Travelling by sleeper train from Beijing to Xian

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Travelling by sleeper train from Beijing to Xian

The crowded waiting area at Beijing railway station as we wait to board our train to XianThe concourse was crowded as we waited at the barrier for the platform to be announced for our train to Xian (pronounced ‘she-an’). Our guide had come to see us onto the train and we really appreciated because without him it would have struggled. While the train numbers and platforms are shown in western characters, the destination and all the other information is shown in Chinese.

Once on the train we squeezed our luggage into our 4 birth cabin. It was a bit of a tight fit but with 4 suitcases on the top shelf (there is no ladder but two footholds in the frame of the door) and the remaining two, along with our hand luggage fit snuggly under the bottom bunks.

The train set off on time at 3.52pm and was due in Xian at 5.30am. The ticket inspector swapped out tickets for four plastic cards – no idea what they were.

After settling everyone in with their book and I-touch we explored the train. There were toilets both end of each carriage. The toilets were grim but a least they were real toilets although being able to see the tracks through the bottom of the toilet was a little disconcerting.

The restaurant carriage was just next door but didn’t open until 6pm so when we heard the woman going past with the trolley we rush to the door and pulled it open. It was probably the healthiest train trolley in the world – no sweets, no crisps, no biscuits – just various bundles of fruits – apples, bananas, peaches and even cherry tomatoes. Drinks consisted of pineapple juice or milk.

At around 7.30 we went for dinner in the restaurant, having been watching from time to time to see when a table would come free. Ordering was a little difficult. No one spoke more than a few words of English but eventually we agreed with the waitress to have ‘rice, chicken, beef and tomato/egg). We also managed to order two beers but no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t seem to order drinks for the children.

The food was good. Not full restaurant standard but certainly enjoyable. We returned to our cabin and because of the early start we had the lights off bt 9pm.

Sleeping was difficult. Tom and Callum slept soundly all night but the rest of us tossed and turned. In the end I found it best to sleep on the duvet which helped reduced the hardness of the bed.

We were woken abruptly at 4.55am. Though our door had been locked, it was opened suddenly by the ticket collector who also switched on the light. She swapped our the plastic cards she had given us the day before back to our rail tickets and walked off!

The train eventually pulled into Xian, perfectly on time. A porter rushed on to help us with our baggage and together we walked with what seemed like a thousand other people out of the station.

Unfortunately there had been a mix up with the booking and our guide in Xian had not been told we would be on the earlier train. After waiting for half an hour we retreated to a nearby Chinese fast food restaurant to wait.