A train trip like this – of some 33 hours, over 2 nights and a day, covering nearly 3000 km, going from Haikou to Beijing – is hardly the more-localized way to make oneself at home in a place that I usually advocate.
It does, however, make the dimensions of a country like China clearer. (Being in central Europe, this distance would be enough to reach the end of the ‘continent,’ whatever the direction of travel).
Not to forget, it really serves as a transect, cutting through an area in what is basically a line, making it easier to notice the changes that develop in the course of that distance…Of course, some of the area isn’t illustrated in photos; the nights, especially the second one, weren’t conducive to picture-taking. For one, because of the need for sleep, but also because of the light at night.
It’s a lesson in its own right: We think of China as this rising giant, and thus we think of the glitz and glimmer of Shanghai’s or Hong Kong’s illuminated skylines. In reality, though, China is still also a developing country, devoid of electric light – or shall I say, avoiding the profligate use and ‘pollution’ of electric light? – in much of its area and much of the night.
Even so, there was a lot of terrain covered and a lot to see…
View Train Haikou-Beijing in a larger map
And, it becomes really obvious not only how big China is, but indeed also how things change.
From the South into the middle of the country, rice fields dominate the landscape, for example. Papaya and bananas are noticeable among the trees; bamboo covers many a hillside. Farther north, the landscape changes not only to be even flatter than it had been for most of the time in the South, but agriculture also changes. From one point on, as the (sub)tropical fruit trees also disappear to give way to willows or poplars, the fields change from rice to wheat.
But, if you have the time – you don’t need 33 hours, but 10 minutes of impressions are still something different from the 20 Seconds China glimpses I usually give here – see for yourself. You don’t even have to suffer the snoring or the smelly feet of other passengers ;)