Travel Tip #3: Bring a Thermos/带上自己的保温杯

(下面有中文版)

It may seem like a no-brainer to bring along a water bottle when traveling, but when traveling in China, you should make that a thermos. You know, the hot water container. It’s not that China doesn’t have cool water (that would be pretty weird, huh?) but that the culture is accustomed to drinking hot water. “You mean tea?” you might say. No, I’m talking about plain hot water. Tea is an entirely different matter altogether.

Why bring this up? Because if you’re from outside of China, you might be expecting to find drinking fountains everywhere. You won’t find them in China, and if you do, I wouldn’t recommend drinking the water. That’s where a thermos comes in handy! See, in lieu of drinking fountains, there are hot water machines. EVERYWHERE. All trains, major transportation hubs, hotels, schools, and other places have them. Some are pretty basic, and some look like rejected robots from the Jetsons. The point is: if you bring a thermos with, you can drink lots of free water (and pop in some tea bags or instant coffee, too!)

What about hot summer days? Or, what if I just don’t want to drink a bunch of hot water? Well, the other alternative is honestly just buying water bottles from convenienve stores (usually 2 rmb, depending on the brand, but personally I can’t taste much of a difference so…no need to get super fancy). If you don’t like the idea of buying water bottles, then you can consider boiling water in your hotel, putting it in the fridge, and then drinking it. Or, best case scenario: if you’re staying in a nice-ish hotel, they often supply free water bottles in each room. You can just take them! But…make sure they’re actually free first.

If you’re going on a longer trip, and especially for train rides, though, I definitely recommend the handy dandy thermos. It doubles as a hand-warmer for cold weather, and it’s just an all-around staple in China.

Some useful Chinese:
保温杯 (bao wen bei) = Thermos (hot water bottle)
白开水 OR 热水 (bai kai shui OR re shui) = Boiled/hot water
矿泉水 (kuang quan shui) = Mineral spring water
我还是要喝冰水 (wo hai shi yao he bing shui) = I still want to drink cold water.

当然旅行者应该自己带一个杯子,但是在中国这个“杯子”应该换成“保温杯”就是为了喝热水。不是因为中国没有冰水(太奇怪了吧)就是因为这个文化习惯喝热水。(“你应该说‘茶’吧!”你说。不,我的意思就是白开水。茶就是完全另一件事情。

为什么要提呢?因为如果你不来自中国,你可能习惯看到公共饮水机,但是中国很少有。(而且说实话我不那么相信它们的卫生)。所以呢,保温杯会给你很大的帮助!中国可能没有饮水机,但是到处都有热水器,包括在火车上,交通核心,学校等等。有些热水器比较简单的,有的有点像《杰森一家人》被拒绝的机器人。主要是你带上保温杯,你随处都可以喝免费的水(也可以泡一杯茶,咖啡等)。

那如果是夏天呢?或者你就不愿意喝热水呢?其实你只能去超市买一瓶矿泉水(基本上两块钱,有些品牌比较贵,但是味道其实都差不多了)。如果你不那么喜欢买很多瓶水,你也可以在宾馆里烧水,然后把烧开的水放在冰箱里,然后放在你的杯子里。或者,如果你在稍微好点的宾馆,有可能你的房间里已经有几瓶水,免费的!就可以把它们拿走……但是你要先确定是否是免费的。

如果你的路线比较长的话,尤其是如果你要坐火车,我还是建议你带上自己的保温杯。它也可以当做你的热水袋,也是中国旅行路上的必需品。

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Hard Sleepers/卧铺

(下面有中文版)

In another post, I talked about the different kinds of trains, and also touched upon five different types of slow train tickets: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat (sometimes), hard seat, and no seat. I’ll write about hard seat/no seat soon enough, but for now, let’s dive into the wonderful world of hard sleeper tickets!

First off, when is it a good idea to get a hard sleeper?

Well, I personally think hard sleeper tickets are the most cost-effective way to do overnight trains. True, you can save a lot of money by getting a hard seat (and if money is a big issue for you, then you might not have a choice), but the major downside to a hard seat is that you probably won’t sleep. (Unless you have buns of steel). For some, it’s a worthwile trade-off to save that much more rmb. However, as I’ve come to appreciate more and more, sleep is a GREAT thing! Get a hard sleeper if you have a long ways to go, and enjoy your night’s rest. (Tip: bring earplugs and a face mask, in case your bunkmates are there to play poker all night…that, or join them!)

