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Let the train, take the strain

(China Daily)

08:57, October 03, 2012

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway has become a top choice for tourists to Tibet. The magnificent view of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is on full display through the window of the train. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's train system is considered one of the biggest and busiest in the world, hardly surprising, maybe, given the country's size. But the great news for travelers is that its huge network of tracks, run by the Ministry of Railways, is efficient, comfortable, and relatively cheap too. Travel industry experts say that given the sometimes-mixed reputation of the country's ever-expanding air network, the train has becoming the travel mode-of-choice for a growing number of people, with its overnight 'sleeper' services gaining a particularly strong following.

There's something special about spending a night on a train.

Maybe it's the engine's gentle rhythm rocking you to sleep, or the thought of falling asleep in one place and waking up in another.

Or maybe it's just the hassle-free feeling, that once you're on board you can simply throw your bag on your bunk and relax, without wasting any valuable travel time rushing to where you want to go.

Hou Guanyue is the manager responsible for booking train travel at the nationwide China Youth Travel Service.

He says that given the high quality of some of the sleeper carriages now in service, many can feel more like mobile hotels, and realizing that standard, travelers aren't just using them for overnight trips, but as holiday 'venues'.

"Traveling can be very tiring and stressful by bus or plane. Then you have to check into your hotel. Why not combine them both, and use the train?" he adds.

"Traditionally, taking a train has been thought of as merely a means of getting from A to B; but today's Chinese sleepers are so much more than that. They have facilities on board on a par with many hotels. They are great ways to travel and brilliant ways to relax, at a very reasonable price," Hou says.

He adds that overnight train travel has become especially popular among senior citizens, who can find flying especially trying.

"You have so much more time to enjoy the journey, than you might if you were taking a flight. After so many years of hearing that air travel has become cheaper and cheaper, it's train travel which is growing now," he told China Daily.

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