We have been able to escape no more snow, but not no more cold. The weather in Beijing has turned to the colder, with the temperature around 38 degrees on our departure day.
When we got off the Hong Kong to Beijing train we decided to buy our train tickets for our Beijing to Nanjing trip that was 8 days away. We knew the route did not provide 2 berth sleepers as we had on our present trip but 4 berth sleepers were available and rumor was sometimes you could get a 4 berth for a married couple. We went up to the English speaking ticket window to attempt our first purchase in Mainland China for the 4 berth for a married couple. Speaking through a glass window in a hectic surroundings the conversation can only be explained and as English with Chinese. Going nowhere with that purchase we decided before the purchase got more confusing it was best to settle for a couple of reserved soft seat tickets before we got stuck with first come first served hard seat tickets. During the walk around looking for a taxi we jokingly talked about what was that all about, when we realized that we only paid 70 US$ for 2 reserved tickets for 8 hours on a fast new train. We looked at the tickets and could not read what we had other than the time. We wondered if we got the soft seats, and decided to clear the matter up later for it was late and we still had to get to the hotel someway. Well our week in Beijing proved fruitless in understanding our tickets for no one speaks English well and we decided we would do it at departure at the train station. We were departing from a different station, Beijing South, a new station, the biggest in Asia, surely they could translate our tickets. Upon showing the English window our tickets all we could understand was second class no upgrades. After goggling our train on Ann’s Blackberry in the biggest, newest and unheated train station on a 38 degree day we found that second class was hard seats, first come first served. Horror stories of Chinese train rides packed to the doors with standing room only raced through our minds, we only hoped second class had heat. Seeing our breath in air as we talked, we felt cold and miserable, Ann said she was going home. We decided it was best we be first in line at the platform gate so we could be certain to be first for the seats. After 90 minutes the announcement came, the lines were long and we we first in one of them. The gates opened and our gate line was blocked by the arriving ticket takers and we had to wedge into the adjacent line, queuing is not common in China. We felt this was not our day. In the race to the train cars we only stopped at train attendants and showed them our tickets and they pointed in a direction. In the continuing mad dash a young women was running ahead of us with her Samsonite speedster, so we slowed her down by showing her our tickets and she gestured for use to follow. We frantically followed and finally she stepped into a car and motioned for us to get on. We moved down the aisle and she pointed to some seats. They were soft, roomy, the car had heat with lots of room it was time to celebrate. She pointed to some numbers on our tickets that resembled our seat numbers. She probably thought Americans never saw train seats before. What another great train ride we had!