So, okay, you’ve chosen a hard sleeper. Which bunk should you get?

I’ve slept in all three beds (top, middle, bottom), and there are advantages and disadvantages to each one.

Bottom bunk: This one is indisputably the best. The ticket is slightly more expensive than the others because of this, but for good reason. As a bottom bunk, you don’t constantly have to climb in and out of bed, AND your bed doubles as a seat with its own side table for when you want to enjoy the scenery. The only disadvantage: others may crowd your bed to use it as a seat, too. But most respect you if you want to lay down. You just have to speak up!

Middle bunk: This is my personal LEAST favorite, if only because it’s the most awkward for me to climb into. Others may have no problem whatsoever getting in, but not me. I have to weirdly swing over from the side ladder and unceremoniously plop into my bed while shimmying in the rest of the way. Some (*coughmostcough*) are more flexible than me and don’t mind. Alas, this one feels awkward to me. Though, two major perks: you can look out the window from your bed (because it’s not too high) and you can still reach the side table by the bottom bunk to leave your water bottle at night.

Top bunk: This one’s the cheapest, and most people don’t like it. I like it more than the middle bunk, if only because it’s easier for me to climb into. I just have to go all the way up the ladder and then fall onto the bed. True, there are some major disadvantages: you have no side table access, you can’t see out of the window, and if you’re tall like me, you also can’t sit up without hitting your head. Major perk: you can easily access your luggage from the top rack, which for a fatty like me who likes to snack, this is a great thing.

Once you get a hard sleeper ticket, the rest is pretty straightforward. The conductors take your ticket and give you a plastic card in exchange so that they can keep track of when you need to get off. There are side tables by the windows across the aisle and enough walking space if you need to stretch your legs.

Sure, planes are faster ways of travel, but sometimes, it’s nice to take the longer route, and this is a good way to do it.

我在另一篇文章提到了火车的类型,也提到了慢车的五种票:软卧,卧铺,所谓的软座,硬座,无座。我稍后会谈到硬座与无座,但是现在要讲的是卧铺!

首先,什么时候应该买卧铺票?

我个人感觉卧铺票是火车最经济的过夜火车票。当然,你可以买硬座票更省钱(如果你的钱很紧张,你可能只有这个选择),但是硬座最大的缺点就是除非你的屁股像钢筋一样硬,绕不然你整夜都不可能睡着吧!有些人可以接受为了省钱而熬夜,但是我慢慢感到其实睡觉是一件非常重要的事情!如果你的路比较远,那就买卧铺,睡个好觉吧。(我建议你也带着耳塞、眼罩,因为有可能其他乘客要过夜玩扑克牌……这样,或者你就加入他们的游戏!)

好了,你选了卧铺。要买那一个床呢?

卧铺的下中上铺我都睡过了,各有利弊。

下铺。这个无疑是最好的。下铺也是最贵的卧铺票,但是贵有贵的道理。有下铺,你就不用断断续续爬上床,加上你的床也可以当做你的座位,包括你自己的小桌子在窗户旁边。这样很方便看风景。只有一个缺点:有可能其他乘客也想坐在你的床上,所以你要睡觉的时候就要胆子大点让他们走。

中铺。其实这个铺是我最不喜欢的,因为我感觉是最难爬上去的。其他人可能感觉没问题,但是我就不行。我要特别尴尬地从小楼梯爬到床边,然后转身,最后将自己一点一点挪进去。有些(大部分吧……)人比我更灵活,所以觉得也没什么。可惜,对我来说就很尴尬。但是,这个床有两个优点:一,你还是可以从床上看窗外,二,你还是可以摸得到下铺的小桌子,刚好把杯子放在那儿。

上铺。这个床就是最便宜的,但是大部分人不那么喜欢。我个人觉得上铺比中铺好,因为对我来说比较好爬的。你主要爬到最高的位置,然后落在床上。那当然有一些比较大的缺点:你没有旁边的小桌子,你从床上不能看到窗外,而且如果你跟我一样个子很高,你坐不起来。但是最大的优点是你从上铺很容易拿到你的行李,所以跟我一样好吃的游客,这个方法最方便偷吃东西。

你拿到卧铺票之后,其他都很直接的。列车长会及时换票并提醒下车,这样他们也清楚你在哪一个站下车。过道旁边也有很多小桌子,很方便看窗外的风景,你也可以在过道上走走,锻炼身体。

