Time-traveling in a Chinese train

For our trip to Luoyang a couple of weekends ago I wanted to take the train. I frequently ride the high speed trains in China but I had not been in an old train in quite some time. Around five years, I think. I thought the train was the best option as we could depart on Friday afternoon, sleep there and arrive in the morning. Also, trains are usually less prone to delays than planes, at least in China.

This train was a K type train. K stands for kuai, fast, but don’t let that fool you: K trains are one of the slowest. It took us around 17 hours to reach Luoyang from Suzhou (1038 kilometers).

In Chinese trains you can choose between soft sleeper and hard sleeper. Well, you can also choose buying a hard seat ticket, or even a standing ticket, but I don’t recommend it for trips longer than 4 hours unless you have superpowers. Some trains also have soft seats and are usually ok.

You would deduce from the names that the difference between the soft and the hard sleeper is the consistency of the bed. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that is not always the case! In our train to Luoyang, the soft beds were as rigid as the hard ones. The soft sleeper carriage was pretty old, so that might be it. The main difference between them is that in the hard sleeper you get a bed in a 6 bunks compartment (2 bunk beds of 3 stories each) and your “room” is open (there is no door separating the bunk beds from the corridor). In the soft sleeper, you stay inside a closed room with 4 beds (2 bunk beds of 2 stories each). In both types of beds you get a pillow and a duvet. If you don’t ride the train from the first stop, it can happen that your bed has previously been used by someone else!

The hard sleepers. Zero privacy.

The hard sleepers. Zero privacy.


When I was a student I always traveled in the hard sleeper, as they are obviously cheaper. This time we chose the soft sleeper as C. had never been in a sleeping train (that he remembers) and was a bit apprehensive.

Fun fact: the lower bed is moe expensive as you can also sit on it. But probably your neighbour from the upper bed will sit on it too!

Fun fact: the lower bed is more expensive as you can also sit on it. But your neighbour from the upper bed will probably sit on your bed too!


When boarding the train I had seen from the outside that the restaurant carriage was right next to ours and I went to have a look. I was delighted to find that this train must have dated from the 50s or 60s: the restaurant carriage was like time-traveling several decades to the past:


There was a policeman to check that the travelers from the seating carriage didn’t slip into an empty bed.


Even though the train was old and noisy we slept like babies. And you already read about our adventures in Luoyang!