I've divided the trip from Beijing down to Hanoi into two blogs. When you read the blog about Nanning to Hanoi you will understand why.
I reached Beijing West station by subway well before my train was due to depart. Fortunately I found a seat in the enormous waiting room straight away because seating space was at a premium. And this was just one of several waiting rooms.
People would line up for an hour when the 'waiting' sign was illuminated for their train. I knew I had a reserved first class berth so I kept sitting until the 'check tickets' sign appeared about 40 minutes before departure.
I made it to the one first class carriage and was invited on by the attendant. This was my compartment and it appeared that I would have it to myself.
Indeed it looked like I would have the carriage to myself. The attendant took my ticket and passport away and soon came back with my passport. He retained the ticket.
Gauze curtains. The attendants always pulled them back into place when I moved them to take a photo.
This is the symbol for Chinese rail. I am not sure what the tray was for but I used it to hold my pot of dinner two nights later.
The train departed on time and immediately I was seeing the new Beijing.
A new freeway.
Taking photos was difficult with the double pane dirty windows. None of them opened.
The cultivation was endless.
Some hoon with his feet up again. Although I enjoyed John's company on the long trip from Moscow, there is something about having a whole compartment to yourself.
A meal cart came around so I ordered this and it cost 20 yuan or about $3. It was ok, nothing wonderful. When I was finished, I took the remains to a bin at the end of the corridor so that it wouldn't stink up my compartment. I had plenty of water in a 2 litre bottle that I had bought at a supermarket. I stopped a trolley on the train that had drinks but none of them was cold. I finished up with a warm coke rather than attempting to down a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer of all things.
There was a working power socket in the corridor opposite my door. Shortly after I took this photo every socket was being used by Chinese recharging their cell phones. Initially I was the only passenger in the carriage but quite a few people must have got upgrades and so the other compartments were occupied. However I was still in my solitary splendor.
There was no toilet paper so I was glad I had brought my own.
Late afternoon passing over some enormous river.
I slept pretty well and the next day it was a succession of big cities and lots of countryside. You could tell that a big city was approaching by the increase in the haze of pollution.
The compartment got quite cold during the night and I needed the thick covering comforter.
I've decided that the reason China consumes so much energy is all the little air-conditioning units.
The night before I had noticed that many of the rooms in the high rise buildings did not have lights on. I wondered if some of them were empty as people have migrated to Beijing or Shanghai for better paying jobs.
I quite liked the countryside and was surprised by the number of houses like these. If I were Chinese and could afford it I would move out of the polluted big cities to some rural place like this. I suppose it will be a coming trend.
Plenty of paddy fields.
It was overcast for most of the day.
Bored food vendor at one of the stations.
This is where the Chinese Hogs gather.
Now somebody had to have decided that this was a 'good idea' that would really impress the neighbours.
A gigantic beer factory. I seem to remember having Yanjing beer somewhere. I quite liked Chinese lager beer and it was certainly inexpensive.
It is difficult taking photos from a speeding train. The opportunity is gone before you can react. In China, the same scene usually appears a minute later so you can be prepared for it.
Mountains like Australia's Glass House Mountains near Guilin. There were thousands of them and they are known as Karst Formations.
I think this refers to the local mountains.
The high speed network has extended down to Nanning.
I bought this from a platform vendor for a couple of dollars about 3 pm. It was delicious and later in the day I was very glad to have eaten.
Every now and then I would see a Chinese face that would remind me of somebody.
China seems to be planting a lot of trees.
I was wondering why the train was so far ahead of the schedule shown on the Seat61 website. The answer lies in this picture. China is building its new high speed network as viaducts raised well above the ground. They don't have to do the traditional ground preparation and simply have tall pylons that go to the appropriate height and then put a reinforced concrete bridge between each pylon. Then lay the tracks.
You can see the traditional railway line below and the new raised track my train is running on.
Many of the workers down in this southern part of China were wearing their coolie hats.
The sun had come out about 4 pm and I had enjoyed a particularly long afternoon nap in preparation for the possible trials and tribulations of leaving China and entering Vietnam. We eventually arrived at Nanning at 18:00 instead of the expected 20:00.