Guangzhou to Beijing rail, and the death of socializing.

I'm a bit disappointed in a way to see travel becoming so fast in China.  Is that fair to say?
Am I being too reminiscent of the "good old days" when trains were so slow?

I hate to say this.....but yeah, maybe I am.  And I am hypocritical as hell.

I'm not talking about all the money this costs to do, and how it would be much better spent improving the train know the trains the masses take, that they can actually afford tickets to ride.  

You see....taking the trains in China is probably the best way to learn Chinese.  Getting a ticket for a hard sleeper on a slow moving train was the best way for a serious student(or even a good natured tourist) to communicate with the masses.   People literally had nothing else to do but talk!

And gawk!

The first train I took in China was from Guangzhou to Kunming and back.  One way was 56 hrs!
I'm not bragging....but I am trying to illustrate how impractical it would be for a laowai to put his chin into a book and ignore everyone.  Especially if you had the bottom bunk.  

Complete strangers would sit on your bed, smoke, eventually lubricate the floor a bit with their lips.....and talk.

They'd talk to each other.  They'd stare at you(me), stare some more, and is only human nature to start trying to communicate.    

Those days are gone now, if you are taking the fast trains.   These have seats similar to an airliner, with their back to you.    One can only talk to your neighbor.  Better bring alot to read.   

With the advent of air travel, today, one may have a better chance of seeing sasquatch on one of those slower trains than seeing me on them.   I haven't ridden one in ages. (told you this would be a hypocritical story).

One of the best ways of socializing with the Chinese is thus going the way of the brick phone. 

Don't kid yourself.    The foreign population in China has exploded, so it's only natural that the number of excellent Chinese speaking foreigners in China grows.  However, as a % of foreign population, it's probably smaller than it has been in 20 years.  

The loss of the train experience for those serious China expert wannabe's will probably never be missed. 


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