Our train was at 10.48pm. We turned up with about 40 minutes to spare. Beijing Railway Station (image courtesy of this blog - thanks!) was absolutely mental! Hordes and hordes of people were packed outside the entrance forming an incredible unmoving mass. We befriended a Jamaican man on our subway journey to the station who’s lived in China for eight years teaching English, French & German. He hopes to start work for the Jamaican embassy in two years. If his English is anything to go by, there are going to be a lot of crossed wires between China and Jamaica.
I half-carried, half-dragged our joint suitcase through the crowds. Chinese officials were trying to direct the (literally) thousands of people into some sort of ordered mess. Our Jamaican friend was convinced we wouldn’t make it to the train on time. Keer pulled my hood down, telling me to “show them your white face” – a phrase she’s used a lot lately – and the three of us, with our mix of white, black and yellow, somehow managed to blag our way through the masses and to the front of the station.
Luckily the Jamaican guy was catching the same train as us; we ran alongside him for a full five minutes before reaching our platform. I’ve never seen such a long train in my life! Carriage after carriage fit to burst with bodies every which way. The Jamaican had been fortunate enough to get a “bed” ticket, and we left him some four carriages from our own – carriage 7 – lucky for some, but not so much for us. Upon reaching it, there seemed hardly any space to board. Keer translated the train guard’s authoritative barking as “Move down, move down, make space for our foreign friends!” No idea how the two of us – officially the fattest people in China – got on with our suitcase. Genuinelly did not think there was an inch of space for any more travellers – how very wrong I was! A group of about five people turned up, all demanding to be let on and allowed through as they had “seated” tickets. It all got a bit tense – everyone convinced they couldn’t move any further, and one of the girls from the newly-arrived group kept poking me and askimg me if I too had “seated” tickets – “No!” – and could I let her through – “Keer, tell her I have nowhere to move and the guy in front of me needs to move first as there is a suitcase between me and him, so I couldn’t possibly let her pass!”
Anyway, I suppose the total lack of space was merely an illusion as we’ve found ourselves in the bendy bit between two carriages with definitely enough room to at least do a 270-degree turn. It’s also become quite evident why there are only four of us stood here – there’s condensation forming on all surfaces and dripping down. Like an indoor rain cloud.