My First Taste Of A Train Ride In China

Did she just throw a fish bone to the floor?
Why did she just take a picture of me?
What do you mean I have no seat?!?!?!

These are just some of the questions that came to mind as I was riding my first train ride in China.

I was excited! It was going to be my first weekend away from my host city of Changchun! And even though it was only for a weekend, I was looking forward to seeing Shenyang, my first city away from my new Chinese home!. And I was only one train ride away!

And that’s when I got to the Changchun train station…

I stepped off the light-rail at the same time as a sea of people, politely elbowing one another to make our way inside the train station. I went inside 2 offices only to find out they were not ticket offices.

Lost, I kept walking around the building. And then, as an oasis in the desert, I finally saw it.
A sign with English written underneath.
“Ticket Office  →”

train rides in China

Outside the light rail station

The one hour I had arrived to the station ahead of time had vanished, and now I only had about 20 minutes to make the train I wanted. As I arrived to the ticket office, it became quite clear that I was NOT going to make that train.


Lines were long, service was slow, and people were cutting in line. My train was as good as gone.
So, with the worst broken Chinese I could’ve come up with, I asked for “one ticket for the next train to Shenyang.

Big mistake.

As I crawled my way to the waiting hall and made my way to the gate, I realized that my ticket did not have a seat number……

Maybe it’s a first-come first-served train.

As people started going through the gate, I pushed my way as up front as I could to make sure I got a seat.

As I passed the gate, I rushed to train cart number 2, as written on my ticket. It is only once I go inside that I realized that all the seats had numbers on them.

Maybe my number is written in Chinese characters.

I quickly asked someone young enough who I thought might speak English. They didn’t.
But the person besides them did, so I asked if they could read my ticket and tell me which seat number I had.

“This is a standing ticket”


train ride in China

And that wasn’t all. On top of that, the train I was on was the “slow train”. In other words, my plan of riding comfortably for one hour and a half in the fast train to Shenyang had just crumbled; instead, I was stuck on a three hour slow train ride, standing up on top of that.

People came and went between carts in the hopes of finding a seat, each and everyone of those people elbowing anyone standing in their way. I almost had to climb on top of the girl sitting in front of me to avoid getting hit by a lady selling chips. The train ride not being smooth at all, I almost fell to my knees a couple of times.

Then finally, after an almost two hour ride standing up, people get off at the station before Shenyang.

So I take a seat in front of an older looking lady, who seemed somewhat surprised by my sudden arrival. As I looked at her, and she looked at me in return, I realize that she was eating out of a plastic bag (something quite common in China). She makes a sign pointing at her food, which I understood she was offering me some food, which I politely declined with a head shake. As she keeps eating, she does the unthinkable…..

Did she just throw a fish bone to the floor?

Changchun North Station

Surprised, I looked to the side so as to ignore what I had just seen. Seconds later, out of sheer curiosity, I peeked down the table and saw what I could only describe as leftovers on the ground……mainly fish bones. I did not have to wonder where those were coming from.

The train finally arrives to Shenyang. Tired, I reached for my bag and put it on my shoulders. As I walk towards the door, I try to avoid breathing the smoke from cigarettes being smoked inside the train (because, simply, this is China).

As I get out of the train after most of the crowd, I gaze at the heavens, finally breathing a small gasp of fresh air. As I start making my way towards the exit, I noticed a girl sneakingly taking a picture of me with her phone.

Da phak?

Later on, I would recount this experience to some locals I met at a bar.
“Not many foreigners take the slow train from Changchun
“, they said to me

I can see why….

Have you taken a train ride in China? What was your experience like?

5 thoughts on “My First Taste Of A Train Ride In China

  1. Hilarious. I cant believe she was throwing the bones to the floor. Im not sure I could stand in a moving train for 3 hours. I went to India once and nearly fell out a rickshaw… Amazing the things we do and see while traveling.

  2. I love this post. We had lots of people take our photo in China as well, some were on the sly but a lot asked as well. Our train experience was fantastic though – we got a bullet train from Xian to Mt Huashan area and it was amazing.

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