China knows how to transport mass amounts of people affordably, cleanly and fast and the great US of A should start taking notes because they are getting their rear end kicked.
My wife and I are enjoying our semi-retirement and are currently living in Longyan China. Found ourselves in need of a notary, for some documents back in the states, and found out the US Consulate can provide these services. Guangzhou was the closest city, with an US Embassy, and the train was the easy choice. From Longyan to Guangzhou is approximately 553 km (are we the only ones who measure distance in miles?? Seems like all the other countries use Km’s, can’t the world come together on this?? anyway…) or about 350 miles. So for those on the west coast think San Diego to Las Vegas, for those on the East Coast it would be New Jersey to Boston. Guessing like a 2 hour or so flight or a 5-6 hour drive. (with traffic in CA and NJ maybe give or take a day or two :))
Bullet trains here in China are fairly new. Railroad systems have always been in place but as technology has changed so have the trains. This is what makes traveling in Asia so easy. Service from Longyan (somewhat rural city in China) has just recently added the bullet train service, which is nice, my wife and I took the old “Choo Choo” this time last year and the newer trains are much more efficient. They have a sleek design, with a dolphin tip nose, and are made to move people fast, and this they do. The cost of our ticket from Longyan to Guangzhou was around 150 RMB (Chinese dollar) or about $23 (usd). Cheap, would cost 4 times that in gas alone, if driving. The ticketing process is simple. You can order the tickets online (we didn’t want to pay the up charge for using an American issued card), at kiosks in the train station, at satellite offices, or at the counter at the train station. (note for US Travelers: go the ticket office of the train station, you will need to provide your passport and visa information, they are VERY careful about making sure you are following the government rules, remember you are in a communist country!) Found the ticketing process very easy (actually had my wife’s friend get the tickets for us online and we just paid her back). Once at the train station most have directions on where to go in English as well as Chinese, they make it very easy.
I was blown away with the comfort of the trains. Being a big guy (6’4, 300 lbs) I usually just concede legroom when I travel, but the seats were roomy. Enough to fit my backpack in front of me. Plenty of storage above the seat and the seats had a great recline. From time to time the ladies come by with a cart full of drinks and food with a smile. They have really cracked down on cleanliness and smoking. No smoking is allowed on the train and for the most part everyone is very respectful.
The best part of the ride (and why I love taking the trains) is the history lesson you get as you pass one town to another. The views are incredible. The tracks are bumped up right next to the cities and small towns. You pass by rice field after rice field, acres and acres of banana trees, farmers in their pointed bamboo hats tending to their crops, it’s serene, movie like. You see poverty. hope and those who have hit the jackpot, it’s like 100 years of rich Chinese history passes you by. I love it.
Don’t blink because the train moves fast, real fast. At the front of each car you can see the speed (in Km’s of course, don’t get me started) and I have seen it register as fast as 302km/hour. That breaks down to 187/mph folks….and…..you feel as if you are taking a Sunday drive to grandma’s house. Every 10 mins or so you stop at the next station. People get on and people get off, all walks of life, all ages and professions. Some in suits some in flip flops and a tank tops.
Took us about 3 hours to get to from Longyan to Guangzhou. All rested, tummies full and a history lesson in our back pocket. Not bad for less than a club sandwich and fries and the local pub. All documents have been notarized and now we take the trip back! If only Disneyland to Vegas was this smooth. Oh! And did I mention the trains are 100% electric and emissions free? Come on America, is your bum sore?
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