So the truth has to come out someday. On the 10,000km train journey from Moscow to Hong Kong, only four of us actually made it the whole way by train. The problem came when the sleeper tickets were sold out from Beijing to Xi’an, as were the seats. This left us with three options – fly, skip the Xi’an part of the trip or buy standing tickets. Half of the crew instantly decided that there was no way they’d stand on a train for 13 hours overnight and bought flights and the rest of us bought the standing tickets. How bad could it be? We can probably sit on the floor right?
The filmer, Patrik probably wanted to stay true to the concept of only travelling by land and knew that the footage would make good viewing for the documentary. The motivation for the rest of us was probably just a lack of money for the flight and wanting to see the terracotta soldiers (the 8th wonder of the world). But I don’t think any of us really had any idea how bad it would be.
The trains are mainly made up of sleeping carriages, with a restaurant car and two seating carriages. Once they sell all of the tickets for the seats, they sell UNLIMITED standing tickets, with the only catch being that you can only stand in the two seating carriages. We were told very seriously at the ticket office “If you can’t get on the train, it’s your fault”. The tickets were around 10 dollars or something.
As we arrived to the train platform, we realised that this was going to be hell. Think Tokyo rush hour. There wasn’t much else to do but pack in, push everyone out the way and find a spot in the aisle. Half of the crew were left on the platform, physically unable to squash themselves into the crowded train while the four of us that made it on were wondering how funny this would be after 5 hours. There wasn’t even enough space to squat or sit on your own bag.
As the train pulled away I had mixed feelings of regret and genuine excitement to be able to experience something so shitty. I was also wondering how I was going to be able to skate the next day. The Russian journalist, Kirill that was with us was ecstatic “I’ve never even heard of standing class! We don’t even have an option as painful as this in Russia!!” Luckily we came prepared with 56percent rice vodka and beers. The only way we could deal with the situation was to try and black out. As soon as that was dry, we climbed over the crowd to the restaurant car to buy a few bottles of wine. The more creative locals found spots to sleep like under the seats or on top of each other. There were babies shitting in plastic bags and screaming and all kinds of funky smells. The air was thick and sticky and guaranteed to take you down with some kind of disease.
Apart from singing a wasted karaoke version of “Good Times” by The Animals (I’m sure we were popular with the locals) and wondering if the Pringles pot in my hand would contain all my vomit if I had to throw up, I don’t remember much before waking up under peoples feet with a banana cart crashing into the back of my head in the morning. Are you fucking serious?? Who wants to buy bananas? We’re in hell! And how do you expect to push that thing down the aisle?
So that was it. Half-cut in the morning and back on my feet… Just another 4 hours to go. In my twisted mind state, I had a conversation with a baby where he repeated everything I said and waited the journey out. The two guys that didn’t drink got a heavy flu for the next week and the two of us drinkers were miraculously fine.
On the way out the door I had to check the toilet. It looked like someone had half filled it with pot noodle diarrhea and given it a good shake. Shit up the walls. Shitty. Good times!