On a People’s Train From Urumqi to Beijing – Matt Gross

From the New York Times:

02Frugal.600It was a slow day in the railway ticket office in downtown Urumqi, and as I walked up to the counter, where there was no line, I was feeling lucky. Then the ticket clerk pronounced the two syllables that every traveler in China dreads: “Mei you.” The literal translation is “don’t have,” but the phrase can imply anything from “That simply does not exist” to “I’m afraid of foreigners; maybe one of my braver colleagues will step forward to help you.”

In my case, the ticket clerk meant it literally: Tickets for tomorrow’s T70 train to Beijing from , the capital of China’s far western province, were sold out. No seats, no sleepers ” nothing was available for four days. My only option for tomorrow, she explained (with the help of my taxi driver, whose elementary English complemented my elementary Chinese), was to buy a hard seat on the 52-hour ride … to Shanghai. [Full text]

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