I used Ctrip to book the tickets (126 CNY each) two weeks before the trip. It wasn’t easy to find the required tickets; only D2282 had enough seats for 11 of us between Shanwei and Quanzhou.
I could only find the tickets that I need on the Chinese version and a Chinese mobile number is required. It didn’t accept my Singapore number but luckily I could use a China-based friend’s number. The payment system accepted my Singaporean credit card though.
Although the maximum number of tickets that can be purchased in a single order is said to be six, all my attempts booking for six people in a single order failed. So I split the booking into four different orders. During one of the transactions, I purchased Ctrip gift card (20 CNY each) by mistake for two of the passengers.
Two of the failed attempts were charged; one was refunded after two days while the other one required an e-mail to Ctrip before it was refunded. I incurred around a loss of 12 USD due to forex from the transactions.
Getting to the station
Although Lufeng Station was nearer, there were no tickets departing Lufeng for 11 of us. Our relatives offered to drive us to Shanwei Railway Station, around 60km away. We intended to set off at 6am for the 8.15am departure but one of the cars had a punctured tire. Initially we thought that we might miss the train but in the end we still managed to set off by 6.45am and reach Shanwei Station by 7.30am.
Collecting the tickets
We collected the tickets half an hour before departure at the station.
There were two numbers in the e-mail sent to us by Ctrip; one is the 9-digit Ctrip order number and another is the actual train confirmation number (start with letter E followed by 9 digits). The counter staff took some time before realizing that the two were different. Passports were also needed to issue the tickets.
We needed to put our bags through the scanner before entering the station. There weren’t many passengers and there were no shops inside.
We just had enough time to use the washroom before the gantries were opened.
Passengers actually queued up to board. However, when the train arrived, it was still a mad rush up the train without giving way to alighting passengers.
Train: China HSR D2282
Depart: Shanwei – 8:15
Arrive: Quanzhou – 11:10
Distance: 429 km
Our seats were taken but the squatters gave them up immediately after being approached. They would have to stand until there were seats available.
A train crew came around to sell food and drinks in a push cart. A breakfast set (rice with veg and pig trotters and instant soup) cost 45 CNY. Pretty expensive but the quantity was enough for two to share. Haagen Dazs ice-cream (35 CNY) and snacks were available as well.
There were several intermediate stops between Shanwei and Quanzhou and more passengers boarded. The stretch between Chaoshan and Xiamen North was the worst; the entire aisle was filled with passengers.
I hadn’t experienced similar stuff on my previous (albeit limited) experiences on HSR. The train crew had difficulties moving between the cars and gave up on herding the standing passengers away from the aisle. One frustrated man questioned the train crew why so many standing-only tickets were sold and why there weren’t more frequencies. The excuse given was that the it was usually crowded on the first train of the day.
The crush eased after Xiamen North. Five members of our entourage got off there and the rest of us went on to Quanzhou. We arrived right on time at 11:10. Despite the announcements, I could still see smokers who would rush out to the platform for their nicotine fix before jumping onto the train again.