Posted July 14th, 2009, 03:43 PM
I just returned from Beijing, and we took the bullet train from Tianjin Railway Station to the Beijing South Station. Although the Tanggu Station is much closer to the harbor, there are far fewer trains, and we would have had a three hour wait until the next train.
There were taxis waiting at the harbor, but they seemed pretty hard-core negotiators. Originally they wanted 300 RMB for the ride to Tianjin, but we finally got them to agree to 200. That's probably still too much. However, as it turned out, it was about a one hour ride to Tianjin Railway Station. Much longer than I expected. One other issue is that we were taken to the Tanggu station and handed off to another taxi. Not that big of a deal, but slightly irritating. Needless to say, neither one of the taxi drivers could speak English.
When we arrived at the very large Tianjin Station on Saturday afternoon, it was really crowded, and it was not apparent which long line to get into to buy tickets for the bullet train. There are no signs in English, but since I knew I needed a "C" train I got into one of those ticket lines, which were not quite so long.
The person selling the tickets could not speak English, but I managed to tell her what I needed. Unfortunately, first class was sold out, and I couldn't understand what she was saying, but fortunately, the next person in line spoke a little English, and I was able to buy second class tickets for the next train.
After some exploration, we finally figured out how to get to the trains, since there were no signs in English. We needed to go back outside the station, and down one or two escalators. Although we were wheeling quite a bit of luggage, it wasn’t difficult to get it down the escalators and into the train. However the tickets had no information in English, and we didn’t even know if we had reserved seats. As it turned out, we were went into the wrong car, and needed to change.
It was no problem getting on and off the cars with the luggage, and each car has a large space in the back to stack it. The bullet train system is only about one year old, and even the second class cars are extremely clean and nice, and the boarding process was very orderly and not rushed. However, the cars were full, and we had no idea where to sit. Fortunately, a student took pity on us, and showed us our seats, which were being occupied by other people. He told them to move, and we finally settled in for the ride. Another minor irritation was that our seats were not together, because the train was nearly sold out. But we had a short ride.
Once we got underway, the ride was very enjoyable. This bullet train is about the newest and fastest train system in the world, and it is much more impressive than the bullet train we rode in Japan. We reached a speed of 330 km per hour, which is 205 mph, and we arrived in the Beijing South Station in only 30 minutes.
From there we took a taxi to our hotel. The driver used the meter, so there was not a problem with cost, but it was somewhat of a problem to fit all our luggage into one car. The driver wanted us to use two taxis, but we finally put some of it inside on the seats, and proceeded to the hotel.
Overall, the trip took us nearly three hours, so we didn’t save much time, but it was far cheaper than the cost of the private transportation that I saw on the internet. If we had it to do again, the trip would be much less stressful, because we would know what we were doing, and taking the train from Tanggu probably would have been much faster. Also, if we knew that seats were reserved on the train, we would have tried to find a train employee to ask for help in finding the correct car and seats. As far as wheeling our luggage through the stations and getting it on and off the trains, and storing it in the cars, there were no problems whatsoever.
I would suggest that everyone traveling anywhere in China on their own should have all of their destinations written in Chinese characters on a piece of paper, because almost no one speaks English, nor can they read Chinese names written in English.