He, Chenwei, spoke some very basic English so I sat with his family, crammed in the tiny train cars between other passengers eating fruit and occasionally keeping up a conventional kind of conversation about school and where we were from.
The train plunged forward into the night, screaming along the metal rails. There's little or no purpose trying to sleep with a "hard seat" ticket on a Chinese train. The seats are small and inflexible and every adjacent seat is also full: families like Chenwei's, traveling together with their combined luggage and several plastic bags of food for the journey, slightly older travelers with large gunny sacks and others who couldn't manage to buy a seat
and had to either stand in the narrow aisle, or sit on a small plastic stool they brought themselves.
The trip was long, but Chenwei and his family's stop was the stop of my transfer, and at about 3:30 in the morning, they informed me we'd arrived.
Bidding them goodbye, I waited for the bus station to open.
After an hour we continued, winding our way deeper and further up into the mountains.
Soon, the dense forest of emerald trees fell away from the road in steep, almost vertical cliffs, only feet away from the careening, swerving bus. Terraced rice fields, thin waterfalls and even once a rainbow cutting through a deep valley