All fine in theory, except it doesn't quite work that smoothly when you've got to push an enormous suitcase and a carry-on bag through security, immigration, and finally on to the train and into your compartment. But lucky lucky me, there were only two of us in a four-berth compartment. Jo, my roomie, a lady from Beijing, found someone with whom we can practise her English, and I found a Putonghua teacher. Perfect!
So the 24 hours went by quickly. I spoke more Putonghua in the first 12 hours than in the past 12 months combined. I ate Chinese train food and discovered how much the Chinese love their snacks (spicy tofu candy, anyone?). And arrive at Beijing West Station, ready for four days of playing tourist in this enormous capital city.