当然,飞机是更快的旅行方式,但是有的时候漫游很好,而且卧铺票是最好的选择。

Travel Tip #2: Toilet Paper/卫生纸

(下面有中文版)

Now, some of you may already know this, but many of you don’t: most Chinese bathrooms DO NOT have toilet paper in them. Yes, Chinese people still use toilet paper (obviously), it’s just that everyone is expected to bring their own. I’ve speculated about this, and have a couple theories: 1) China is trying to reduce toilet paper waste, 2) With such a large population, it’s easier to make people bring their own rather than constantly have workers stock it, and 3) China hates me (just kidding).

Anyway, the point is that you need to bring your own! You have a couple of options. The most common is buying small packets at really any convenience store in the area (for usually 1 RMB per packet). Some travelers opt for buying them in bulk from a grocery store and using them throughout the trip, which really only works if you’re going to be stationed in the same place for an extended amount of time…otherwise, you’re stuck carting it around. Others pack a small roll of toilet paper before even coming to China (which I recommend if you’re coming from overseas and don’t want one of your first Chinese adventures being “let’s buy toilet paper before I pee my pants”).

But what if you don’t want to constantly buy toilet paper? Well, you have options, good ones being: McDonalds and KFC. Yes, Chinese cities have many of these chain stores, and these friendly reminders of consumerism can be your saving grace. Their bathrooms are almost always reliably stocked with toilet paper (and you don’t have to buy anything to use their bathrooms). Don’t like this choice? Another option is to always ask for extra napkins when you buy/order food. Better yet, pad your pockets with it if you’re staying in a hotel. (Hostels may or may not have their own toilet paper, depending on the price range/quality). You can get pretty creative with where you get your toilet paper, but the biggest takeaway here is that YOU HAVE TO HAVE IT ON YOU!

Maybe even bring extra. You might make a friend.

Useful phrases:
卫生纸 (wei sheng zhi)= toilet paper
餐厅纸 (can ting zhi)= napkin
多给我点餐厅纸吧 (duo gei wo dian can ting zhi ba)= Give me some extra napkins
洗手间在哪里 (xi shou jian zai na li)= Where is the bathroom?

有些人已经知道了,但是有些还不知道:中国的大部分洗手间没有卫生纸。那当然中国人是用卫生纸的,只不过每一个人是应该自己带的。(我考虑了这个问题,有三个可能性;第一,中国就是想要减少纸的浪费;第二,因为人口很大,每个人自己带卫生纸比每一个店断断续续地换卫生纸更方便;第三,中国恨我(开个玩笑)。

关键是你要自己带的!有几个选择。你可以去任何一个商店买一包纸(就一块钱而已)。有些游客去市场买很多包,然后慢慢地用完(如果你一直在同一个地方旅行,这是个好选择,但是如果你要去很多地方,后来会变得有点麻烦因为还是要带上那么多……)。有些人来中国之前买几包(如果你是从国外来的,我建议你还是来之前带一点,要不然的话你在中国的第一个回忆就是“我去找卫生纸的漂游记”)。

那么如果你懒得常常去买卫生纸呢?还是有办法:这就叫麦当劳和肯德基(对呀这种消费主义的符号会救了你的命!)他们的卫生间经常有卫生纸,而且你不用买东西才能上他们的厕所。不想要这样吗?那你每次出去吃饭多拿一些餐厅纸。如果你住在宾馆里,你可以把很多卫生纸塞进你的口袋。(青年旅社未必有卫生纸,如果质量差点的话那肯定没有)。你就要用你的想象力去找办法吧。主要是:一定要带上!

最好是你多带一些。结果呢:你可能会交一个新的朋友。

Travel Tip #1: Bring Your Student ID! 带上你的学生证!

(下面有中文版)

Yes, yes, growing up is a beautiful thing, and we should all embrace it. But, if you look even remotely young enough to be a student, bring along your ID. I’m talking about the crappy plastic ID that’s probably faded from being crammed into your pocket for too long. I’m talking about the one from undergraduate days. THAT one. Doesn’t matter if it’s expired, bring it. (Especially if there’s a lot of English on it.)

