Canton Eyes Guangzhou China – Culture Musings, Architecture Oddities, Urban Design

28Jul/101

3 provinces in 3 hours: the CRH

A second-class ticket costs 490 yuan.  A first-class ticket is 300 yuan more, and for the extra money you are privilege to a wider seat plus free juice and snacks.  Whichever you chose, the experience of riding the new high speed rail in southern China is remarkable.  As the train speeds through the countryside at 350 kpm, you can watch geography and architecture changing in a matter of minutes.  The line crosses 3 provinces, over 6 degrees of latitude, going from temperate central Wuhan to subtropical southern Guangzhou, all in 3 hours.  (Not all trains make the journey in 3 hours.  Most take 4 hours and stop at the intermediate stations along the way.  I took train #G1003 from Wuhan at 3pm sharp, which is an express train)

Leaving Wuhan, the terrain is defined by the small rolling hills covered in short brush.  This is Hubei province.  The flat bed of the railway is carved out out of the landscape, leaving your eyes to follow the embankments up and down like waves.  When you're above the waves, you can see far into the distance.  There are few tall trees between the fields, where many different crops are being grown, creating a patchwork of varied shades of green.  Buildings are spread across each farm, and most of them are simple two story buildings with sloped tile roofs:

Very suddenly, it seems, the scenery turns a bright, verdant green as you enter the fertile land of Hunan province.  It's notable for wide, flat valleys with large mountains off in the distance.  Buildings are similar to before, but seem more clustered together in villages.  Between the fields, which seem to grow just rice, there are many tall trees.  (at the end of this video, the train passes through one of the outdoor intermediate stations, at full speed):

A couple hours in, the buildings are taller, made of concrete, with flat roofs.  The ride starts to seem a lot like a subway as the train tunnels through the mountains in the north of Guangdong province.  At times, the train emerges from one tunnel, speeds through a valley for a few seconds, and back into another tunnel.  In the valley, you may get a blurry glance of an old house not far from the tracks.  For perhaps dozens of generations, that house was quietly isolated in it's own little valley in rural China.  Now it's neighbor is the fastest rail line in the world.  Then you emerge into another valley within view of a small village.  It's entirely possible that people from those two places spoke different dialects in the recent past, so isolated by a great mountain.  Now you travel between them in 10 seconds:

When I showed these videos to some students, they could immediately tell which province each was taken in.  I was pretty impressed.

Anyone taken the Wu-Guang high speed train yet?  What were your impressions of the experience?