Travelling East to JiujiangSeptember 15 in China ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C
Probably the most stressful day we've had on the trip so far, but we were expecting it and prepared for it. The issues had started a fair way in advance, as we'd only had limited options for booking trains thanks to sellouts and the like. And although the high speed trains run like clockwork (delays are very uncommon, Zhangjiajie is only connected via slow trains, which don't run at all on time. We weren't aware of this when we booked our tickets: a slow train from Zhangjiajie to Changsha, a fast train from Changsha South to Nanchang, and then another fast train from Nanchang to Jiujiang.
The biggest problem was that our slow train (#1) was arriving at Changsha, while the fast train (#2) was leaving from Changsha South. We'd left ourselves an hour for the transfer, but it meant getting across the city and through both train stations smoothly. The high-speed stations are more like airports than stations and can be absolutely colossal, but we made ourselves as prepared as possible.
The first step was fine, as we left our hotel and caught the slow train in Zhangjiajie, though we both felt nervous as the train lumbered its way through the countryside for four hours. We were at the doors and ready to go as the train finally got to Changsha, and had a slight break of luck as our door was right next to the stairs down from the platform - we didn't have to run half a kilometre along the platform first.
Ran through the station and across the concourse, Amazing Race-style, to where we knew the metro station entrance was. Downstairs and quickly through the machines to buy our tickets before getting another break of luck and jumping straight on a train. The metro here only runs every six minutes, so just missing one would've been a big delay.
So far so good.
Positioned ourselves on the subway train to where we knew the escalators would be (every station has a standardised design), then ran up the escalators through the metro and into the high speed rail station. Shoved through the ID inspection queue (I just went straight to the front saying "wan de, wan de" / "late, late"), then shoved through the x-ray machine queue as well.
Ran up the next escalators as well, where of course our train was at the furthest possible platform. So we half-ran and half jogged across the entire concourse and shoved through a few more lines. The gates were still open (the platform entrances are closed five minutes prior to departure) and we'd made it, with a couple of minutes to spare.
Missing the train wouldn't have been a complete disaster, we would've had to reschedule a few trains, but it would probably mean arriving at our destination around midnight! Ironically, we were only on the fast train for an hour before a 90 minute "layover" at the next station, before another two hour train.
As it was, we arrived in Jiujiang at about 6pm after a fairly stressful day. Our "train station" hotel turned out to be about 20 minutes walk from the station, though at least there was a nice park to walk through, complete with old people doing tai chi. Hotel was quite nice and modern, though very Chinese as it stunk of cigarettes and we occasionally had hookers' business cards shoved under the door - apparently this is quite common in Chinese business hotels!Read more