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Published: March 31st 2018
A journey of about 1,200 miles plus any bends, at a cost of £100 a head. We left the hotel in Xi ‘an at 08.00, the train left Xi ‘an at 09.35 and reached Schenzen at 19.05. There were about 10 stops, each of about 5 – 10 minutes. The border crossing was a bit slow for novices, but we checked in at “T – Hotel” in Pok Fulam on Hong Kong Island at 10.00 pm and enjoyed a late night sandwich and celebratory drink. A grand total of 6,000 miles across China, 9,600 km.
The train was busy on each stage of its route, and there was a wild cacophony throughout; everybody had an electronic device – a young, well-dressed couple close to us went almost the entire 9.5 hr journey watching a series of violent, pathetic-quality films the same,on a phone propped up between them, at maximum very tinny volume. Elsewhere it was much the same, tiny children watching or playing games, one being accompanied every 90 seconds or so by an American tinny shout “You’ve done it!!!!”; grown men watched video games, otherwise normal people seemed to have abandoned any form of normal social or intellectual interaction.
The closer we came to Hong Kong, and therefore to aspirational, high-achieving and sophisticated people, the more all-embracing the phenomenon became. On the final leg, over 90% of the occupants of the carriage had a device in action (I counted). I remembered that old prediction that the Chinese people “will rule the world”; I suspect you could add “but not whilst engrossed 24/7 in cheap films and games”.
We had a good meal; you order from a selection of 6 choices – my meal included courgettes, chilli, turnip, pork, carrots, corn, peas, and rice, together with a broth containing egg and seaweed. It is delivered to your seat, cost was 35 Rmb, about £4.00.
The weather was warm and dry (not a single drop of rain in 35 days), but visibility was patchy, between 1 km and 20 km; I am not sure if this was due to atmospheric conditions, it may just have been a hazy day. The landscape did not vary dramatically (we were after all following natural contours, modified by the engineers), but was definitely “tamed”, “worked” or “domesticated”. The view was typically “Chinese” as in art, but with little or no trace of ancient
Chines railway lunch
Yum yum! Very good indeed, the soup is in the plastic cup.
woodland, wildflowers, birds, ferns etc. We saw wetlands, hill land, sylviculture, tea, rice and everything else; lots of diggers, even oxen ploughing, but not one tractor. There must be some (we saw huge fields tilled and in full growth) but they are not used to pop down to the shops, or left lying around when not in use.
As ever, the trains and all facilities were clean, efficient and functional. On the final leg (in the New Territories of HK) I saw a young boy reading a book, the only time in 35 days days when I saw anybody with a book with the exception of a few monks with a specific text-book. None of the mainland railway stations have newspaper stands and it remains true that at no stage did I see anybody buy, sell, hold or read a newspaper throughout our stay. I am aware that in Hong Kong there is a complete contrast, newspapers are everywhere and the people are avid readers…. I have no idea what (if anything) can be taken from this observation.
BTW, the T-Hotel is the official Hong Kong Training Hotel for the tourism industry; it is very convenient for Aberdeen,
View from train, Xi 'an to HK
This view includes rice fields
not far from the city centre, has wonderful views and adjoins many miles of open woodland and hill walking. We have been using it for some years and highly recommend it; although nothing here is inexpensive, it represents very good value and is especially worthwhile for people who have any interest in the hotel or tourism industries.
This marks the end of our big adventure, but I may well add one or two final blogs later this week, to say how we get on in Hong Kong. First, I must see how many emails are waiting since we entered the Chinese Firewall 35 days ago...
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