You’ve even thought about hitching a flight out of town, but either plane tickets are triple the price of the 669RMB train ride you already purchased or they’re completed booked as well.
You’ve got no other options, unless you spend another 24+ hours in Xi’an and catch the train the next day. Oh wait, tickets are sold out that entire day too.
Believe it or not, that’s the exact situation my friend and I found ourselves in. We had missed our train in Xi’an, every train to Shanghai or nearby cities was sold out for at least two days, and all flights were booked.
So, what’s the plan? When all else fails in China, what should you do? Two things: Get aggressive, and back it up with some good ol’ Guangxi. Let me explain.
Get aggressive. ‘This is China’—find a way to get in, get around, get there, and be first. Enough said.
And what is Guangxi? Guangxi is a Chinese concept for good luck, well wishes, good relationships, and even sweet talk. In a competitive land filled with 1.4 billion people, a little Guangxi can help get you a far ways in China, so never rule it out as a means to get where you’re trying to go, literally and figuratively.
The plan was simple. Guangxi, err, sweet talk our way into the railway station, then sweet talk the attendants guarding the blockades for the next train departing to Shanghai, and once onboard, pay the ticket fair. Hey, I had done it before, so it was entirely possible.
And ... here ... we ... go. First on the list? Getting inside the railway station, which had two types of entry points at check-in: To the left? A counter where workers would check tickets and IDs. By the way, they inspected everyone’s documents carefully.
And to the right? An automated blockade—for locals only—that also required a ticket and ID check.
Here goes ...
We went left, approached the counter, acted as if we were in a rush, presented our missed-train tickets, and pleaded with as much Guangxi as we could to get inside and pay later on the train. But as nice as the attendant was, he wasn’t having any of it. Yep, we were D-E-N-I-E-D.
But no need to sit back and sulk. A few minutes later we were already on to the next mission: Sneaking in through the blockades. There was no other option, so time to get aggressive.
It was like a movie. We both hopped right behind some elder locals waiting in line. Meanwhile, there was this young, early 20 something year old volunteer worker pacing back and forth and monitoring the blockades for assistance.
My friend? She got in smoothly. The woman she trailed scanned her documents, the doors swung open, and she swooped in right behind her before they could close. Awesome.
But me? The guy I stood behind was completely clueless as to how to place his ticket and ID in the scanner. If the volunteer saw him having trouble, he’d walk over to assist and that’d be the end of my mission. Heck, I wasn’t even supposed to be in that line. So I did the only thing I could do...
I asked the man for his documents, helped place them in the scanner, and right as the doors open I slid in right behind him undetected. Whew!
Challenge #1 complete. And next up? Getting on the train.
I knew this would be the easy part. With barely 3 minutes left before departure we sprinted to the blockade, told the attendant we’d already bought our tickets but were running too late to get them out, and Guanxied the hell out of him before he waved an arm and decided to just let us pass through. B-O-O-Y-A-H. Mission accomplished.
And our adventure wasn’t over yet. Besides having to stand in the corridors of the train for 7 hours straight, we’d eventually have to pay up once the attendants came around to check tickets, right? Wrong.
A woman asked for our tickets, but after hearing our unfortunate missed-train story from my friend, and I guess seeing that we looked like honest, nice people, decided that she wouldn’t charge us. HELL-TO-THE-YEAH!
She did say that we were on our own when exiting the train station, but that was the easiest part. In places like Shanghai there are so many people exiting the turnstiles at once that attendants often let people walk through without even checking their tickets. And on that note, we both got through without a hitch.
And there you have it—another crazy adventure in China!