Train T197 Depart Lanzhou 11:00. Arrive Urumqi 07:35 (actual arriving 9:30 – 2 hours late! Total 22.5 hours). Distance: 1892km
Hard sleeper bottom 390 RMB
Hard sleeper upper 365 RMB
The second train. Before we come to China, we had in mind that it’s too much to ride 2 long journey trains in a row for 3 days.. I thought we would suffer bored and got nothing to do. I even wanted to bring 3 books to read in train, plus LOMA notes that I was going to take exam in May. But we have come to rather enjoy the train ride (of course, there’s boring times too) and it does feel like faster than we thought. I am not even reading books (except checking Lonely Planet PDF chapter). We’re almost there! :) I mean, it’s survivable.
And I guess it’s a good decision to make a stop at Lanzhou to break the 3000+km journey from Chengdu to Urumqi. Although only a short stop, at least we could meet the Hui Muslims community in there. I’ve read in a blog before about travelers who take the 48-hour direct train Urumqi – Chengdu, it turned out to be a torture. People would take sleeping pills to force themselves sleep. In our case, it’s been okay. Like I said, survivable enough.
Except maybe, the fact that we haven’t had shower since Chengdu. We could have shower in Derek’s house but it was too cold then. And we’ve been 2 days in train without shower facilities (only get to wipe ourselves with damp towel in the restroom) and it’s going to be another day until we reach Urumqi, and we’ll be in Urumqi for a few hours stop only so I’m afraid we can’t have shower there. So, the only possible chance to take shower will be only when we reach Kashgar tomorrow evening.
The train berth cards which we forgot to take photo of earlier. If you have sleeper tickets, the train officer would come to collect them once you board the train, in exchange with these cards. You have to keep these cards carefully because you’ll need to present them just before you get down the train (and then they will return your tickets again). Probably this is to keep track who’s sitting where, and if they move elsewhere.
We get to have a quick escape to the train platform for a few minutes whenever train reach some major stations (where it will stop for around 10 minutes, and people would go out to breath some fresh air (after hours of recycled air!), stretch some muscles , smoke, and buy snacks.
Nothing too interesting from the snack counters: breads, cookies, dry food. The restaurant car starts operating after 5pm for dinner. But we still have our own food enough for 2 lunches and 1 dinner. We decide to eat everything from our luggage first so they will be lighter once we reach Urumqi, and we know that from Urumqi onwards, we can easily find Halal food and we dont need to bother eating Tesco instant chicken curry anymore.
While it’s still not dark, we take a ‘trip’ to other coaches, just for walking. There actually isn’t many soft-sleeper coach in a train, but lots of hard sleeper coaches. Unlike hard sleeper, the soft sleeper has 4 berths in a closed compartment. Ours are so far only hard sleeper, and it’s been comfortable enough. Although, I’m afraid they might only fit for average to small size people (no offense to big size people). But seriously, I have not yet seen Chinese people who are overweight (thus having hard time sleeping in in train). By this time, I feel a little disappointed for not encountering any Ughur people yet (I mean, this train is going to Urumqi, no?) and everyone in this train happen to be Chinese.
And we’ve seen The Great Wall! :D Not the typical sight from Beijing scenery, but hey, dont forget that The Great Wall spans thousands kilometers to the West China as well, and Jiayuguan has its the West-most gate! We’re so excited to see the Great Wall for real, although not from Beijing. Moreover, I didnt know that it can be seen from the railway path!
Before sleep time, we get to meet some university students from the next compartment who seem very excited to try speaking English with us, although they manage only a little. They’re also traveling to Urumqi, and the girl particularly told us that she’s visiting her boyfriend there, and they’ll make a trip to Karamay, further Northwest of Urumqi.
The next morning, we passed by Turpan railway station and it’s written in Uyghur, so we know that we’re officially in Xinjiang! :D From our previous (hundreds) initerary draft, we would stop here first and visit Turpan first, but now it’s shifted after Kashgar. Also, some views expected to see within Urumqi – Turpan (which I thought can only be seen if you ride bus) are the power windmills. There are LOTS of them! And each of the windmill is so huge and can be as high as 3-floor building.
Train was late by 2 hours making it almost 23 hours trip. Still, it can be considered fast train as previously our Chengdu – Lanzhou took 22 hours for only half of the Lanzhou – Urumqi distance! Arriving Urumqi station, we’re officially stepped on Xinjiang land! You can start seeing many Uyghur people around, although, unlike what we had thought, Chinese people are still in massive number. Can I say, 50-50? We called our CS friend Nazar straight away, and he asked us to ride Bus no 10 to go to main Bazar and he would wait for us there. And to get small changes for bus fare, we went to a stall belongs to an Uyghur girl and bought some boiled eggs.