Tag Archives: travel


Averaging 270 kph, top speed 306 on the way from Xian to. Beijing on a G-train. It’s smooth spacious, clean, on time and I’ll do an 700 mile journey in 4.5 hours. Kind of puts the uk’s transport system to shame.

The landscape through shaanxi and then shanxi province is pancake flat and is unremarkable; either intensively cultivated or urban sprawls marked by swooping concrete flyovers suspended on pillars, multiple rail lines, worker camps, yards full of concrete pipes, girders and heavy construction materials, and massive pockets of monotonously plain and identikit high rise concrete shells and even higher yellow cranes. On the outskirts of the cities these developments reach off to the horizon. About 70% are unfinished carcasses, and seem to be abandoned projects, presumably as the developers have run out of funds. This is urbanisation and modernisation at a vast almost inhumanising scale: the construction of 30 storey homes that are bought as investments, the creation of an infrastructure of hyper fast communications links. The skies are yellowy-grey, heavy, dense with smog. The life seems to have been sucked out of the land. Concrete jungle is the term. If this is the future I don’t think I like it very much.



It’s all very well going for the authentic local experience, but there is really little point, other than getting first hand experience into how cramped and slow the buses are, how awful the traffic is and what I don’t have to deal with back home. But, I didn’t have much choice as the trains from pingyao to xi’an were fully booked days ago. Hence I had to get a bus for a couple of hours north to taiyuannan then. Across the city by taxi to get to the southern train station which looked and felt like an air terminal. Taiyuan city resembled pretty much what I was expecting from China. Miles and miles of wide multi-carriage ways sweeping past rows and rows of 20 storey concrete blocks, many still under construction. The sky is grey, rather there is no sky, but a blanket of smog, trapping in the heat, as the day warms up, and stinking of sulphur. The roads into the city are gridlocked and we edge in inch by inch. In contrast the southern station is bleak, clean, gleaming, orderly and so vast it feels empty, even though there are hundredsofpassengerswaiting their trains. I’m now on the D-train waiting to be spirited by super high speed to xi’an.