Real China on the Rail: Kunming Railway Station

Kunming, September 15th 2010

The hard morning I had here was a one-day-history. I stood in full amazement of this magnificent looking train station of Kunming. How different from the train stations we had been in Vietnam. And yet, this is not the capital city of China. I immediately imagined a, although hard, cozy seat, and a sweet night dream in the train tonight.

Fearing that this morning might be a hard morning as yesterday, I begged my friends to check out the hotel as early as possible. And as usual, we would venture for food first thing first. It turned out that finding which platform we should take wasn't at all as hard as purchasing the tickets. Together with Hendro plus my knowledge of kanji characters, we got it at once, without having to find a Western looking guy again. Thus, we were more than an hour before schedule of the train departure to Kunming.

Next to our platform was a hall which had various stalls of merchandise. I and Hendro wanted to go inside just to kill the time. Hendra assumed it was a "duty free" area. But a man in uniform stopped us. Of course we didn't understand what his talk. We just knew we weren't allowed to enter. We watched the other visitors. They showed the man in uniform something.

"We need to show our tickets," we guessed.

Hendro showed his, but the man in uniform shove his hand. Hendro stepped back.

We watched the other visitors again. "Oh, maybe we have to show our passports," we guessed again.

"Looks like so," said Hendro. "What a fuss. They don't look like good stuffs either."

So we didn't enter the hall which had number 4 written on above.

"Or maybe," said me still wondering, "only the ones with train tickets of certain class or type may enter."

"That might be," Hendro replied.

I took pictures until I got bored. Some of my friends bought magazines. I spotted out a pocket book on China's train schedule. I bought it for 7 RMB plus 1 pamphlet of all train directions and schedules that connect to Kunming for 3 RMB.

Deny had just come back from the rest room. We all interviewed him anxiously. "How was it?"

"I had to mind my steps so that I wouldn't let urine splash on my legs," he answered.

My dream of a sweet night dream on a cozy seat in the train started to fade away.

At about half an hour before the departure time we decided to go inside the hall in front of our platform. We had our tickets and passports ready in hand. Girls in front.

But, the man in uniform shook his hand. He said a phrase which of course I didn't understand.

I forgot who was it. Someone among us said, "Only the men are required."

So 1 of the 4 guys in my group stepped forward. The man in uniform shove his hand again. Instead he reached for the passport in Hendro's hand. He looked into it and asked Hendro something. Hendro answered while gesturing with his finger. The man said something and smiled satisfied. The 7 rest of us were let in without any checking.

Inside the platform hall Hendro burst into laughter. "Yay! My Chinese name is acknowledged in China! Yay!"

"What did he asked you?" I asked.

"He asked what my Chinese family name was. Hihihi, nama gue laku di Cina." Hendro was very proud.

Inside the hall we found out that this hall was actually to the next hall with number 3 on above it which I and Hendro were prohibited to enter. There wasn't any checking there. So... apparently, it wasn't a hall for certain ticket holders. We went in and looked around. None of the merchandise seemed interesting to me. I said to Hendro,

"Maybe if you just mentioned your Chinese family name just now, we would be permitted to enter. They just wanted to know your Chinese family name! Wow!"

We burst into another laughter.

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