Today, we are traveling from Yangshuo to Chengdu by train. Chengdu is in Sichuan province: China’s spicy food capital! I’m not usually a fan of spicy food, but with our trip to Hua Hin, Thailand coming up, I figure this is a great place to practice up. But first, we have to get there. Let the adventure begin.
Purchasing Train Tickets in Yangshuo
Traveling by train in China is quite simple once you understand the ins and outs of the game, but it does require a bit of patience. It is possible to book Chinese train tickets online for a $10 USD service fee (?!). The fee gets lower if the tickets are booked through a Chinese website and paid using WeChat or AliPay. I hate service fees though, so I opted to walk the ten minutes to the Yangshuo ticket counter.
We still got charged a ¥10 fee for this service because it was a travel agency and not the actual train station (of which there are none in Yangshuo). ¥10 isn’t too bad though at about $1.50 USD and now we have tickets in hand. Rather than purchasing tickets out of the nearby Xingping, I opted for the slightly cheaper route out of Guilin. Our two tickets on hard seats cost ¥778 ($125). This is a little more expensive than I have seen them in the past, but it is peak travel time due to the upcoming Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).
Most Chinese trains are organized into “hard” seats, and “soft” seats. The hard seats, which we had booked, are similar to airplane seats with a fold out table. Sometimes, the seats are literally hard, wooden benches, but this time they were padded and comfortable. The soft seats are slightly more comfortable chairs, arranged in groups of four around a large table. These are great if you have a group of four. Otherwise, I suggest the hard seats, as they’re cheaper and basically the same.
Traveling Yangshuo to Chengdu
Bus from Yangshuo to Guilin
The first portion of our trip from Yangshuo to Chengdu was to take a bus to Guilin. From the hotel, we hailed two motorcycle taxis for ¥15 each. It took only 10 minutes to get to the bus station, which was really just a corner gas station with buses parked next to it. From there, a woman beckoned us onto a bus to Guilin for ¥30 each. The bus was clean, comfortable, and even had a horrible Chinese movie playing that we couldn’t stop watching.
After exactly 90 minutes, we hopped off near Wada Hostel in Guilin. We had a little extra time before our train departure, so we took a walk to do some grocery shopping and have breakfast. We splurged a little on breakfast and enjoyed a Hong Kong Coffee Tea (still not sure what this is) and biscuit from a cafe. Both were delightful. At the grocery store, we purchased lunch and some snacks for the train. The train does have a food car, but it is usually expensive and rarely includes an English menu.
The next portion of our Yangshuo to Chengdu adventure was to travel by train from Guilin to Chengdu. The last time we rode the train from Guangzhou to Guilin, we arrived two hours early and were bored out of our minds. This time, we arrived 30 minutes early and nearly missed our train. Thankfully the lines were moving quickly and we had some very helpful attendants to help us along the way. When we aren’t in a hurry, the train station is easy to navigate and has English signs throughout.
Train from Guilin to Chengdu
The train ride was seven hours long and arrived 10 minutes earlier than expected. There were several bathrooms for each car, with at least one Western toilet per set. I strongly suggest using the squatter on trains. It requires less touching of anything and less leg strength than hovering over the always-wet Western seat. The bathrooms included toilet paper, sink, and soap. As per usual in most of Asia, there were no towels.
The train also includes a hot and cold water dispenser. We used the dispenser to fill our noodle bowls (the blue one with shrimp on the front is my personal favorite) and an attendant came to collect our garbage later. Our seat mate ate some smoked pigeon for lunch. She ate it out of the bag it came in and spit the bones into the provided barf bag. Her garbage was also collected and she was given a replacement barf bag.
The train stopped multiple times along the way, with each stop lasting 5-15 minutes. If you do get off for some air, watch the smokers; they seem to know the drill. Thankfully, our stop was the last one, so there was no confusion as to where we were getting off. When the train emptied, we got out too.
Arrival in Chengdu
We got off at the Chengdu Dong (East) Station and caught a metro to our hotel. Our adventure from Yangshuo to Chengdu was a long, but easy and comfortable trip. So far, Chengdu has a very different vibe from most other Chinese cities we’ve been to. We can’t wait to get set up at our first house sit and spend the month exploring our new temporary home!
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