Things are more expensive for a very good reason.

Our Japanese-language writer Ikuna Kamezawa’s love for traveling and exploring foreign lands has brought her to many places, some of which exposed her to exciting cultures she would never have experienced otherwise.

Most recently, Ikuna found herself in Shanghai, China, sampling local food and enjoying the city’s lovely sights. The next destination on her itinerary, however, was the huge city of Shenzhen, a place of considerable distance that would generally require air travel. Getting there by express train takes a lengthy 11 hours, but having never attempted an overnight sleeper train before, she thought this would be the ideal opportunity to try something new.

▼ Good thing she brought her passport, since those are required for collecting tickets.

Fares fluctuate according to the days of the week, and although the receptionist tempted Ikuna with a lower bed — which was more expensive for some odd reason — she thought it mattered little and went with the upper bed at 760 rmb (US$110) instead.

▼ Despite the language barrier, she was able to find her way around the place without much trouble.

▼ She arrived early to avoid the crowds, and a peek into one of the windows revealed a cozy little cabin.

Having never been on such a train, Ikuna squealed with excitement as she quickened her strides and made her way to her cabin. It was definitely going to be a fun adventure she could tell the kids one day…

▼ …but her heart sank as soon as she stepped in.

Part of the joy in traveling is being able to look out at scenery from inside planes or trains, but instead of breathtaking views of rolling landscapes, all Ikuna could see from her position would be the ground outside. What was she going to do for 11 hours if there was nothing to see? Crestfallen and more than a little disappointed, Ikuna scanned the room for some way to get up to her assigned bed.

▼ Her cabinmate pointed to a little foldable step by the door.

Our reporter took a deep breath and hoisted herself up, keeping careful to avoid smacking her head on the ceiling with an embarassing bonk.

▼ Only a tiny railing kept her from falling off.

Ikuna didn’t bring much into the cabin, but snacks and drinks and miscellaneous stuff soon robbed her of precious space that could have been used to let her relax more comfortably.

▼ At least the TV and panda bag would keep her company.

▼ The adjacent second-tier passenger was just a short distance away.

Being cramped up with three other strangers, no Internet and almost nothing to do was certainly not a great start to a long ride. Ikuna stared at the lower beds, wishing she had heeded the ticket receptionist’s suggestion. Unlike the top beds, the lower beds allowed passengers to sit up comfortably and potentially use the floor to place luggage.

▼ A little table provides space for refreshments, too.

As the train left the station, the two men below sat up and gazed out the window. Dark as it was outside, it was still much preferable to staring at the wall and waiting for hours to pass. Making eye contact with the adjacent fellow was awkward at best and heading to the restroom required much effort. If only she had spent an extra 70 rmb for the lower beds!

▼ Chairs in the corridor allow passengers to relax and stretch their legs…

▼ …but doing so means obstructing just about everyone.

Lady Luck began to shine on our tired reporter, though, when she stumbled into a dining car where refreshments can be purchased.

Most of the food resembles microwaveable snacks more than full meals. Nevertheless, she was determined to extract every bit of comfort she could from this ride, and picked out a noodle bowl and a drink for a total of 30 rmb.

▼ “For the price of two of these, I could have gotten a good view with my first-tier bed,” Ikuna lamented.

As she ate, Ikuna noticed that apparently anyone can sit and relax here without ordering. Not only are the chairs soft and comfy, but the large tables also provide a surface to rest on and enjoy the night scenery.

▼ Surprisingly few people made use of this marvelous space, not that she was complaining or anything.

Ikuna spent the next three hours gazing idly out that window and watching the world speed past. It was not until our now refreshed reporter returned to her cabin that she remembered the ticket also included…

▼ …dinner in the form of a lunchbox placed on her bed. What a warm gesture!

▼ Packed inside were packets of beef jerky,
bread, dried peas, pickled vegetables, and soy milk.

Cramped as it was, Ikuna found great comfort in the softness of the bed, sending her to dreamland as soon as her head touched the pillow.

▼ She awoke many hours later to a new day and a new adventure.

Spending all 11 hours of the trip to Shenzhen North Station awake inside the tiny cabin would have felt like an eternity, but walking around and spending time in the dining car made the trip bearable, if not exactly luxurious. Ikuna would have given much for a train with zen interiors and tatami mats, but then she would not have learned a valuable lesson on this trip: always choose the more expensive option on an overnight sleeper train.

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!