Content Welcome News Trip Reports Steam Lines Locomotive List Travel Tips Links

Steam in China - October 2008

by Ameling Algra

Jalainur, Baotou and Jixi

October 10 I left for my 26th China visit, accompanied by Hans Duyfjes. Using Air France via Paris this time; less convenient than direct KLM flights but Air France offered better cancellation conditions which I feared might be necessary because of the visa restrictions. These restrictions were lifted Sep 19, so we left as usual without hotel bookings.
Flying Air France did have some advantages. Not only is the food much better & they don’t charge an extra €50 for emergency exit seats, but the flight also has a convenient arrival time in Beijing, 7.45 on Oct 11, so ample time to get a connecting flight with Hainan Airlines to Manzhouli leaving 11.20. This flight was booked through Hainan Airline’s web site and the ticket cost RMB 420 plus RMB 200 tax. Arrival on time in Manzhouli 13.30, and after inquiring about flights to Hohhot, we took a taxi straight to Jalainur for RMB120 and booked into the Jalainur Binguan (red building across the station square in Jalainur Xi). They asked for RMB200, which was a bit much given the quality of the room but not much more than what others paid for, so given our jet lag we quickly agreed. The restaurant in the hotel is also adequate though not cheap (meal for two around RMB 40) – and serves an adequate breakfast (included in room price) for those who do not want to leave the hotel before 7.00 AM.

The next three days were devoted to the open pit & the deep mines system. No diesels seen on the deep mines system (yet), lots of lorries in the open pit though. The open pit turned out to be excellent in the afternoon and foggy in the morning; as temperatures were relatively high, no (visible condensed) steam in the afternoon though. Passenger in the mine worked as in the latest reports.
The layout of the CNR transfer yard near the washery seems to have been changed. Last year, trains of empties had to struggle up to the deep mines lines making for excellent video. This year, the yard was on the same level as the deep mines so they just rolled into Daqiao station. This loss was compensated by the loaded trains from the washery. They were pulled out of the washery by two locos often stalling and slipping and then pushed back into the CNR yard (all photos are video stills)

Jalai Nur proved excellent again but after three days we found that we were repeating ourselves and decided on a splurge: go to Baotou. So off to Manzhouli airport (taxi on the meter was a mere RMB 84), and then on the Grand China Express flight to Hohhot. Grand China seems to be a daughter of Hainan Airlines offering ‘’cross country’’ flights in small but comfortable Bombardier and Embraer jets. Very convenient. Though Bernd warned us against possible cancellations, we seem to have been lucky – both flights we used were actually fully booked.
From Hohhot by bus to Baotou (East) where we stayed in the Westlake hotel providing excellent rooms for RMB 120. We got ourselved a guide & driver from CITS. RMB 500 for car and driver, RMB 300 for each of us entry to the steelworks, and RMB 200 for the guide. She proved to be excellent; though hardly speaking English she was cheerful, very customer oriented and constantly in contact with train control so we got excellent shots in our one day visit.

Next day (Oct 17) off to Hohhot by bus again and on to the airport & to Harbin where we checked into the Kunlun hotel – expensive at RMB 358 but high standard and western breakfast – worth the splurge.

Then Oct 18 train N3 to Jiamusi (retimed at 07.20 and now having a stop in Nancha). I noted that the track layout beyond Nancha was changed. Both directions are now close together on the same (south eastern) side of the depot. After arrival in Jiamusi on to the bus station ( from the railway station at the left side of the station square) and on a bus to Huanan where we went to my favorite Huanan Binguan and contacted my favorite taxi driver Er Lin.

Er Lin drove us to the narrow gauge depot on Oct 19 where we found out that there were no trains running but were offered a special on the flat section only (at least that is what we understood) for RMB 6000 – which we declined. So on to Jixi instead, hoping the two mines there would offer enough for four days.

In Jixi we stayed at Ji Xi Fandian which had an elevator installed since my last visit two years ago, and offered good rooms with excellent service and breakfast for RMB 100. Many good, friendly and cheap restaurants nearby – meal for two between RMB 20 and RMB 30.The station square looked very ‘’Dutch’’ to me as it was turned into a building site. The main difference with Dutch station squares is that they will probably finish the rebuilding in one year instead of twenty-plus.
The rebuilding might make finding the right bus more complicated, but it turned out to be easy again. Bus 3 to Chengzihe for 1 Yuan, bus 24 to Didao Hebei for 2.5 Yuan see sketch map (not all buses 24 are numbered). No sign of any electrification work in Chengzihe - apart from a poster depicting a very modern electric loco…. Lots of trains in both locations, colourful industrial background. Didao no longer seems to work waste trains – all done by lorry.

We enjoyed both locations for 3.5 days and then it started to rain – and our time was up anyway…. We took a bus from Jixi to Harbin (Oct 24); a seven hour trip in a very comfortable bus for RMB 137.5; the bus dropped us off near the railway station, we checked into the Kunlun hotel again & went to Beijing the next day.

Oct 25 on arrival in Beijing we went to the Ibis Hotel Sanyuan Bridge – located very close to and even signposted in the underground & airport express halt of that name). The hotel was booked through accorhotels.com at a rate of RMB 288, (a relic of my bookings made because of visa regulations), proved to be brand new, has of course an excellent location coming from and/or going to the airport, and has a rather disappointing Chinese breakfast for RMB 20,--.

So Oct 26 a quick ride on the airport express & off to Holland via Paris. On the flight were French pupils who had chosen Chinese as a subject (clever girls, & one or two clever boys) and so had made a one week excursion to Beijing – to find out they did not master much Chinese yet.

Though every time I think this might be my last visit, I definitely enjoyed this trip and look forward to one or more trips. Huanan is still high on my list, I would like to revisit Xingjiang brickworks, Shibanxi, Sandaoling. As reported before, China is getting more expensive these days. Not because of inflation (I find that virtually non-existant, even in food prices – though it might be different for locals), but because the exchange rate with the euro is poorer (for us) than it was before. Well, we can also say we have been very lucky in the past & are now a bit less lucky. Still, China is not expensive with hotels for 10-30 euro a night, food for 2-4 euro a meal for two, train travel from Harbin to Jiamusi for 7 euro, taxi from Hohhot railway station to airport for 3 euro, travel all around Beijing by metro for 22 cents….. And like before, I was surprised by the way the Chinese seem to be able to organise things, and by the atmosphere of optimism.

Ameling Algra

Content Page Trip Report Page

© 2008 Ameling Algra