Train journeys, part 3.
Today, in 2019, the train from Guangzhou to Beijing takes just eight hours. It's a remarkable achievement: the trip is over 2200 kilometers, and the brand new bullet trains travel at around 300 km per hour.
But in the 1990's no one would have imagined super-highways and bullet trains criss-crossing China. The "economic miracle" that would so dramatically transform the nation was only in its infancy. Things were still pretty bucolic and chaotic.
I was pretty used to the vagaries of Communist countries. I knew how to "arrange" things (as the locals termed it), and I quickly realised that China (at that time) followed the same familiar pattern: if you wanted or needed something, a US dollar or two went a long way.
Considering that the bullet trains were still decades away, we settled in for our long trip.
As night fell and the train rumbled on, the windows offered nothing to see. It was pitch black outside, no lights visible anywhere.
I urged my wife to sleep as late as she wanted in the morning.... after all, we had nothing else to do.
I have slept on trains more times than I could even attempt to remember. The lurching and shaking of the cars can be either relaxing or disturbing, depending on their intensity and frequency. The rumbling of the rails, the clickety clack, can also be either soothing, or immensely annoying.
But somehow this night I slept peacefully. Perhaps knowing that a very rare late wake-up was in the cards relaxed me.
My plans for sleeping in were quite rudely shattered. At 6am on the dot, tinny loudspeakers in the corridors roared into life, playing a patriotic song and making announcements in a sing-song voice. It went on for at least ten minutes, and in response all the passengers sprang out of bed and began going about their daily business. It looked like it was going to be a very long day indeed.