Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Biting the BULLET


I guess I could call it an early birthday present...




Train carrier: CRH
Travel duration: approximately 3.5 hours
Food and Beverages: 4/10
Staff friendliness:  9/10
Top speed on our journey:  308km/h 
Overall Travel experience: 9.6/10

For those who haven't read my previous post, it would be beneficial to explain that I have spent the past week and a half in mainland China.  It was break at Hong Kong University - known here as 'reading week' - so all students had the 'option' to either stay back and study or travel.  And you wonder why they'd even bother calling it a reading week...

So, instead of writing my travels in a sequential manner, I have decided to keep my posts spontaneous and out-of-order, to make your life as a reader much more difficult (and enjoyable I hope).

Thankfully, by not booking my return tickets back to Hong Kong, I was able to travel more flexibly.  Initially I only planned to spend a few days in Shanghai and return.  I almost bought the return ticket back - but luckily I decided against it.  In the end, I decided to prolong the trip because - let's face it - how often do you get an opportunity to visit the Great Wall of China?  Beijing was planned for our last leg of the journey, and with such a fantastic group of friends to travel with - how could I even contemplate returning earlier?

To clarify my trip, the sectors were planned like this:

HONG KONG - SHANGHAI - HANGZHOU - HUANGSHAN - BEIJING - HONG KONG

To get this post moving, I'll summarise my return journey from Beijing.  A few nights before the rough departure date we had in mind, my friend and I decided to return by plane to Hong Kong rather than by the 30 hour train ride.  What worked out a better deal was to travel by the Bullet train from Beijing to Nanjing and then take a plane from Nanjing to Shenzhen.  As well as arriving home earlier, I wanted to explore Nanjing and Shenzhen airports (just because I enjoy doing so).








The above photos:  The amazing Nanjing South Train Terminal - much nicer and more modern than any Australian or American airport!


The night before our departure, we were assured that there would be plenty of tickets for the bullet train the next morning - providing we arrived early - so we didn't have to venture out into the dark to buy them so late. And in makes sense - not everyone travels on the bullet train so why worry?  Most people would take the local slower trains.  The next morning, we soon found out just how much the citizens love travelling by bullet when - to our dismay - EVERY single standard ticket was sold out.  The next day there were hundreds of tickets - just our luck that everyone chose to travel on this day.  The only tickets that remained were:  'Class:  Unknown'.  Strange way of labelling a class, but to show you what they looked like, here are some images.



Well...  It was comfortable and the journey went much too quick!



When my friend and I entered the train, we were greeted by the train attendants (both ladies) who were very well dressed and mannered.  They initially took us into the 'Business Class' cabin which looked quite impressive also.  However, their expression and respect leaped another mile into the air when they realised we were in first class.  Moreover, we were in the two best seats on the train - just behind the captain of the train.



 Reclining - it still extended further, just didn't get a photo...


A desk that folded out of no-where


For the brief look I got, the cabin looked very modern and spacious.  Didn't surprise me...  I did try to get a photo of the cabin but I was not allowed to in the end.  Perhaps their technology is too precious to share with others?



2 problems for photography:  1) Too hazy 2) Too fast





Considering how much this ticket cost, it was surprising that only the blow snacks and Pepsi were served.  If they were to provide a warm meal, I'm sure many more travellers would see the incentive to upgrade to first class.





Finally! Now the second-last leg begins...

Would I recommend this trip or a first class ticket to anyone?  Most certainly!  It felt like the trip went too quickly.  However, if you want a quick journey you may as well take a plane direct from Beijing to Hong Kong and it will cost you around the same price.  I had no choice...  But am I complaining?  

It's the experience more than anything...

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