We thought about taking a sleeper train from Hangzhou to Guilin. A 19 to 24-hour trip across China. There would have been a saving of one night’s accommodation but Roger had some concern about losing a night’s sleep!
We compromised and decided on the high speed train that left Hangzhou at 10am and arrived at Guilin at 6pm. Travelling by train in China is an absolute pleasure. There's no sensation that at times you are travelling at over 300kph!
The hassles and rigmarole of getting onto the train can be quite nerve wracking. The stations are massive and not all that well planned. One can walk the length of the station to get a ticket just to have to walk back nearly the whole length to board the train. Without having a station map finding the ticket office to collect pre-booked tickets can be a marathon.
It’s good exercise but struggling through the hordes is not fun!
Most people working in and around the stations do not understand English so getting directions can be frustrating especially as the departure deadline looms.
Another absolute pain are the regular security checks. Getting into the station, bags through the x-ray machine, water bottles being scanned and the inconsistency. Beepers going off with every passenger the wand waving back and front and the occasional “body rub” by some officious and unattractive female security guard.
To get to the high speed train station we took the Metro which was a 40-minute trip. Leaving just after 8am on a Monday morning we were part of the community going about their daily lives. Busy but bearable. The trip involved one easy line change.
Travelling around China makes one realise how many big cities there are that you’ve never heard of.
Hangzhou is a short distance from Shanghai. A convenient day trip to visit one the natural attractions of the area, West Lake, Lingyin Temple or one of the nearby water towns. But it’s not what one would ever consider as a coastal town!
It's a city that hosted the 2016 G20 conference in a newly built 850 000 square meter building (the largest building in China and the equivalent of over 100 football fields!!). It has a metro system with about 5 active lines and another 8 or so either under construction or in planning.
Booking tickets on the metro using the automated machines is easy. They all have an “English” button and the instructions are easy to follow.
The stop overs at stations are very short and can be a bit chaotic. In some cases the bulk luggage storage is at the front of the carriage and at other times at the back so deciding which door is a bit of a lottery. Once the train has left people spend the next few minutes sorting themselves out. All seats are allocated by number by carriage and are very adequate.
Some have charging points for cell phones and other electronic devices.
Once seated it is comfortable and stress free until approaching your destination. The trains run to very strict schedules and times of arrival will be within a few minutes of the schedule.
China has thousands of kilometres of elevated railway lines and impressive highways ... that may be empty of traffic. There are stark contrasts - the new buildings and the dereliction, the highways and few cars … it’s confusing!
- You don’t need all the luggage you think you do!
- Lugging heavy luggage around is a pain. On and off trains, up and down stairs. Trying to find the escalator or elevator.
- High speed train travel is more enjoyable than taking a flight!