat by the corridor. There is a white switch on the right which allows you to switch off the speakers outside your cabin.

View from our cabin window

The restaurant

Our delicious beef cup noodles

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