Friday, August 17th, 2012 | Author:


Tomorrow we’re taking the train to Kunming. 40 hours, 2500 km! And I bought the tickets myself from a local ticket booking office, lining up with all the locals to do so. What’s the big deal, I hear you say? Well, this is China. Dealing with any sort of office/government department is an exercise in extreme patience and endurance.

It took me 4 trips to the ticket office to get the tickets in my sweaty little hands. The ticket lady didn’t speak any English, I speak execrable Chinese, Kunming in summer is a very popular spot with the Chinese, tickets disappear almost as soon as they go on sale. Especially sleeper tickets.

The first time I went to the office and asked for sleeper tickets to Kunming, the ticket lady told me, “Meiyou” (don’t have). Then she asked me to come back that afternoon and to bring a “Zhongguoren pengyou” (Chinese friend) to help me talk to her. I went back that afternoon with Miss E, my five-year-old daughter whose Chinese far exceeds mine. Again the ticket lady said “Meiyou”. Then she told me to come back the next morning, at 10 am. So Miss E and I did, walking through 35 degree heat from the bus stop to the ticket office only to be told “Meiyou” once again.

But this time, the ticket lady asked me for my phone number and our passport numbers (maybe my determination was impressing her). So I handed over the necessary details and walked all the way back to the bus stop, by which stage poor Miss E was covered in heat rash and complaining incessantly. No sooner did we get to the bus stop then my phone rang and I had my first phone conversation in Chinese. And if my Chinese is execrable face-to-face, it’s even worse when I can’t see whoever’s talking. All I understood were the words “ruan wo” and “er shi er hao” – soft sleepers, the 22nd. So, all excited, I said, “you ma? you ma?” (you have? you have?) and the ticket lady said that magic word, “you” (have). So I gave the phone to Miss E and told her to tell the lady we were coming back right now, and we rushed back through the heat and sun to the office, and emerged moments later with soft sleeper tickets to Kunming! Yay!

Category: Travel News
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