My Trip to DatongToday ( June 20, 2008 ), I make a solo trip to Datong. I take Train No. K615 leaving Beijing at 14:50 and arriving at Datong at 20:50. If you want to save time and one night hotel stay as well, there is an overnight air-conditioned pass-by train - Train No.K278 leaving Beijing at 23:30 and arriving at Datong at 6:36 next morning. Some foreign tourists like to choose this overnight train as kind of experience and adventure.
Both K615 starts from Beijing West Station, the largest station in Beijing at present while K278 starts from Beijing North Station. There are four railway stations in Beijing: Beijing Raily Station, Beijing West Station, Beijing South Station and Beijing North Station.
The departure hall of Beijing West Station is on the second floor. If you take a taxi to the station, you may ask your cab driver to take you directly to the second departure floor. So the entrance often finds a huge number of people arriving and entering the hall.
China has tightened its control of the safety in the public places, especially with the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games. People must have their personal luggage X-rayed for dangerous objects before they can enter the hall.
Once in the hall, at your front, you see a huge train schedule board providing timely information on the trains in and out. Though all the city names are all in Chinese, you till can find your train and in which plateform your train leaves by recognizing your train number and arabic number ( platform number ) on the right of that train number.
After going through security check and entering the big hall, on its both sides, you can find "Luggage Deposit Area" ( Station Baggage Checkroom ). If you come to the statin well in advance, you may deposit your baggage here for a while and go on with other activities.
On the both side of the big hall of departure, you see two big food plaza offering various kinds of Chinese food, coffee and western food.
If you have purchased a soft sleep or soft seat, then you can enjoy some privilege. There is a special lounge for soft-seat ticket holders on the left side of the departure hall. I'm lucky enough to have a soft seat. So I proudly enter the soft-seat waiting lounge. Ther are many people waiting there. The right part of the room is used as a coffee shop, where you may buy a drink, coffer or tea. There is a big train timetable on the wall offering timely train schedule both in Chinese and English. It will tell you on which platform your train leaves. Also the station will broadcast the upcoming train you take when it is time for boarding. A clerk from the waiting lounge will check your train ticket before you go inside the station directly from the lounge room and find your platform.
When it is time for boarding the train, you will walk along the long corridor linking to all the platforms accommodating the trains in and out. You must find the right platform!
The train No K615 is on the platform no.8. I find the platform and walk down to the train for Datong.
The soft seat people have the privilege of coming to the train a litte bit earlier to avoid possible crowd. You see, these soft-sleeper people are lining up for boarding the train. We are on the rail car no.04. At the entrance to the train, people must give the tickets to the conductoress of the rail car to exchange for a boarding card. The card shows your seat number same with the ticket. Once you are on the train and the train is moving, the conductress will walk to you again to check your passport or ID card for security reason.. When the train is about to arrive, the conductress will approach you to exchange the card back for the ticket. Once you are on the train and the train is moving, the conductress will walk to you again to check your passport or ID card for security reason.
Four people in one compartment - two upper berths and two lower berths. Most people prefer lower berth to avoidd the clumsiness of climbing. So lower berth are harder to get than upper berths. For me, it makes no big difference. The upper berth gives you more personal privacy. The sheets, one pillow and quilt are very clean and tidy. High up there is a big luggage rack. As a shy man, I have no mood to sit on the lower berth when I am tired up with lying on the bed all the time. Well, you will find some portable window seats. So for most of the time on the way to Datong on the train, I sit in the window seats.
The train is well equipped with some useful facilities on both ends of the car - a three-basin wanshing room, two clean toilets, one free hot water cooker. If you have your own glass and tea, you can use the hot water to make the tea.
All the compartments are non-smoking. But for heavy smokers, please don't be dissappointed. On each linked area between two rail cars, you can smoke! One ashtray is hung on the wall of the linked area.
My simple lunch has failed me. I decide to have a dinner on the train. The dining car is just next to our compartment. The dining car looks quite tidy and neat. I order at the price of RMB 45, one fish, one green pepper and dofu, one small egg soup, one bowl of rice and one tin of beer. Hungery, I feel the dishes are more than Ok, it's delicious! Actually I'm not a picky man, a man of once in the army for eight years.
At last my Beijing - Datong train ride comes to the end after 5 hours and 53 minutes. I love the daytime train travel - you can see more! In China, most of the long-haul train ride is arranged in the evening - starting in the evening and arriving in the early morning. I have enjoyed the views passed by when the train running.
Well, we arrive at Datong Train Station. People have to line up again to have their train tickets chekced before going out of the train station. The weather tonight is fantastic! The open place in front of the station is not so crowded as I expect. First, I go to the ticketing office to buy my train ticket of the overnight train back to Beijing on June 22, 2008. To my disappointment, both soft and hard sleepers have been sold out 5 days before! In China, train tickets are much difficult to get than air-tickets. I have to get what they offer - hard seat!
I took a photo of the Datong Station on my first night in Datong.
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