You’re in China! As part of your off-the-beaten-path, bespoke experience to the Middle Kingdom, you are taking a 12 (or 15, 18, 24, 36…) hour train ride from point A to point B, with children in tow. You’re looking forward to the scenery on the way, experiencing a local and authentic mode of transportation, and the adventure that awaits once you get off at your destination.
But before then, what about the train ride itself? Scenery whizzing by can only keep children occupied for so long. It is only a matter of time before the eternal question “are we there yet?” is asked, children get cranky, bored, or worse, and parents/guardians become exhausted with the prospect of entertaining the young ones for what is already a tiring journey.
WildChina offers the following tips for making your train trip an enjoyable one:
1) Bring a Kindle (or a similar reading device): An electronic reader will not only be lighter in your bag, but also afford you literature options for each member of the family. You can each take turns reading a different book on the train.
2) Make Chinese vocabulary flash cards and practice your survival Chinese on the train: One of the best ways to prepare for your trip is to practice a few key phrases that will make getting around small villagers and remote sites that much easier. Phrases such as “zhe ge duo shao qian?” (How much is this?), “_____ zai na li?” (Where is ____?) and “Ni ke yi bang zhu wo ma?” (Can you help me?) are good ones to learn. Making this into a game will get the kids excited about using their new language skills on the trip.
3) Go for a meal in the dining car: While this might require a translator, a great place to people watch (and get an introduction to Chinese food, if you’ve just arrived in the country) is the dining car. The food won’t be as good as you might get in a famed Chinese restaurant, but it’s a good taste (literally) of staple Chinese dishes. And, who knows – you may make a friend or two along the way. The kids won’t mind being up and about after sitting down, either.
4) Bring lots of snacks: Don’t disregard the previous point of advice, as a solid meal and cultural interactions are always a welcome part of train travel. However, kids often get hungry at any time of day, and Chinese snacks offered on the train – such as dried fish, preserved eggs/meat, and rice crackers – may not be what they’re used to. Additionally, they are usually sold at much higher prices than they would be on the street. Our advice? Stock up on peanut butter, bread, jam, and other family favorites before you board the train. These are quite easily found in larger cities, even in local supermarkets.
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