From The Los Angeles Times:
I have a number of Chinese friends and co-workers who had to deal with the hassle of buying train tickets before the spring festival. It was a nightmare.
Reporting from Wuhan, China -- Railroad tickets are a dangerous business in China.
Retired military man Wang Hanlin opened a travel agency here a decade ago, but found that the best seats disappeared no matter how early you tried to buy them.
But the railroad ticket business remains corrupt and staggeringly inefficient. Its dysfunction is most glaring at this time of year, when 200 million Chinese head to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year, which begins today. It is one of the biggest migrations in the world.
Of all the forms of corruption in China, the trade in train tickets is one of those that most frustrates ordinary people. It is not uncommon for people to spend two or three days at the station trying to buy tickets.
In the weeks leading up to this year's holiday, a 60-year-old migrant worker died of hypothermia while he waited outside a station in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province to buy tickets. Last year, a young woman heading home from college was pushed onto the tracks at a station in Anhui province and killed.
Waiting in long lines for hours was a given. If the ticket office actually had tickets, the wait was worth it.
A co-worker of mine from Inner Mongolia was unable to get a ticket after waiting in a massive line at a ticket window. Being denied the opportunity to buy a ticket, he was forced to go through another channel. He used a "ticket agent."
Even leading up to the day of his departure, he was unsure whether the ticket was real or counterfit. Fake tickets are probably as big of a business this time of year as counterfit DVDs.
I assume that his ticket was real since I haven't heard from him for several days. He was lucky I suppose.
Of course lucky is a relative term; by buying a real ticket he was afforded the opportunity of sitting on a hard seat in an oversold car for his 24 hour plus journey.