Chai Digest December 15-21: bullet train route to top all, an epic 21 days to recite, and meeting Lee Abbamonte

The 2,298-km high-speed rail from Beijing-Guangzhou opens on December 26, making it the longest in the world. Jut a few years ago the 30-hour trip is now cut to 8 hours. Tickets range from RMB 865-2,727 (USD 138 – 437) so it is not necessarily cheaper than discount airfares but rail in China has become quite comfortable and an overnight sleeper saves daytime hours and a night’s hotel bill. This is the big jewel in the crown of China’s high-speed rail, the premier and economically critical route from the capital to the manufacturing powerhouse of Guangdong Province.

Keeping with length, the Kirgiz “Epic of Manas” is 18 times longer than the Odyssey and there is one 94-year old man left that has recited the entire work from memory, a feat in 1983 that took 21 days. Good candidate for tablet edition over print.

At a happy hour last night I met a traveler I envy so much I don’t follow his tweets, Lee Abbamonte, who I first read about in researching Pitcairn Island, which is still a distant dream for me. I wish I had his chutzpah. To pick a post at random, if you haven’t heard of The Gambier Archipeligo, and I hadn’t, here’s your chance to drool. Most of the time nowadays he covers more traditional and upscale destinations that are more easily within reach of the rest of us.

I am about to do my year-end charitable contributions and I owe much of my decisions to initial recommendations from the NYT’s Nicholas Kristof’s year-end columns on charities, this year Gifts that Change Lives highlights several organizations involved in stopping human trafficking, and other worthy causes.

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  • Do you know anything about wheelchair access to the Chinese high speed train? Or where to find out about it? Thanks. Upcoming travel all over China and haven’t found reliable info online about whether I can use the rail.

  • @CarloneZoom – I can’t speak for how easy it is at every station, but every Chinese train station has ground-floor waiting rooms that often have an English sign like “Waiting room for Army, Pregnant and Disabled” that is designed to accommodate passengers with special requirements. They have staff that can help getting on/off the train. My experience is that the bullet trains do have wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, on some of the old non-high speed trains in the non-sleeper cars these might be hard to find or locked so would need to ask conductors for assistance. You might encounter mose issues getting to the station as China overall has accommodations for wheelchair but can be challenging to access, like subway elevators that are locked. The one area they shine is accommodating the blind, for which nearly every sidewalk in cities has special textured tiles for the blind to follow, though they do not generally have the crosswalk sounds found in places like Hong Kong. Good luck, I hope you get to try it out and that it works well.

  • Thank you for the information. i’ll fill in the details when i get back late spring. CaroleZoom

  • @Carole Zoom – please do share and thanks for sharing your blog.