A Last Look at China

I began in Beijing, it was only fitting to end there. China has wonders to behold and one is the high speed railway, considered to be one of the fastest around. The other wonders spread far and wide, from mountains that bend the imagination to sacred temples where only whispers are heard, but the biggest seat of China is Beijing. Visiting Beijing comes with myth and legend. Emperors have risen and tumbled, the communist party made it the center of policy and culture, which continues to thrive to this day. Leaving after a long period somewhere is always tough, but as the train shot away from Wuxi towards Beijing and the speed picked up to 310 km/h, I felt airy. A sensation that surprised me. I detected no traces of sadness, but only relief. A new adventure was upon me and the sameness of where I just came from evaporated. I slipped into a pair of familiar, safe shoes.  To be blind to what was ahead, to stop looking backwards — there’s nothing like it is there? That swell of discovery. I arrived in Beijing a cool 7 hours later and though it was the dark of night, I checked into my hotel which was a few blocks from Tiananmen Square and hit the pavement quickly, walking the streets with vigour. I became an uncaged animal tasting freedom for the first time, but hadn’t realized that the chains of Wuxi were so tight, so suffocating. It was right to leave. Below are a collection of photos from my short time in Beijing.  […]

By |April 7th, 2014|Beijing, China|18 Comments

How Fast is 300 KM Per Hour?

I was lucky enough to experience the fastest train in the world from Beijing to Shanghai. I hope my descriptions inspired some train lust and set a picture in your mind, yet I bet your dying to know one integral thing. What does 300 km/hour look like? Here's a short visual for you, because it's [...]

By |October 31st, 2011|Beijing, Ultimate Train Challenge|6 Comments

Riding the Fastest Train in the World – Beijing to Shanghai

380A.  Or, also called He Xie.  I’m not referring to computer intelligence in the spirit of Hal 9000 of Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. What I’m talking about is the fastest train in the world, known as 380A or He Xie. China unveiled their plans to build this ambitious high-speed train in April 2008. China was a meager player until the Olympics swept through, opening its doors to the world stage. Certainly manufacturing had been cultivated there for years, yet I always saw China as a quietly, closed country. Then, in 2008, something magical happened. A spotlight was shed on China and the country stepped into the limelight with vigor – brimming with new ideas. This train is a harbinger of enthusiastic invention, a bright light. So, maybe my reference to Hal 9000 is not far off the mark. As technology and investment continue to permeate China’s economic borders, I’m personally excited to see how much this country changes. Saying Goodbye After we spent a fruitful day at the Great Wall in Beijing, we woke the next day with the knowledge that we were about to ride the fastest train track from Beijing to Shanghai, which incidentally, clocks an average speed of 380 km/hr. Once again, Andy, our tour guide from the Wall and our driver, Mr. Wei, met us that morning to show us the way. I was sad to part with Andy and Beijing. After the Wall, I crashed from hunger and exhaustion. Yet, I was still exhilarated from experiencing the Wall. Instead of going straight to Happy Dragon Courtyard Hostel, Andy suggested a local restaurant called Alley, far from the tourist traps in  Badaling. At first, I was ravenous, bordering on grumpy, but Andy’s suggestion lifted my mood significantly. The old sections of Beijing are constructed of narrow alleyways that teem with local businesses, swaying laundry lines, children playing, parked scooters and laughter. Alley is one of these local places, with roots to the community. Another architectural feature of these heritage residences are the courtyards that split a household. These courtyards were used for small gardens, or as a gathering place for meditation or tea time. Alley is a prime example of this. This former household, now restaurant, is Beijing’s hidden treasure. It’s family owned, once run by the mother and father, now run by their children – a brother and sister. We all agreed on the last day of the Trans-Manchurian that what we wanted most was spicy food, a stationary bed and a shower. Andy delivered on the first item. […]

By |October 26th, 2011|Beijing, Ultimate Train Challenge|20 Comments

Great Wall of China in Pictures and Words

I’m  trying to find the exact words to describe the Great Wall, but frankly, I’m lost. It’s sheer power and majestic views overwhelmed me. In the best way possible. I was dog-tired after our whirlwind train trip from Moscow to Beijing, and frankly, the last thing I wanted to see was a monument. Even the Great Wall. This is how bad it got. On our sixth day, Nora turned to me. “Guess what we get to do tomorrow?” “See the Great Wall?” “No!  Have a shower!” We just spent six days without a full square meal or a real shower. Priorities, people, priorities. I soon changed my mind. Enticing over a shower! We arrived in Beijing in the early hours of the morning and was greeted by our China Odyssey guide, Li Peng, or for North American tongues, he also likes to be called Andy. […]

By |October 24th, 2011|Beijing, Ultimate Train Challenge|19 Comments

Feeling Lost

China was a homecoming of sorts. I have the country’s blood in my veins, so when I first entered its borders, I expected something to happen. An epiphany. A strong pull. A Chinese train worker tried to help me find a money exchange kiosk at our first China stop at Harbin Railway Station. What tumbled from his mouth was a jumble. A combination of Chinese letters crashing together in my ears. He expected me to understand. And I didn’t. He tipped back his hat and stared at me, this newfound curiosity. My eyes and skin so similar to him, the noir of my hair blending in so well with his. Black on black. Yet, he realized I am an alien. His colleague came over, noticing the fuss circulating around this seemingly average Asian woman. […]

By |October 21st, 2011|Beijing, Life|24 Comments

Hello, Beijing!

I had to pinch myself to believe it, but we made it to Beijing! 150 hours of train travel, six days and nights on the Trans-Manchurian where we shared laughs, frustrations, compared cleanliness levels, sleep patterns and time zone theories. We rolled in at 5:30 am Beijing Time to a near abandoned station. No matter, [...]

By |October 19th, 2011|Beijing, Ultimate Train Challenge|10 Comments