As with Kunming the people we met were generally very friendly, although quite shy. Children seem to be able to break the ice easily and we met one young Chuck Norris wannabe (actually, he didn’t know Chuck, Jackie Chan or Jet Li but no doubt he has his own idols!) who happened to always be there when we needed assistance with translation (or even when we didn’t). It turned out that his Mum was our carriage conductor so it wasn’t surprising that he was always on hand.
We awoke on our first morning as the train followed a river through a steep sided gorge. I think it was the Dadu River – quite impressive scenery. In fact over the course of the train ride we saw what was some of the most spectacular natural scenery since arriving in Asia.
The other very spectacular part of the journey was the engineering that has gone into establishing the train line and that is now going into expressway construction in the area. It is difficult to tell how major the links are within the region but there are expressways being built seemingly everywhere. At one point we followed a river gorge for over half an hour, us on one side and new viaduct piers on the other, lifting the future road above the river banks and thus avoiding further tunneling like on the rail line. We took to timing how long we were in tunnels for – over 3 minutes was the longest, over 1 minute was regular and most of the time the train was maintaining a good speed.
Unfortunately the engineering and construction brings with it some fairly grim scenes as well. We are now in Xian, 10 days in China and so far only 1 afternoon where there was clear blue sky – and I am afraid that it is not clouds blocking out the view of the sky. And when you arrive into the outskirts of cities by train it really does seem so bleak - but then no city can be judged by the beauty of it's switching yards and perhaps the natural beauty makes it stand out even more so.
Two stereotypes of China that have lived up to expectation – everyone spits (noisily, without care for others and wherever they choose) and pollution is thick and heavy.