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Hong Kong – Featured

Enter the Dragon – the Z823 to Hong Kong

After the experience on the train from Lhasa, I gave myself 48 hours in a reasonably plush hotel to decompress. I must have had some train related PTSD, as I found myself on sentry duty during the night, guarding my bathroom from non existent smoking Chinese passengers. Also without really thinking about it, I worked out that the square footage of my bedroom would accommodate 32 people in the density of soft class. My time in Guangzhou was short, but I felt very relaxed here. I last visited in 1990, and of course hardly recognise the place now. I took the […]

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Z266 – The Slow Train to Canton – Part One

 I’m back on the train. My plan is a bit mad, and even I can’t remember why I decided to do this. I’m on the Z266, which runs daily from Lhasa to Guangzhou. It takes three days. This is a big trip, but yet in my mind I’m treating it like a short journey for some reason. I bet I am actually the only person travelling the full 4390 km to Canton. How many Chinese people would want to do this? Perhaps like wanting to take a single train journey from Edinburgh to Istanbul. I’m on a Z train again, and to […]

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The Man Who Would Be King

My time in Lhasa is fast drawing to a close. It’s been a wonderful and unique experience to be amongst all the pilgrims. The winter is a good time to visit Tibet. Okay it’s cold – just a couple of degrees in the daytime and freezing at night, but the climate is dry and the days are generally clear and sunny. Best of all though, there are hardly any (non Chinese) foreigners here. I’m hoping that you might have seen the epic British film from which the title of this post comes from. It’s Kipling fiction of course, but there […]

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Climbing to the Roof of the World on the Z21

We reached Golmod at 10.30 last night. This is the place where the climb really begins. I didn’t get off to supervise, but I could feel lots of shunting going on. I’m guessing that this is where the high altitude engines are added and whatever changes are made to the air supply take place. I was trying to get to bed early. Some hope! Once we set off there was a new noise in the darkness of our cabin. At first, it sounded like I might have accidentally switched on the radio, and all that was coming out was static […]

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Heaven and Hell in Zhongwei

Last night I went into a bit of a negative thought spiral. This annoys me as I like to think that one of my most precious skills on the rails is remaining positive and even madly happy in the face of adversity. The subject of my thoughts was the rapidly deteriorating state of the train. The toilets had become seriously bad so quickly that I secretly wished I wasn’t on the train. Then just to push me over the edge, I returned to my compartment to find an overpowering stench of stale urine. I lay in my berth desperately trying […]

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From Beijing to Lhasa on the Z21

If you have followed my blog on some of my other Chinese adventures you will know that I’m not a big fan of Beijing West railway station. Once you have managed to get into the place, the design is based around a number of huge waiting rooms. I don’t think “waiting room” describes it very well though. “Shouting Room”, “Spitting Room” or “Standing Room” would all all be better descriptions in my experience.I showed my ticket to a couple of guards and they concluded between themselves that my best shot was to hang around ticket check no. 4, where my […]

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Escape from Zabailask

Sergei hurries me off the train once we reach Zabailask, I have no idea why. I literally just grab my day bag and get off the train. I’m not clear how this is going to work. There seem to be some immigration people here, but all they seem to be interested in at present is their lunch. I play it cool, and see if I can do the same. Once inside the station, all I find is an empty waiting room next to an empty immigration room. There seem to be about six of us and I think the others are […]

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Ice Cold in Barabinsk

It is perhaps a bit of an obvious subject, but I feel I have mention the temperature. It has been getting progressively colder at each stop for the last couple of days, and it has now reached the point where I can confirm to you that it is “proper cold”. This isn’t a technical term or an absolute temperature, but based on the fact that I can feel the air being sucked out of my lungs as I cough and splutter when making the perilous jump between carriages. Over the last 24 hours on average I would use Sergei’s carriage […]

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"Vostok" – the Midnight Express to Manchuria

The “Vostok” leaves Moscow’s Yaraslovsky station every Saturday night at close to midnight. Yaraslovsky is not a particularly sophisticated place, and once through security there are really just a few seats, a ticket office and departure board inside. Outside, a few drunks and mad men are on the streets looking for people to accost and share their stories with. I give them a wide berth. I had stocked up on supplies earlier in the day at my local Sokolniki supermarket, and now had an extra three bags to carry containing assorted noodles, biscuits, and porridge, not to mention a stash […]

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