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Riding the Rails

Imagine you are exhausted from a day of sightseeing in Xi’an, followed by a whirlwind run through the airport, with a ridiculously heavy bag of clothes and two other shoulder bags on your back, and a 2-hour flight back to Beijing.

Then, imagine you are dropped off at the Beijing Railway Station, with all of the aforementioned gear on your bag, and a teeming mass of people flooding through the entrance in front of you. And then you’re told that this is a popular area for pickpockets.¬†Oh, and in one of your shoulder bags is your prized laptop, and in the other is over $1000 worth of camera gear.

This is why I have no pictures of the railway station: I was too busy trying to keep sane, keep strangers away from me, and keep hold of my belongings. I was eyeballed by shifty-looking people left and right, and one guy had the brass to come over and stand in the middle of our group, less than 2 feet away from me, looking up at the ceiling to try and distract one of us. The only thing I could take solace in was being surrounded by my travelmates, and the fact that my training and the European half of my heritage have made me considerably larger and stronger than this small, withered-looking Chinese man.

Once we started moving towards the platform, I could barely keep pace with my group, because of all the people pushing and shoving, and it genuinely freaked me out a bit. It was the closest thing to an uncontrolled mob situation I’ve ever experienced in my life, and this was at 11pm at night! The station is, reportedly, like that 24/7.

I did get to ride in a sleeper car on the train from Beijing to Tai’an, though. It wasn’t the cleanest of trains, but it was good enough, and I definitely want to take a long train ride when I get back to the States, sometime.

I’m wiped out, so I’ll be chilling my brain out before we hike Taishan tomorrow. Yipe!

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