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THIS ACTUALLY WORKS

When you go to the ticket counter, show this to them. I try to put on a “I’m so sorry, but this is all I have to prove I’m a student” face and am gently insistent that it’s the real deal. Some don’t even need the effort. If it works, you get half price, which when you’re traveling in China is a really big deal. Everything in China has an entrance ticket. Lakes, mountains, certain parks. This is where the student ID comes in to save the day.

Of course, it’s not fool-proof. Some ticket vendors know exactly what you’re doing or only accept Chinese student IDs. (Or as I unfortunately discovered: only accept undergraduate and below student IDs…as if we grad students are just rolling in the dough…) If they turn it away and refuse the discount, don’t get mad. Because really, you have no right to be mad. Just try again another day.

(And if you think “Wow, this is shady and morally wrong and I think you’re a bad person, Hannah,” you should know that there was a time I signed on for an English tour of the Terra Cotta warriors, and the guide specifically handed out fake student IDs to all of us just to get the discount. My fake ID was a French student, though I forget the name.)

Useful Chinese phrases:
有没有学生票? (you mei you xue sheng piao) = Are there any student discounts?
这是我的学生证。(zhe shi wo de xue sheng zheng) = This is my student ID.
我学生证就是这样,没办法。(wo xue sheng zheng jiu shi zhe yang, mei ban fa) = This is just the way my student ID is, nothing I can do about it.

**If the ticket vendor is still not giving you the discount, count your losses and just pay the full price. No need to make a scene.

当然,长大是一个好事情,而且我们应该尽快适应这个生活阶段。但是,我跟你说,就算你只有那么一点点学生样,你就应该带上你的学生证。哪一个学生证?就是你上大学的学生证。
你到买票的地方, 就给那里售票员看。我经常用一个“我真不好意思,但是就没办法,学生证就这样”的表情,然后温暖地迫使他们使用。有的时候也不用费力。如果有用的话,票会半价,在中国这就是很宝贵的因为任何一个景点都要门票:山,湖,公园等。所以学生票对你大有帮助!

当然也不是每次都是那么容易的。有些售票员很清楚你在干什么,或者只看国内的学生证(或者,像我这样发现:只看本科以下的学生证……似乎我们研究生那么有钱哎呦)。如果他们不接受你的学生证,那你千万不要生气。因为说实话,你就没有权力生气因为学生证毕竟是没用的。你就换个地方换个时间再试试吧。

(还有:如果你读这篇文章感觉我特别坏,我跟你说,有一次我是跟着一个英文旅行团一起去参观兵马俑,然后导游竟然带上了很多假的外国的学生证为了买半价票!我那边假的学生证好像是一位法国女性,但是具体我已经忘了)。

Trains! 火车!

Trains, hands down, are my favorite way of traveling China (behind hitchhiking, of course). They’re economical, and they’re more scenic than taking a plane. If you have the time to spare, hop on a train!

On my last trip out west, I rode very long trains: a 36-hour train out to Xining, a 21-hour train to Lhasa, and then a 48-hour train back to Shanghai. In my time in China, I’ve managed to ride every type of train there is (even the Maglev in Shanghai). While I’ll get into more details about the different places to be within trains, let me first do a quick run-down of train types.

Fast trains
There are two types of fast trains: the G train (高铁, gao tie) and the D train (动车, dong che). These trains are pretty damn fast, and also tend to connect bigger cities together. There’s even a line between Chongqing and Shanghai!

What are the differences between a G train and a D train? A D train is the slightly older model that runs ever-so-slightly slower. The G train is the newer model. A G train is more expensive than a D train, by a little bit.

For example, as of writing this, a G train to Shanghai takes 45 minutes or an hour, and costs 73 rmb (about 10 USD). A D train takes one to one and a half hours to get to Shanghai, but costs 56 rmb (about 5-6 USD). It’s a slight difference, but a worthwile one to know. That being said. There aren’t as many D trains, so the tickets sell out very quickly.
The major perk of the high-speed trains is that, obviously, you get to your destination faster. The hot water machines and bathrooms tend to be cleaner. The only downside (for some) is that people tend to be a bit less chatty on fast trains. Then again, that might be a nice thing, too.

Slow trains
There are several types of slow trains. There are the T trains. There are the K trains, the Z trains, and the trains that are a string of numbers without a letter. These are the trains that tend to make overnight trips, and have different cabins: hard sleeper, soft sleeper, hard seat, and sometimes soft seat (but don’t be fooled: the seats aren’t actually that soft).

