I only had a day in Kunming and there wasn't anything in the city I wanted to see, really, so spent my time chatting with the other travelers, drawing a portrait of my host upon her request, eating delicious homemade food, buying some food for my trip and resting.I knew the train back to Shanghai would take almost three days and I would spend two nights aboard it. And after traveling for close to a month altogether, I wasn't up to much exploring, anyway.
The day my train left, I took a bus to the train station and waited in line for my ticket.
I had had to order it a week before, in order to ensure I got a bed, and not one of the dreaded hard seats. A hard seat doesn't sound too bad, perhaps, but after the fourteen hour trip from Xian to Chengdu, crammed between other passengers, others standing in the aisle, with no room to adjust my position in the tiny, stiff seat, I knew I couldn't travel this way all the way to Shanghai. Fortunately, a fellow traveler at the hostel in Lijiang helped me buy a ticket. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the ticket counter to collect the ticket, they checked my passport and told me my name was wrong. Daniel Ross Philbin, not Daniel Philbin. I would have to buy another ticket.
I began to worry at this point. I needed to be back in Shanghai in a couple days for work. There would be no more tickets to Shanghai, and even if there were, I had just wasted close to a hundred dollars on a ticket I couldn't use. After freaking out a bit, I decided I should at least try to explain my situation to someone who spoke English. I'm glad I did, because they simply changed my name on the ticket and gave it to me. As simple as that. Much reassured, I no longer minded the 36 hours I would spend in the same small space with a few dozen other passengers. At least I wouldn't have to stand up in an aisle the whole way.
There's not much to tell about the trip itself except that it was long. It's hard to express just how long. I can say 36 hours. I can say I spent two nights on the train. I can say I bought a giant grocery bag full of instant noodles and other unhealthy snacks and finished everything. I can say I read, wrote, drew in my journal, tried talking with some of the other passengers and spent hours watching the scenery flash past. But none of this really gives you a complete idea just how long I spent on that tiny hard bed, wishing we would finally arrive.
But we did finally arrive and I stepped off the train, met with a humid heat that knocked the air out of me. I sucked in the syrupy, steamy air like a fish without gills, sweating before I even reached the metro. Yes, was back in Shanghai.