Another bit from this summer that I want to post about but probably won't ever get around to describing completely is my solo language study trip to Xichang, a town in southern Sichuan.
I took the trip around the last of August, precisely when every single college student in China was taking the train from home back to school. So it was no surprise that when I bought my ticket in the afternoon for the overnight train (a ten hour ride), there were only hard seats available. (Chinese trains usually have four classes: Hard Seat, Hard Sleeper, Soft Seat, and Soft Sleeper.) It was a surprise, however, when, wandering around killing time at the train station an hour later, I looked at my ticket and deciphered the characters “无座”, which mean "no seat" instead of "hard seat". Oops. Must have misunderstood that one...
I must have been feeling in a fatalistic mood, because the only thing I did was find myself a small little folding chair in a shop nearby, and then went to the teahouse in the station, tanked myself up on caffeine, and then wandered up to the departure hall when the train was scheduled to depart.
A little bit of a long prelude for a post, but here's what Chinese trains look like during the peak travel season:
No, the people in the aisles aren't lined up to go anywhere, though many of them squnched into a seat with relatives as the night wore on. Yes, this is totally ordinary, and yes, I was glad for my tiny little folding stool, which helped me get about an hour and a half of sleep (in ten minute increments between people going back and forth to the bathroom) before the train arrived at five in the morning.