The T and Z trains are the faster ones of the bunch, though the K train is also decent. (Fun fact: the Chinese names for these trains all mean “fast,” but in different degrees. T is 特快 which means “especially fast,” Z means 最快 or “the fastest” and K means 快 which is just the plain ‘ol “fast,” which isn’t to say that any of them are actually all that fast. Oh well!) The string of numbers train is definitely the slowest, though depending on where you’re going, you might not actually have a choice of train type. Most train booking places show the amount of time it takes to get there.

I actually do like these slow trains when I have a longer journey to make. They’re meditative in their own rights, you meet an interesting array of people, and you get to see the scenery unfold. If you’re going a short distance (like from Hangzhou to Shanghai) and a fast train is available, though, I don’t really recommend this route. Because for short distances, the slow speed is maddening.

With any luck, you can avoid the L train, which is a very old model sometimes used out west in Xinjiang. How old is it?! The AC unit is just a fan bolted into the ceiling. The hot water machines are still powered by coal. I mean, it was cool for me to experience, but given the choice, I might have chosen a T or K train.

Crazy fast train
This would just be the Maglev. It goes over 300 km/hour, and it’s currently in Shanghai, connecting the airport with the downtown area. When is it a good idea to take it? Aw, just take it. It’s pretty wild to experience something that goes that fast!

So fast it doesn’t exist yet train
Is there something faster than the Maglev? Maybe in the near future! If you check out this link, you can read about some of the super-fast trains that are bound for China!

Those are some train types in China! Stay tuned for more information about hard sleepers, hard seats, and so on.

火车就是我在中国最喜欢的交通方式。坐火车很经济,相比坐飞机在火车上可以看到更美的风景。如果你计划旅行的时间足够的话,我建议你坐火车。

我最近去中国的西边旅行,也坐了很久的火车:36个小时从上海到西宁,21个小时从西宁到拉萨,48个小时从拉萨到上海。我在中国期间也坐了中国所有的火车类型(甚至上海的磁悬浮)。我以后会写到关于火车更详细的文章,但是现在我主要是稍微描写一下中国有什么样的火车。

快车
快车有两个模式:高铁与动车。这两个火车都很快,也把中国的城市、首都连在了一起。从上海到重庆就有!

高铁跟动车的区别来自哪里呢?动车是稍微老一点的,也比高铁稍微慢一点。高铁比较新的,也比动车稍微贵一点。比方说现在坐高铁从杭州到上海只要花45分钟或一个小时,二等座的票要73块钱。动车要花一个小时或一个半小时到上海,但是票只要49块钱。区别不大,但是还是值得考虑的。但是说完这些,要说动车的票比较少,所以比较难买到。

快车最大的好处当然就是速度,你到你的目的地更快。热水器和卫生间比较干净。缺点(对一些人来说)就是别的游客没有那么乐意跟你聊天。但是,说实话,这个也算是一个好处。

慢车
慢的火车有好几个类型。有T火车,有K火车,有Z火车,也有“没有字母,只有很多数字”的火车。这种火车可以过夜,也有好几种车厢:卧铺,软卧,硬座,软座(但是不要被骗了,软座也没有那么软)。

T与Z火车比较快一点点,但是K也还可以。“没有字母只有很多数字”的火车肯定是最慢的,但是按照你的出发点与目的地,你可能也没有其他选择。大部分订火车票的地方会给你看每一个车有几个小时到目的地。

如果我要去比较远的地方,我其实很喜欢慢车。游客可以聊天,你可以见到各种各样的人,也可以看风景慢慢的改变。但是如果你要去稍微近点的地方, 我并不建议你坐慢车。去那么近坐那么慢的车会让人疯掉。

运气好的话,你可以避免L火车。这就是一个超级老的模板,也只是偶尔在新疆用的。有多么老呢?“空调”只是一个风扇挂在车顶上。热水器还是烧煤炭的。我个人感觉很了不起,所以很有味道,但是如果能选其他火车,我肯定会选T或者Z。

超级快车
这就是磁悬浮。这辆车超过300公里的时速。现在只有上海有,也把机场与城市中心连起来了。你什么时候应该坐呢?哎哟,就坐吧!那么快的火车是一个很难忘的体验。

那这就是中国的一些火车。我下次会讲火车的卧铺,软卧,硬座等方面的特点。