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Published: March 26th 2018
Lanzhou Highspeed Railway Station
Those tiny dots along the sides are people. We used to have clean, comfortable and appropriate railway stations in the UK - for example, in Oban, Argyll. What happened to our sense of pride and dignity?
A 6.30 start (to catch up on blog) and an 8.00 taxi to the Lanzhou Xi (West) new station for the bullet train. Once again, we were staggered, the station is only magnificent, absolutely vast, beautifully clean and efficient; it reminded me a bit of Gatwick 50 years ago, an horrendous contrast with the dreadful sort of transport facilities to which we have become inured in UK. Noted on the way that virtually all buses here in Lanzhou are actually either electric or at least hybrid, but there is no denying that most cars (far too big and gas-guzzling) and most scooters are still on diesel or petrol.
The train left on time, fairly near full, and with the same excellent staff arrangements. Once again, we remembered the notion that in UK they might operate trains with NO security staff at all, just a lone driver, isolated in his cab, and all passengers at the mercy of whatever yobboes would choose to travel and behave as they thought fit.
Temperature outside was ten degrees, inside a little too snug at 23 degrees. Speed reached 240 kph, and the journey took 77 minutes for almost exactly 200 miles (must check
that distance). Slightly annoyingly, I had a window seat (beside a dreadful fidget of a very heavy lady who constantly bounced up and down and wriggled around) – but there was no view! It transpires that the basically desert terrain between Lanzhou and Tianshui undulates remarkably and we were going across the grain; as a result something over 50% of the entire journey is underground, via tunnels. An absolutely amazing engineering feat… and of course, one thought of the London to Manchester Hi-Speed link. No need to wreck the countryside, fight planning appeals, destroy houses, divide farms or anything else – simply build it in a dead straight line, underground, and travel at 240 kph! Simples!
We arrived in Tianshui and emerged, through another potentially epic station (still under construction) to find that Spring has sprung. Everything is in leaf or bud, the temperature is perfect and we checked into an excellent representative of the Jinjiang chain of hotels (blessed with a particularly professional receptionist). Headed out for a very good and authentic local lunch, then took a 4 hour stroll through this splendid and very liveable small city. It is in a narrow valley and from the middle
Feeder channel, Tian Shui
One assumes that this will fill in summer?
you can see the terraced fields in the hills on either side, barely a mile apart. Wonderful civic spaces, great shopping streets, street markets, pedestrianised areas and at least one park with ballroom dancing, a concert and some sort of martial arts exercising going on. (BTW: forgot to mention baby grand piano in concourse of Lanzhou station, although not being played at 08.30 on a Sunday morning).
Stopped for coffee and beer on the way back, nice premises, two members of staff, no other customers. It took more than 30 minutes for the order to be served; what on earth would happen if half a dozen people came in? It was fitted out for about 80 persons in all, over two main levels. We spent the time admiring 30 staff from the neighbouring hotel doing their collegiate chant and dance routine; all the chefs massaged the shoulders of the ones in front, then they turned around and returned the compliment.
Caught up on a few things, had quick pre-prandial in our room then hit a local noodle shop; excellent as ever, barely £10 for three (including three beers) and then an early night – everything seemed to close
Although we saw two westerners on yesterday's train, we are still a bit unusual.
at 9pm. Another interesting place, a very liveable, attractive, unpolluted place with the bed of a very fine river running through it. A bit dry just now, but being actively beautified and we hope (assume) that by summer it is flowing free, courtesy of the ice-melt in the mountains.
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