When you catch a train in China and you've pre booked, but not collected your tickets, you will be told that you need to get to the station at least 2 hours before departure....this is bullshit! Well it is at Xi'an central anyway.
We managed to collect our tickets and head through the security check smoothly and efficiently within 40 minutes, this resulted in us sitting on our bags in the middle of the departure lounge for over an hour. It was hot, sweaty and boring, at least we gave the locals something to look at.
Once on board you can see that the train is divided into 5 sections, hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper, soft sleeper and deluxe sleeper. We had a soft sleeper, again another lie my arse was dead within 10 minutes. Still the train is pleasant enough, it's kind of like going to your Nana's for a sleepover, with floral carpets and sofas that don't quite match.
Each carriage has a western toilet, a wash room (3sinks, the water in here is non drinkable so a small bottle is needed for brushing your teeth) and again a convenient hot water tap for preparing your ever so trusty noodles. There's heating, but no air con, so it is very hot on board!
You don't get much privacy, one door closes your dorm from the aisle, but there are no curtains around the individual beds. So dress comfy, you won't be changing into your pjs once on board!
In our 4 bed bunk we were joined by two Chinese girls. The first was very smily but popped in her headphones and kept herself busy with a film. However, the second loved that me and Kyle were from England, she shared her food with us and taught us some Chinese...including the word for chicken which will come in handy for the next 2 weeks, I can finally risk eating meat!
If you're a Harry Potter fan I think you'd really enjoy the night train. Attendants come by every now and then with trolleys filled with goods, and just like in the wizarding world you have no idea what any of it is. Thankfully we stocked up before hand, unlike last time when we took the day train, so were prepared for tea and breakfast.
Further down the train is a dining car, we didn't bother visiting this as we weren't too keen on getting fed an animals insides again. Plus they say these trains are none smoking, and at various times of the night you will find the train staff smoking in this car. It's not uncommon for other passengers to hang out of the windows throughout the train to smoke too.
I was surprised by how quiet the train was, with most people getting ready for bed as soon as they board. The most noise is made by the train itself when you pull into a station, I'm shocked screams aren't heard all around the train when people are thrown out of their bunks with the sudden breaking. For a good nights sleep I'd suggest bringing ear plugs or head phones, and a good book!
The train is equipped with plenty of security personnel, who also clean throughout the night. Once on board they will take your ticket and exchange it for a plastic one. Shortly before arrival at your destination you swap your ticket back. This time can't come quick enough, after 16 hours your bum is dead, your pits are stinking but you've made it and you're ready to see what the next place has to offer!
The night train experience is enjoyable, and if you take the time to chat to your bunk mates you can learn a lot too. If in China I would recommend giving it a go...just once.
Love Carrie xxx