We took a high-speed train from Guilin to Beijing. It took about ten hours and 30 minutes, and stopped at:
- Guilinzhou, Yongzhou, Quidong, Hengyangdong, Zhuzhouxi, Changshanan, Yueyangdong, Xianningbei, Wuhan, Xinyangdong, Zhumadianxi, Zhengzhoudong, Anyangdong, Xingtaidong, Shijiazhuang, Zhuozhoudong and finally Beijingxi (Beijing West).
Before the trip, we filled our bellies with a big plate of Chinese noodles at our hostel, Guilin Wada Youth Hostel. After which, we visited a local Chinese bakery to stock up on supplies for the train (including a few litre-bottles of water).
A short bus ride took us to Guilin Railway Station. Our bags went through x-ray machines while we passed through metal detectors to enter the station’s waiting rooms. A few minutes before departure time, we were allowed to make our way to the platform via the ticket boom gates. Everything was very orderly, including the queues.
On the platform, someone kindly showed us where to stand. The trains don’t stop at the station for long and we needed to be sure we were lined up with our carriage door. Sure enough, the bullet train came into the station on time and we soon found ourselves sitting among a full carriage of noisy Chinese travellers.
People were chatting away, children were playing, one man was playing games on his phone at full volume, while others slurped up their instant noodles. It was certainly a lively scene inside the futuristic interior of the carriage.
A digital display above the door told us how fast the train was travelling (mostly between 296 and 305 km/h) as well as the temperature at the stations we were passing through. Outside, we sped beyond the hills and rice fields of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and into flat farmlands, mostly dedicated to crops.
Occasionally we passed through emerging cities of towering, grey apartment blocks and never-ending construction. Double, sometimes triple deck highways and railways popped out from these urban expansions.
When we finally arrived in Beijing at 9:10pm, it was still 28 degrees. We avoided the sham taxis and queued at the regular taxi rank. Our lady driver drove through the quietening streets of the city to the hutong where our accommodation was located (unauthorised vehicles cannot drive inside the hutongs). It was a five-minute walk to the red façade of Xiao Yuan Alley Courtyard Hotel, a traditional courtyard-style hotel not too far from the Forbidden Palace.
Our room was dark and dusty, but authentically decorated. Even though we had been sitting all day, we were tired and it was nice to lay head to pillow.
Transport: we took the local bus from our hostel to Guilin Railway Station. It was a lot cheaper than a taxi.
We bought our train tickets from China DIY Travel agency online, who were quick to respond to queries and provided helpful information about travel in China, along with the ticket confirmation and translations for taxi services to the train stations in the various cities.
Travel time: about ten hours and 30 minutes (from station to station).
Travel advice: shop for supplies beforehand. There is a trolley of food that comes around once on board the train – but if you’re not into instant noodles, it’s best to bring something more appetising along with you. We stopped at a Chinese bakery beforehand to stock up and also bought a few litres of water.
Photo: the attendant on board our Chinese high speed train, bringing along the food chart, China.