Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Beijing – Liuzhou Trains to Stop at Liuzhou!

station

In a bizarre announcement, China Railways has announced that from July 1st, the  G529/530 from Beijing to Liuzhou will stop at Liuzhou station. Well, that will no doubt come as a relief to passengers who bought a ticket to Liuzhou on the off chance that the train may pass there and are now delighted that they won’t have to jump out the window as it hurtles through the station.

What it seems they meant to announce was that the route is being expanded beyond Liuzhou to Nanning. It will continue to stop at Guilin and Liuzhou as it always has done.

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I did once, back in the 1990s,  disembark unconventionally from a Xi’an to Hunan train. I had been in Xi’an for a conference then had to get to the small town of Huaihua in western Hunan. The normal route was to take a train from Xi’an to Nanning, but get off at Changsha, Hunan’s capital, then change to another train which took another twelve hours (overnight) to get to Huaihua. If you could get a ticket.  Changing train meant at least an overnight stay. They didn’t (still don’t?) do through-tickets. So when you got off one train you had to go through the whole obstacle course of buying the next ticket all over again.

I was happily ensconced in a hard sleeper carriage and off we set. Chinese trains were murderously slow back then. After what felt like days but still only the evening of the same day, we arrived at Luoyang in Henan province. At this point the train should have done the train equivalent of throwing a hard right and headed down to Wuhan. Instead it did nothing. We sat in Luoyang station for hours. All railway employees disappeared.

Finally, several hours later, they crept back and announced that the train would not be stopping at Wuhan or Changsha (both major destinations) because of flooding at Wuhan. Instead the next stop would be somewhere called Liuzhou. Most passengers got off, some to head back to Xi’an, some trying to arrange flights to Wuhan or Changsha – fat chance.

I sat there for a while considering  my options, then enlightenment struck. If the train wasn’t going via Wuhan and Changsha, then it must intend using a different route. And, so far as I know, there is only one other route. Which goes through Huaihua where I have to get to.

I managed to get hold of the train manager and he reluctantly confirmed this but he said that although we would go through Huaihua, we definitely wouldn’t stop there. I thought “OK” and started counting my spare change to see if I could afford the fine for pulling the emergency cord. At worst, I would end up in Liuzhou and have to change and go all the way back up the same line again.

By now, the hard sleeper compartment was almost empty. Me, an old man and a young woman of whom, more later. We trundled through the night. At some ridiculous hour of the morning the carriage attendant whispered to me “We will stop in Huaihua for a few minutes, but it is forbidden to get off.” I thanked her profusely and slipped her ¥100.

At around 6 am, the train indeed stopped at Huaihua, but not at a platform.  The door was accidentally unlocked, and one tired laowai had to jump down and cross several tracks towards the exit. The look of utter confusion on the station staff when I emerged was worth the whole trip. I was the only foreigner allowed to be in the town (it is still closed to foreigners – it is the centre of China’s nuclear arms cache)  and although they probably knew who I was, they couldn’t work out where I had popped up from.

And I was home a whole 24 hours ahead of when I would have been should the train not have been diverted. And had saved the cost of a Changsha to Liuzhou ticket and the cost of the hotel I would have needed for at least one night.

That was at least 15 years ago, but I’m sure the now less young woman still suffers in embarrassment when she remembers it, which I’m sure she does often. Moral: lock the door when you go for a dump!

. This entry was posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2014 at 3:54 pm and is filed under Liuzhou News, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Beijing – Liuzhou Trains to Stop at Liuzhou!”

  1. Carl Johnson Says:

    LOL!
    Great story!
    I would never have the nerve!



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