In one hand I hold this ticket – a first class seat on the new super high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai. When I hand this ticket to the attendant and board the train next Thursday, I will be setting off on the first leg of a journey that has come to be known as “The Esther Expedition” – an attempt to trace the life and travels of a Minnesotan who worked in China in the first half of the twentieth century.
I had two options for purchasing this ticket. The first was the 21st century option — buy it online. This is how tickets are purchased now. Even though my Chinese friend walked me through the online process, I couldn’t shake my skepticism. I’ve gotten used to the convenience and efficiency of purchasing plane tickets online in recent years, but train tickets?
I know we’ve moved beyond the days when I had to be in City A in order to purchase a ticket from City A to B. And if I was travelling on from City B to City C, the first order of business upon arrival in City B was securing tickets to City C (or, perhaps, back to City A). If I had a friend or a friend of a friend or a friend of a friend of a friend….(you get the gist) in City B, so much the better. They could get the tickets (only available 3 days in advance) and hand them over to me once I arrived.
The second option for purchasing this ticket was to go to my neighborhood shou piao chu (ticket office) and fork over some cash and walk out with a ticket. I remember when this option was considered to be a revolutionary advancement in ticket-buying. It was glorious! No going to the train station! No standing in line for hours at the “SPECIAL WINDOW APPOINTED TO SELL TRAIN TICKETS TO FOREIGNERS AND OUR BELOVED CHINESE BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHO LIVE IN COLONIES AND BREAKAWAY PROVINCES” (at a higher price, of course), only to reach the counter as the clerk slammed the window shut and yelled “LUNCH TIME! COME BACK IN TWO HOURS!” Now you could simply walk into any ticket office scattered around town and buy a ticket. And not just a ticket from where you were to where you were going, but tickets from anywhere to anywhere. And back again!
Today being ten days out from my travel date next week, this was what I opted for this morning. I paid my money, and 1 minute later walked out with a ticket in hand.
Another ticket that I am trying to purchase this week is a ferry ticket up the Yangtze River from the city of Yichang (site of the Three Gorges Dam) to Chongqing.
Suddenly it’s 1985 all over again!!
That’s the second part of my Tale of Two Tickets. Stay tuned…..
(Note: Noel and I would love to have you join us on this journey by subscribing to our blogs. You can do so using the subscription link in the upper right of this blog. You can subscribe to Noel’s blog at www.tellmewhentopack.com. One journey, two perspectives.)
If you’re late to the party, here are links to previous posts:
Noel and Joann’s Excellent Adventure (Outside-in)
Video: Why I Want to Know This Woman (Tell Me When to Pack)
Video: Dream Fulfilled and Cut Short (Tell Me When to Pack)
Esther Expedition Itinerary (Tell Me When to Pack)