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Steam in China 2006

by Ameling Algra

Lujiaxia, Shibanxi

A short report of my findings on a two week China trip:

Originally I wanted to spend two weeks autumn holiday in the North of China, visiting Meihekou, Huanan and/or Jalai Nur. Unfortunately, when I finally got the green light all affordable tickets to Beijing were sold out. So I bought two KLM AMS-Chengdu tickets instead, and travelled with Hans Duyfjes to Shibanxi and Liujiaxia.

Wednesday 11 October: my train from Utrecht to Schiphol was cancelled because of signalling problems. Luckily, I managed to arrive Schiphol in time for the 20.40 departure to Chengdu. Flight not completely full. Though the Boeing 777 is definitely not my favourite airplane (I find the seating 3 + 3 + 3 rather silly), the schedule offered by KLM is very convenient and makes it easily possible to arrive in Qianwei the same day (and leave Qianwei in the morning for the 14.00 flight to Amsterdam). This means for example that taking a flight on Friday Dec 22 and going back Monday Jan 1, one could spend eight whole days in Shibanxi taking only three free days! Chengdu airport is handling its international travel very efficiently both arriving and departing. This time, I was outside before the official arrival time of 12.30!

Shibanxi 13-17 October and 22-24 October

We stayed in Qianwei; as the Tian Bo quoted Y260 a night we went to the Bai he hotel for Y80 a night, excellent & clean rooms with hot water exactly from 8 PM. The restaurant here is very good, we were charged a fixed rate of 30 Yuan each time (for the two of us) for an excellent meal eacht evening. Details on transport to Qianwei and Shibanxi and hotels in Qianwei see my August report.
Traffic on the line was healthy; of course the scheduled passengers with their as always very friendly staff. Only on Oct 16 there was no coal train; on other days half the time there were two. The second freight usually went before the third passenger, once after the third passenger.
The first aid post in Mifeng offers accommodation for 25 Yuan a bed. Excellent location, though maybe a bit limited on food. We did not check the beds but a Japanese gricer told us it was OK (and cheap). The first aid post in Caiziba offers a different service: on the second floor, you have a good view of the `'horseshoe'' and you'll find a tripod for common use. The man at the post expects you to pay 10 yuan for the service.
The weather in Shibanxi was surprisingly good. One day heavy rain (Oct 24), one day very hazy, the other days hazy sunlight clearing up later in the day.

Liujiaxia 19, 20 October

We travelled by bus and plane to and from Lanzhou and then on to Liujiaxia. With the current flight schedules (12.30 from Chengdu, 14.00 from Lanzhou) the journey can easily be done in one day. We were charged Y530 for the plane ticket.

In Liujiaxia we stayed at the Huanyuan hotel, recommended by Florian but NOT recommended by later visitors. We chose the hotel because of the excellent description of location and directions to the railway station. As it is, Liujiaxia is not the most difficult place to find your way around, and the hotel was very poor. They first wanted to charge us Y200 a room, later changed to Y138 for a very noisy and not very clean and friendly hotel. Leaving luggage for the day cost Y20!! In liujiaxia, we enjoyed and filmed the shuttles and on Oct 19 the shunting and departure of the mixed from Gucheng, not banked this day. On Oct 20 we found the level crossing occupied by troops from New Zealand. In the afternoon we went to the gorge, first by local bus to Dachuang and then on by microbus (taxi) to the ferry near the tunnel. We told the driver to come back at 15.30 and crossed the river by ferry. After getting an excellent video of the now banked train, we went back and the ferry man phoned `'our'' microbus. The banker returned and offered us a lift but as we already had an appointment with our taxi driver, we had to let them go without us. The weather in Liujiaxia was excellent with bright sunlight. People here are very friendly (as almost everywhere in China), the station atmosphere in Gucheng reminded me of Turkey very quiet.

Back in Holland, my train home from the airport was cancelled made me feel at home immediately

Ameling Algra

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2006 Ameling Algra