- Origin: Jinan
- Destination: Weihai
- Distance: 608 km
- Travel Time: 8:52
Jinan station seemed a little less chaotic than normal when we arrived at midday. It was the last week of summer; a hot, sticky afternoon, and everyone seemed to have slowed down for a partial siesta. The attendant at the station doorway didn’t bother checking our tickets, the policeman on the x-ray machine calmly waved us through rather than yelling instructions at us, people were just moving slower. We were allowed on to the platform 20 minutes before departure time, even this was slower and more relaxed than normal, it lacked the rush and panic that normally accompanies the opening of the platform gates.
To my delight, I discovered that we would be travelling in the older style 22G stock. 22G /22C stock is non-air conditioned and painted dark green with two yellow stripes; one above and one below the window line. Because the carriages are not air conditioned, the windows are sash style and able to be opened halfway. The train was 16 carriages; 8 cars of hard seats, 7 cars of hard sleepers and 1 car of soft sleepers. After the hellish journey from Lanzhou to Jinan a week earlier, we had changed our tickets from hard seat to hard sleeper. Although train K8263 was not an overnight journey, this proved to be a wise decision.
We were soon loaded up and underway, rumbling out through the suburbs of Jinan. The breeze from the open windows was pleasant and refreshing. I had noticed the absence of a dining car on the train, but all was explained when the conductor brought us our boarding cards, orders were taken for a dinner box, to be delivered at a town en-route.
Travelling close to us was a group of parents and kids from Wendeng (close to Weihai). They were returning from a short school holiday break at Taian (just south of Jinan), where they had just climbed Tai mountain (Taishan). Shortly after leaving Jinan, I was invited to play cards with them. It was very relaxing, rocking along through the Shandong farmlands, playing cards with the locals. I won a respectable number of games, but I suspect they may have let me win.
After travelling for about 30 minutes, we arrived at our first stop (Zhangqiu), where we stopped for an unusual amount of time for such a small station. All became clear when a fast D train overtook us, followed by an express freight. This was repeated at many of the stops – it became obvious that train K8263 is not a high priority.
We passed through Shandong’s fertile farmland; past cornfields full of farm labourers and then past greenhouses made of blue translucent plastic, so numerous and close together it looked like a rolling sea beside the line.
After a couple of hours playing cards, a mutual decision was made that it was time for a rest. Everyone took to their bunks. One rotund child who had obviously used muscles he had rarely used before climbing Taishan, found it particularly difficult to climb into his middle bunk, causing much laughter amongst his fellow travellers It was too humid to sleep properly, but we dozed comfortably in the hot carriage.
Later on in the evening, we stopped at a platform with no name. I checked the timetable and we were between scheduled stops (Lancun and Laiyang). There was much banging and scraping in the doorways and we were soon underway again – dinner had been delivered to the train. Dinner was simple but quite tasty; egg with cucumber, cooked in soy sauce and served on steamed rice. A decent serve for ¥15 (a little under $3).
We rattled on through as afternoon became, evening and evening became night. The noise of the train wafted in through the open window. It was a proper train that made proper train noises – clickety clack, clickety clack, as we passed through villages getting ready for sleep. You could even imagine a proud steam locomotive was chuffing away at the head of our train, instead of the modern, smug HXd electric locomotive.
Arrival into Weihai was just over an hour late, for no apparent reason. No one seemed to care, or even seemed surprised. As we exited the station, we stepped into a chaos of touters, trying to drum up business for various hotels. There were so many, we actually had to push them away and dive for the relative safety of a waiting taxi to take us to our pre-booked accommodation.