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2,000km train journey video: Benny gets his Chinese name, makes new friends and meets pandas!

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Here it is! My video of the epic 2,000km (that's about 1,250 miles in “old money” as we say) train ride I took to get to Chengdu, starting from Shanghai. This video shares the people (and pandas) I met along the way! 🙂 Click CC to enable subtitles (in English, and traditional or simplified Chinese) or watch the video on Youku here.

The last videos I uploaded were from Shanghai. From there I got a fast train to Nanjing and you can see me check out the Confucius temple there at the start of this video. Luckily, you can buy your ticket for this train just before boarding it in Shanghai.

Next, I wanted to head on to Wuhan and was thinking of getting the ferry through some of the river between there and Chongqing, but unfortunately, getting to the train station 2 hours in advance wasn't enough and I had to stay in Nanjing longer than I had planned so extra travels had to be cancelled if I was to continue onward. From then on, I would buy my tickets a little in advance.

After just a day in Wuhan, I got the most interesting train of all, which was a 16 hour ride! I got the “soft sleeper”, so I could get a decent night's sleep and arrive in Chongqing well rested. Most of this video covers that train ride and the chats I had with those I was sharing the carriage with.

You can see the moment that they gave me my Chinese name! 😀 What do you think?

本领 (Benling) means “ability/skill”, since my new friend 李慧 LiHui was impressed with my language story. There could have been a word closer to Benny, but in her accent the ‘n' and ‘l' sounds are closer, which took some getting used to at first before I could understand her better. I think the confusion is a happy coincidence since it works with my initials B.L. Since I have it on camera as them giving me this name, I think it only fits to stick with it!

To pass some of the time, LiHui read a decent amount of the Language Hacking Guide (which is of course in Chinese too, along with 2 dozen other languages [next addition coming soon as a free update: Esperanto!]) on my Kindle and shared her thoughts with me on camera.

Her party left at around 11pm (they had gotten to their hometown of Enshi), so I turned in and some time later the two girls I talked to in the morning came in.

I stopped in Chongqing for a few days, and on my way out went to buy the ticket for the following week to Xi'an, since my original plan was actually to cover 2,800km by train all the way there. I wanted to take the hard-sleeper this time to see what kind of people I'd meet there instead, despite a poorer night's sleep. But sadly, all tickets were sold out (including soft-sleepers) over several days that I would have travelled apart from standing room.

Hmm… Standing for 17 hours straight, with no assigned place to put my bags… OR getting a one hour flight that wasn't particularly expensive… not such a hard decision 😉 . I'll also be flying from Xi'an to Qingdao in a week, to save time and get to know the coastal areas better – I'll hit the trains again from there, but I'm sure it won't be as interesting as this longer journey!

Finally, on the last leg of the trip, on another fast train, I made another friend and met up with her here in Chengdu! Yesterday I checked out the famous panda sanctuary, and now I'm ready to head towards Xi'an!

I hope you enjoyed this video, as it shares what the whole point of learning the language was for me in the first place; not speaking Chinese with perfect diction or passing an exam or adding another one to the list, or proving myself etc., but to meet and chat to interesting people as I travelled through this country! Just using English, this trip wouldn't have been a fraction of how interesting it was!

Thanks for watching and let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below!

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Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

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