The station was massive with many entrances, and it was dark. Where are Helen and the kids? They can't get in without their tickets. Bags through inspection, squeezed through station mayhem to leave Lee at platform, back outside, dashed from entrance to entrance. Found them, they'd been waiting for half an hour, still calm but happy to see us.
Result: get SIM cards for the mobiles!
At the station we were - often are - the subject of much interest. Grandmother? Mother? Child?
National anthem as train pulls out of station. When we alight, the attendants turn to face the departing train, unflinchingly attentive until the train is out of sight when they simultaneously about turn.
12 hours from Beijing to Xi'an.
Six berth, very warm, heaters on, smoking in end of carriages with doors wide open to carriages (remember smoke rises, avoid top bunks), boiler for water at end of carriages, difficult to secure bags, open plan sleeping. Regularly patrolled by officers. Fancy restaurant but only serving Chinese breakfast (millet congee with eggs boiled rock hard with blackened yolks, meat bun, preserved meat looking out of date). Squat toilets. Beds are surprisingly long - over six feet - but narrow.
Soft sleeper has four thicker mattresses and closed compartment.
Chinese very clean, all use bathroom and have toilet bag to hand.
Lee has done a lot of travel in her life, but has never taken a night train! She loved it. Doing it in style. Lee's fruitcake and Shane's coffee bags from Laos. What else do you need? She sweet talked her way onto the lowest bunk.
We did some home schooling with the kiddies in the morning.
The countryside we were passing through was intensively farmed, quite arid, perpetually dusty. We passed many old cave houses.
Shane, Helen, Rosie and Tom