I am writing this on the Shenzhen to Shanghai overnight train.
The noise is extraordinary.
People shouting from one end of the corridor to another, kids screaming and running up and down the corridor, the carriage attendant’s radio and her shouted responses, hawkers shouting their wares while winding with their trolleys through passengers stood in the corridor, at least three different mobile phones streaming video, people having conversations on their mobiles, and best of all, the kids in our compartment playing 2 different electronic games with the sound on.
Has China not discovered earphones?
We are in second class (believe me, the other carriages are worse, apart from first which is triple the price). There are four beds to a compartment – Lauren and I have the two top bunks in ours, leaving the whole ‘ground floor’ to assorted members of an extended family – currently there are three women, and three kids, all nattering loudly, playing games and (the baby) wailing. Its not quite my romantic image of an overnight train journey, chugging slowly through the night, swallowing up the miles to the sound of the train’s horn and the clatter of the rails….
A policeman just caused an increase in the volume to even more staggering levels by shouting for about ten minutes at the smokers who congregate between the carriages, which is not allowed. As they don’t shut the doors along the corridors, this does lead to smoke finding its way into our compartment, it’s not oppressive but unpleasant.
Earlier we tried to escape the noise by heading to the dining car. There were no tables as people were sat everywhere, many slumped on the tables fast asleep. We left, then I decided greater assertiveness was required if we wanted dinner and went back and insisted on sharing a table with a woman and child who glared at me but didn’t demur. There were three things on the menu, with grainy black and white pictures that did nothing much in the way of explaining the dishes. We pointed to the one that looked least likely to contain offal or chicken’s feet and hoped for the best. What we got was basically a plate of hot chillies, stir fried with very fatty bits of pork.
I managed a few chillies – I like hot food – but was wary of causing too much intestinal disturbance – my insides have never been quite right since Bolivia, and the less said about Chinese train toilets the better. Luckily it came accompanied by a mound of rice, so we fished out what meat was edible, and divided these few mouthfuls between us, along with the rice. Supplemented by some dried mango and apple, plus a couple of McVities digestives from Hong Kong, it wasn’t a bad dinner.
Now I am hiding up here in my bunk, trying not to get annoyed at the noise, and convincing myself this is ‘all part of the wonderful experience of travel’.