What is it that makes an overnight train so magical? Maybe it's the triple bunk beds, the cozy proximity to strangers, towns rushing by outside...or the wonderful vibrations and gentle bumps as you sleep - kind of like the adult equivalent of putting an infant on top of a dryer. For me, it was a mixture of all these things, plus the general excitement of beginning a journey. We boarded the train around dinner time and settled into our narrow little area (called a "hard sleeper"), which consisted of the four of us, plus an adorable little boy and his grandparents. The six of us sat together on the bottom bunks until it got awkward, at which point we retired to our individual beds, where the ceilings were too low to sit up, so we had to sort of contort ourselves in order to make eye contact. We talked until the lights went out, and then whispered a little bit more, and fell asleep.
In the morning, we awoke to some truly beautiful scenery, which looked a lot like upstate New York in autumn. The leaves were turning brilliant colors and the sky was bright blue and it was nice to just lay there and look at the world go by. In the early afternoon, we finally arrived in Yanji, where we met up with Pat, Tae's friend who flew in from Beijing. We then hired a driver to take us to Chang Bai Shan, the national park/mountain area, which was another four hours or so. By the time we got there, we were tired and hungry and a bit chilly (or at least I was, in a skirt and flip-flops) so we picked the most convenient hotel and settled there for the night. The next few days would be spent exploring Chang Bai Shan and having many adventures. Stay tuned, dear readers!