International Writers Magazine:
various modes of transport include, plane, train, bus, (intercity and
citywide) taxi and bicycle. There are even sedan chairs as well, but these
are mostly located at tourist attractions where sprightly young (and old)
men carry lazy tourists up and down hills with jaunty aplomb.
modes of transport
There are many
different modes of transport in China which the foreign traveler
can use ranging from the luxurious to the downright dirty. Taking
public transport is something not for the faint hearted, especially
in the countryside or a city during rush hour.
Planes, the way most people come to this fair land are the most convenient
way to travel quickly and efficiently the large distances between cities.
They are, on the whole, the same as anywhere else with the exception of
the Chinese total disregard of safety rules. The moment the planes wheels
have touched down people are undoing seatbelts, talking on phones and
taking things out of lockers. Also on Chinese flights the food is a strange
hybrid between western and Chinese. Apart from this though plane travel
differs little from anywhere else.
The second form of transport between cities is by train. These are separated
into hard seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper, soft being the most expensive
where you get a cabin to yourself and hard seat being a total nightmare
unadvisable to anyone except the most budget conscious or hardy.
I have only traveled hard seat once, a 13 hour overnight trip from Nanning
to Kunming where I only achieved about 2 hours of fitful sleep right at
the end of the journey when most of the other passengers had left and
I could lie on the floor.
Soft sleeper is my favoured grade it is slightly more expensive than hard
seat but worth every penny as you get a bunk to sleep on. The bunks are
arranged in three tiers in compartments of six. Chinese people favour
the bottom bunk as you can sit on it during the day but I prefer the top
one as you can retreat to it and get away from the questions, prying eyes
or just the general hullabaloo. Your travel mates will spend the day talking,
playing cards, eating, or just lying on their beds in their pants.
I also always commandeer the small fold down seat outside the compartment
beside the window because it is a good place to sit and read. This means
I get the best of both worlds, somewhere to sit during the day and somewhere
I can go to to get some relative peace and quiet. Therefore it is advisable
unless you want your bed to become the days bench to ask for the top bunk
when booking train tickets. Trains also have restaurant cars and food
trolleys selling drinks and cup noodles. Though the food in the restaurant
car is generally terrible, but they do have beer.
Buses also travel between cities and include 'sleeper buses'. However
I wouldn't recommend these as there is nowhere to put your bag so you
must squeeze it and yourself into your 'bed' .
Other buses vary greatly in quality depending on distance being traveled
and where they are going. If you are travelling from one major city to
another, say Beijing to Xian, the bus will probably be modern, air conditioned
and relatively comfortable, though you may have to endure a constant barrage
of Chinese pop music.
Buses in rural areas are more hit and miss ranging from small mini buses
where you virtually have to sit on the engine to perfectly acceptable
affairs. You might find yourself sitting next to a Buddhist monk chanting
his prayers,a travel sick mother vomiting for the whole journey or a young
student eager to practice his English with you.
Buses in cities are an entirely different kettle of fish and range from
the not busy, comfortable and modern buses to the old, sardine tin, rush
hour job's where you have to squeeze yourself on, through and off. These
are not advised for anyone but a seasoned China hand. Furthermore destinations
are exclusively written in Chinese. On the upside buses are very cheap,
only 25p a journey.
Subways in China range from the ultra modern to the veritably ancient
but are much the same as anywhere else in the world.
Taxis are generally a good form of transport if extortionately expensive
compared with others. They are seen by the Chinese as the correct form
of transport for rich foreigners and traveling any other way around a
city will provoke raised eyebrows and whispered comments 'foreigners can
Taxi drivers are generally friendly but it is advisable to take a map
with you as some can try and take you the long way and thus 'trim the
fat off - rip off, the foreigner.
But with the Olympics coming next year there has been a drive to improve
taxi drivers English so often you will meet ones desperate to practice
their new found skills often with mixed results.
Travel in China can
be a haphazard affair, an assault on the senses, mind and body. But it
will not always be like this as it is already improving and becoming efficient
and boring just like everywhere else. So if you're looking for adventure
and excitement rather than just getting from A to B then China's various
modes of transport have something to offer. Furthermore traveling
like a local is one of the best ways to really get to know a people and
we come to my favourite form of transport in China, the humble bicycle.
With China's car ownership soaring and nearly all the major cities
suffering from traffic congestion problems which are getting worse,
the bicycle is a quick and efficient way to get around.
Again local people will look at you as mad, 'why would a rich foreigner
want to ride a bicycle?!' (bicycles are seen as deeply un-cool in
the modern, image conscious China) But you will have the last laugh
as you fly by the taxi's and overcrowded buses stuck in traffic
© Paul Haire 6 December 2007
Beijing a sleeping giant
Beijing can be a pretentious place, made up of drab apartment blocks,
smog and traffic jams.
a Chinese sauna
One of my students who I teach English to recently invited me to a
sauna to see a show and have dinner. I was slightly apprehensive
Working as a Model
Yesterday I had a very unusual experience, possibly the most unusual
experience Ive had in my life so far.
Paul Haire in Beijing
I watched the rugby on Saturday night this weekend, it was Scotland
versus Ireland and I drank too much as usual. I had to nip out of my 9
o'clock class the next day a few times to vomit in the bathroom.
Encounter in the Forbidden City -
I sit on my bike and close my eyes, the sun's rays pleasantly warming
my face and body, I am oblivious to the throngs of people all around,
content in my own world.
I walk up the steps peering into the familiar, gloomy interior. I push
open the awkwardly fitted door and enter, its peaceful as I close
it behind me.
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