Day 60: the Great Railway Bizarre

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I’ve been traveling with Gee Kin by train for over a week throughout China and haven’t made much mention of the trains themselves except for the nice photos of the attendants on the night train from Turpan to Shulehe. Needless to say, it has been an experience. Since I was able to collect my thoughts on this next to final leg from Chengdu to Guangzhou, a 28-hour ride on my own, here are a few of them to share with you:

1. The Chinese trains have a few sweet touches, like flowers in the compartment, a thermos for hot water (for the instant noodles that everyone brings), table cloths, and drapes that the assistants come in and close for you at night. They also have a waste basket and a stainless steel tray for all the peanut shells and melon seeds that everyone eats on the trains to pass the time.

2. The toilets, well, are there. Modern ones with a commode. Use at your own risk. There’s a shared counter with three sinks. They close the facilities when the trains are inside stations, so you have to plan your strategy. These haven’t changed much since we did our Beijing-HK train ride for 36 hours back in 2000 with the girls.

3. You can buy tickets off the Internet through travelchinaguide.com.
They all worked, and communication was clear. A few blips, but overall very efficient. I am attaching some photos of the K and T trains we took.
The last one was a four compartment soft berth overnighter (K), and the one Gee Kin and I took to Shulehe was a 6 compartment hard berth version (T).

4. The food service is still decent. Chinese will always manage to feed you, with recognizable elements. The dining room and the takeout food brought to your compartment were reasonable. My breakfast consisted of a hard boiled egg, chopped green beans with spices, pickled turnip, green veggie with minced meat, and congee with scrambled egg.

5. The itinerary I took from Chengdu to Guangzhou consisted of massive cities with high rises everywhere. If you were wondering where the cranes were, they are all in China. Each city is in a massive building boom. There must be more cranes in all of China than everywhere else in the world combined, or at least it feels that way. The point is that no city was recognizable by name, with the exception of Chongqing. And they were all sizeable. Where have I been??? I feel like Rip Van Winkle, who overslept…maybe 5 years?

6. Despite Chongqing whisking right past me, I did see the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) and portions of Guizhou that were Guilinesque near Guangdong in the morning. There were still pristine rice paddies, but with high rises off in the horizon. A nuclear power plant slipped by, and many many high rises that boggle the mind. Cities the size of Hong Kong seemed to float past, one after another.

Photos, from top, left to right:

1. Breakfast in the dining car
2. aisle to sleeping compartments
3. Dining car
4. view of Guizhou Mountains
5. High rises in distance to paddies
6. List of stops–most are major cities (recognize any?)
7. Screen shots of train soft berth compartment for 4
8. Screen shot of train hard berth compartment for 6 (shown earlier)
9. Screen shot of train exterior

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