Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Snapshots from China: Trains

A little background first: China's fastest-in-the-world new high speed trains, seen here in a photo off the internet, will eventually span out into 17 nations.

First, drum rolls and trumpets for Candy Wei and the agency for whom she works with such imperial competence, China Highlights. She ended up handling all of our train reservations. She was simply wonderful, with us every step of the way securing first class accommodations (tickets never go on sale until a few days before the train's departure). Tickets were delivered to our hotels, so convenient. And she laid tracks for us at a most difficult time -- during the Canton Fair in Guangzhou and the imminent Shanghai Expo opening just around the corner. I'm giving you contact info for Candy below.

I know some of you will automatically be interested. You who like the circus probably like trains, and I promise not to bash Amtrak. You will soon find out why.

Here is our waiting day train, D32, Shanghai to Beijing, fastest train we rode. It rarely reached, as I vaguely recall, around 154 miles per hour; hard to believe, train was so smooth. On average, (a digital sign continuously displayed KM speed), much closer to a little over 100 mph.

Super clean. Super modern. Super quiet. And yet, it too arrived --- yes, late! I think under an hour.

What I liked the most about all three trains we rode was the feeling of relentless movement forward, with very few station stops and extremely rare delays for freights, unlike Amtrak. All of the trains, however, arrived by an hour or two late. I counted 17 or 18 cars on one train, all but the diner for passengers.

By far the most fun ride was on the T170, Guangzhou to Shanghai. I've already blogged about these friendly guys, two of whom shared our 4-person "soft sleeper" compartment, the guys who wondered if I knew the song "Hotel California." It was a pleasure to see Boyi, down right in the photo, so happily engaged in lively conversation, in his native tongue of course, with his compatriots.

Not anywhere near "super clean" was this train, though its more traditional if somewhat worn decor fairly charmed the eye. You're told not to take the diner, bring your own snacks. You're told to bring your own toilet paper, too; wish we had. Boyi returned following a visit to the in-house astonished to tell me what a totally horrible smell had attacked him. I was so prepared for an outhouse Tsunami, that once I arrived, what a delightful relief. Just a mildly innocuous scent of you-know-what ruling the captive air.

From a train, the scenery out the window does not lie. You see the old and the new, but then again, that's not really so different from any train ride, right?

Are those solar panels?

I wish we'd taken more photos. I am shy about snapping group shots impromptu, and all the trains were packed full, with people standing in the coaches, and "hard sleeper" passengers spilling out into the corridors for lively socializing and game playing.

Waking up above, a mate in our compartment.

I wondered what Boyi was thinking, gazing out upon a vast landscape he'd never seen until now in the country that raised him.

The high speed train up north sounds very exciting. Still, I think I would bring my own toilet paper and noodles.

I've only ever once before used a travel agent, Thomas Cook when I went to Russia thirty years ago. Candy is the Thomas Cook of China.

Candy Wei
Travel Adviser at China Highlights
Tel: (86-773)-2885331; Mob: 13471281685
Toll free: (call from USA and Canada ) 800-2682918 ext 5331
(call in China ) 800-8793007
Fax: (86-773)-2827424/2885308

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for bringing your whole trip to China alive for all of us. You make me wish I had been there with you too.