We have logged over 7000 kilometres of train travel around China in the past 8 weeks. While in many countries that may sound like an ordeal, not in this land of quality railways. Main cities have huge modern terminals that keep people flowing through in great numbers, in an orderly fashion, and with the trains running on time.
Between high speed trains and slower overnight models, we have travelled in comfort, mostly. High speed trains are climate controlled, clean, smooth, and as you might expect, fast (up to 300 km / hour). With our second class tickets, we have designated seats so no need to sprint for the good seats. On the overnight trains, we have used the “soft sleepers”, with four bunks per compartment. Local Chinese assigned to our cabin usually seem slightly taken aback, but have been friendly. Unless it is a single family filling a cabin, people tend to be fairly quiet and mostly sleep or read while reclined. The weak link is usually the toilet. We are fine with squat or western seat style, but as the journey goes on, toilet paper runs out and cleanliness seems to decline rapidly.
Airlines connect all major cities at a reasonable price, but the trains provide a more interesting cultural experience. We are hooked.