Tongji University (and from what I’ve understood other universities in China as well) has an exceptionally long winter break. The whole month of February is free, and for many students it starts even earlier thanks to all exams being done. I got my break already on the 8th of January. During the winter break most Chinese students will go home to their families, in my class I reckon around 80 % are not from Shanghai, to celebrate the Chinese New Year. As a foreigner, sticking around during the week long holiday is not much fun, unless you’re invited to stay with a good Chinese friend. Otherwise even finding dinner may become hard as almost everything closes down. Instead, this break is a great opportunity for travelling outside of China.

As I try to minimize flying, while still eager to explore, I’ve chosen to plan a trip down to Vietnam which shares a border with China’s south. As I will be travelling anyway, I also decided to take a few detours through Guizhou and Guanxi provinces of China. Although I seem to have synced with the coldest weather of the year I still hope it will be an interesting experience. Worst case I’ll just speed along down to Vietnam. Thanks to Chinas railway system being very well developed and tickets being commonly available for the shorter (2-5 hour) journeys, I have been able to keep my schedule flexible.

Currently I’m sitting on a G-class train, the most modern ones, going at 300 kph through the endless number of tunnels that enables high speed trains in the hilly landscapes of southern China. The view outside my window has changed dramatically from Shanghai’s flat, grey and bland looking industrial suburbs to a lush green landscape of thousands of small hills and mountains. It has been hazy outside for several hours, ever since I saw the first rain, so the scenery is very dramatic (and really hard to get an image of).

The G-trains are very neat and comfortable, making this 9h trip quite a pleasure so far. Later on I will be trying the slower trains and sleeper trains, which will be interesting to add to the experience. Thanks to be very punctual and with a smooth operation in general my experience with Chinas railway system so far is fantastic.

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