Sunday 12th March 2017

We left Xi’an just after 7:00 a.m. in heavy rain that was predicted on Chinese TV as likely to be prolonged and severe. It certainly was. Upon arrival at the new Xi’an North railway station we converted our e-ticket into paper ones. Following two layers of security we were in another massive and spotless departure hall.

Our train, G26, was called for boarding at 08:55 and having found coach 1 we were surprised to see that it was like the front of a wide bodied jet with some seats that could be made into beds and a capacity of five people. We thought we were at the front. Surprise! We left in the opposite direction!! There was plenty of green tea available and a little package of niblets, including dried, salted peas in a mild form of Bombay mix. It took at least 2 hours at up to 297km per hour to escape the gloom and rain of Xi’an. A report in the China Daily newspaper explained that China’s National Observatory has issued a snowstorm alert for the country’s northwest and northeast regions for today and Monday. Blizzards were forecast to drop more than 10cm of snow in the area near Urumqi and the Kazakhstan border but Xi’an would only receiver rain.

When the sky lifted we saw endless kilometres of green shoots of cereals or vegetables as well as poly tunnels. Compared to the regions around Urumqi and Xian, spring was well under way here despite being further north, but closer to the ocean. Again, this illustrated how remote, inhospitable and land-locked the region between Almaty and Urumqi really is.

At an intermediate station the approach had high speed railways on at least 3 levels. The tinted windows were brilliant when looking to the outside from our seats but difficult to see through from the outside.

Our approach to Beijing was overlooked by the Taihang Shan Mountains. Along the watershed of some of this is part of the Great Wall. We arrived at Beijing West Station, in the suburbs, bang on time. After check in at the hotel we visited an English language bookshop and Le Cabernet French restaurant adjacent to our French owned hotel.

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