5 mins

How to prepare for a train trip to Tibet

Matthew Woodward looks for provisions in Beijing as he waits for his train tickets to Tibet to be issued. Are deep-fried scorpions an appropriate train snack?

Matthew the Scorpion King (Matthew Woodward)

I woke to a distinctly strange sensation and I wasn't sure quite what it was at first. Then I got it. It was the stillness and a total lack of movement in any direction.

I reached for my clock to find out what the time was, but it wasn't on the table next to my berth. More alarmingly, there didn’t seem to be any edges to my bed at all. It stretched on and on in all directions, well beyond the dimensions of my compartment. It took my brain about 30 seconds to wake from a deep sleep and realise that I wasn’t on a train any more. I was in a hotel room in Beijing.

I was in Beijing to connect with my train to Tibet and decided to spend the time catching up with sleep. Although I had thought I was resting well on the train, I clearly wasn't getting the full amount of sleep I need. It took close to 24 hours of bed rest to get my full strength back.

A courier has delivered some of my tickets, including my next leg from Beijing to Lhasa. What is of some concern is that I have no ticket out of Lhasa. It takes a few email exchanges with Moscow to discover that more than one local ticket agent has been used. So for now I have just a one-way ticket to Lhasa and a photocopy of my Tibet permit.

I hope this is enough to get on the train, particularly as my ticket is issued to a Mr "Matthew". Whilst this would be a problem back home, in Chinese there may be some confusion about my family name. My plan is to rely upon this.

Deep fried scorpions (Matthew Woodward)

I have been enjoying a lot of dim sum and crispy duck at the restaurant attached to my hotel in Beijing. So much, in fact, that I had a message from hotel reception yesterday morning questioning my ability to settle my room account. After two weeks on the rails, I think I'm due a bit of a splurge. 

Yesterday I went for a wander in Wangfujing, a street in Beijing that is famous for it’s exotic snacks. Here you’ll find hawkers cooking and selling a full range of bugs and insects from scorpions, worms and grubs through to tarantulas, if the season is right. One of the bug chefs tries to convince me that they make the perfect snack for long train journeys.

I demure and he offers to take my photo instead.

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Matthew Woodward has completed several amazing long distance rail adventures using the Trans-Siberian railway and onward across Asia. From from his home in Edinburgh he has reached Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo and is now headed for Tibet. His blog can be found at Toad's Travel Adventures.

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