Although I would in no way consider myself an expert in the travel department (I forgot to BYOsoap in China for gadsakes), I thought I might share some capital-L Learnings from my months on the road that may help others if they are ever in a similar scenario.
Things Learned From Spending 24 Hours on a Bus and Train, Respectively:
1. First and foremost - trains are the way to travel. Even sweeping aside any lingering romantic notions of train travel in favor of the purely logistical, trains have buses beat. If you have a choice, pony up the extra $Nothing In The Grand Scheme of Things and save your soon-to-be-atrophied muscles and sanity.
2. No beers on the bus unless you enjoy scowls from your fellow passengers after making the driver pull over for you to sprint to a gas station toilet within 2 hours of pulling out of the station.
3. Speaking of gas station toilets (or slightly sparse forests, or the only somewhat-shielded spot in barren Xinjiang deserts, as the case may be), always carry soap. No one ever has it and you will always, always need it. This also goes for tissues/tp.
4. Babies are the worst. You have full permission to audibly groan as soon as you see one carried aboard in their split pants - you're not only guaranteed it will be seated next to you but also that it will have attention-deficit and/or stomach issues. Prepare for insomnia despite your best efforts to "tire them out" with so many silly faces that your cheeks hurt.
5. Always have headphones primed with music at the ready. This covers the ol' baby base and also because even 5 minutes of Chinese opera on a crackly radio is too many minutes of Chinese opera on a crackly radio.
6. Always carry snacks. This is more of a life rule and should require no explanation.
7. Spraying cologne on all of your smelly bus compatriots after circa 20 hours will only make them smell worse. Thanks, random dude with the Chinese version of Axe. Now my mouth tastes like prepubescent boy with a hemp choker.
8. Taken is probably the worst film to play on a mode of public transport, let alone one carrying 2 young female backpackers with eyes still gleaming with anticipation of adventures from their fresh start on the road. Yes, it might be dubbed in Kazakh, but you can still get "the gist".