One thing that’s really struck me about train travel in China is how friendly everyone is. People who’ve never met before in their lives are instantly chatting away like old friends if they’re sitting next to one another. Our trip from Guilin to Kunming was no exception to this.
We had hard sleeper beds, which means they’re stacked three high, with a pair of stacks making a little cubby-hole off the aisle of the train. To our surprise, our cubby-mates all (save one) spoke good English. There were two young men from Guilin on their way to a public speaking competition (in English), and a mother and daughter from Kunming on their way home from a holiday together (the mother was the one who didn’t really speak English, though we and she did pretty well with sign language and her daughter translated when necessary. And she also spoke a tiny bit of Dai. The Dai are an ethnic minority in China who are descended from Thais. Their language is very similar, so everyone was very entertained when I joined right in as mom was counting from 1 to 10 in Dai.)
We spent the afternoon and evening chatting and sharing the variety of snacks we’d brought along (we had oranges and sunflower seeds, they had pomelos and an odd fruit that was very like a slightly sweet, orange avocado.) We’d brought our typical train dinner of instant noodles, but as it turned out we didn’t really need them. Sarah had mentioned that she was fond of mogu (mushrooms.) When Yiqun and her mother returned from dinner, they surprised us with a container full of yummy mogu and rice!
The famous Luohan of Kunming’s Bamboo Temple