There are a lot of things we love about China's extensive network of high-speed trains, but before now, food wasn't one of them.
That's why we're excited to welcome the latest innovation to hit the country's railways: delivery service.
Starting today, you can order food for high-speed rail routes passing through any of 27 stops, including Shanghai Hongqiao, Guangzhou South, Tianjin West, Nanjing South, Xi'an North and Chongqing North stations.
According to the China Railway Company, any passengers on train routes starting with the letter 'G' or 'D' can pre-order food either online or through the official railway app. Pay through either WeChat or Alipay, and your meal will be delivered straight to your seat.
There are a couple caveats: you'll have to order at least two hours before your train departs, and options are limited to participating restaurants in train stations. Still, it beats instant ramen.
Want to try it out for yourself? Here's how to order delivery on the high-speed rail online.
Step 1: Look up your options
First, enter your trip information on the official China Railway website to see what food options are available.
For instance, Guangzhou-Shanghai route G1306, which passes through four participating stations, offers some of the following options, sorted by station.
Step 2: Make your choice
If we opt for a 6.12pm KFC dinner from Changsha South, we're offered these choices, plus some sides.
Hover your mouse over each to see a description of what's included (in Chinese). As with regular food ordering services, there may be a minimum purchase required, plus a delivery surcharge.
Once you've chosen, click the orange '去结算' button in the popup box to check out.
Step 3: Create an account
If you don't have an account on the official China Railway website, you'll be prompted to create one now. To do so, click 'Register.'
Next, fill in your details.
To verify your phone number, you'll be asked to send the text '999' to phone number '12306.' Wait for a reply containing a six-digit code. Input it into your computer within 10 minutes and click the orange button to continue.
Your identity will be checked by staff within 24 hours. Once confirmed, you'll be able to buy tickets on 12306.cn.
Step 4: Complete your payment
Refresh the purchase page and login into your account. Underneath the username and password boxes, you'll be asked to prove you're human by solving a simple problem. In the example below, your job is to choose all pictures containing '本子' (books) or '蜡烛' (candles). If you're having trouble with the phrases/pictures, click 'refresh.'
Click the blue '登录' to login.
Then, fill in your trip details and meal preferences.
Afterwards, choose either WeChat or Alipay and scan the QR code using your phone app to pay.
[Cover image via Huxiu.com]