Never Say No or You'll Want to Say Die
The biggest mistake I ever made was saying no to a Chinese train official.
You wouldn’t think such a small word would bring so much discomfort, but I regretted it the second he turned his back and headed off to the hard sleeper section.
We’d bought the tickets the day before, suspecting what we’d paid for, but not quite knowing, since our Mandarin was limited to the essential “please,” “thank you” and “beer.”
When we showed the tickets to a waitress, her face told us all we needed to know. We’d just bought two tickets for a 30-hour train journey from Guilin to Luoyang in the infamous hard seat section.
Hard seat, according to the guidebook, is “for hardcore travelers only” and while I like a spot of adventure, I’m more soft-center than hardcore. You see, hard seat actually means no seat.
Hard seat means, you wait for the train to pull in to the station and run like mad as your fellow passengers attempt to secure a spot on some wooden bench meant for six people but actually seating 20.
The ticket collector looked puzzled as he eyed me, sitting on a shelf with my feet in a washbasin, and my boyfriend Hector squashed awkwardly on top of our rucksacks, his knees almost touching his chin.
As he stood staring, I looked up and down the carriage and realized that there were no other “hardcore” travelers, just dozens of staring eyes.
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