Friday morning one week ago we headed to the tourist bus station to get to the railway station. But as again one day, they insisted that there were no tickets left. Hence, we needed to walk for another 15 minutes to the bus station of the public, and as there was just one bus arriving we run the last 50 metres in order to catch it. By chance we met again Léna, the French woman I met already at the Emei railway station, in the same bus. It turned out that she was also in Lijiang, even in the same hostel as I was and she was also heading to the same train as we did. In theory we had still about 50 minutes in order to catch the train. But as Jojo needed to pick up her tickets and we need to get through the security controls, and probably the entry to the plattform may even close 5 minutes before actual departure, we could be short in time in the end. Well…in essence there was additional morning traffic jam in Dali. Hence, the bus just arrived 3 minutes before departure. Back in Germany 3 minutes in front of the railway station is typically still enough to catch the train, but here in China it is definitely not the case. Hence, we headed directly to the ticket office in order to exchange the ticket for the next train 30 minutes later. At the ticket counter the woman was a bit not in the mood to serve us. After Jojo tried to exchange her tickets, she did in a first instance…nothing…and then asked: “Are you sure you can still catch the train?” Well…Miss…if you would hurry up and just exchange the tickets, For sure! And in the mean time I went to the next ticket office. But surprise, surprise, now all tickets for second class sold out. OK, I didn’t give a fuck and just upgraded to the first class, as I definitely wanted to be in Hekou this evening, as my Visa expired the next day.
When we went through the security controls…again they complained again, because of my Swiss Army knife. But as Jojo told, that I’m the last day in China and up until now, I always travelled with them, they did a special exception for me. For security reasons they wrapped (the closed knife) in tissue paper. Now it was save enough to carry it with me 😳. Seriously?!? Léna told me afterwards that she has exactly the same knife, and was also nervous that they could detect hers. Anyhow, I didn’t started a discussion but we were just heading to the waiting room, were all Chinese people already queued for their reserved seat. I went to the first waggon for my first class experience and Jojo went with me, while Léna got to her seat in the second class. After the conductress came, she told Jojo that she has to go to the other waggon. She said, “yes, yes” and stayed…in the end the whole two hours until Kunming. The seats were quit comfortable and there were only four seats in a row. I enjoyed the last high-speed train drive in China (this track was just opened a few months ago), as the experience was the absolute opposite as the day before.
In Kunming we went out of the railway station and directly to the post office nearby. The price to send my parcel, with my hiking equipment, back was quit high. Additionally my normal shoes were getting just large holes, and I tried to find out if I need them to send back to Germany due to guarantee issues. But as I didn’t had an answer from the company I skipped sending the parcel today, as I didn’t want to send another one, just with these old shoes. I also needed to sent a letter, which wasn’t that easy and took also 20 minutes. And the price for the letter twice increased, due to reasons we couldn’t comprehend. After I got all the individual stamps, I had to put them with glue (yes, real old style glue) onto the envelope.
The security checks in Kunming weren’t a problem, now that my Swiss army knife was properly wrapped and I could embark for my last train drive in China. The train was quit full, hence we all three sat in different waggons for the first few hours. The passports of Léna and me were arbitrarily checked again in the train. She went off after three hours, as she wanted to visit some rice terraces, while we were continuing our drive. The new railway tracks from Kunming to Hekou are now in standard gauge and only loosely following the old metre gauge railway tracks which were built in the beginning of the 20th century by the French from Vietnam. This one is supposed to be more scenic, and the journey would almost take three times as long, but there are no longer passenger services, as this would have been the only metre gauge service in China. This is also the reason why there are no longer through trains to Vietnam at this railway connection. There is only one branch line in Mengzi which connects both tracks. As we were approaching the border region the waggons emptied and we were almost alone. Finally we arrived in Hekou North railway station were the train terminates as the standard gauges are ending. Except for the connection to the Korean peninsula the standard gauge railway network of China is quit isolated, as to the north and west the connection is only possible to the Russian wide gauge tracks and to the south the only connection exists to the metre gauge tracks of Vietnam at least for the time being. But China is working hard on that issue and in less than five years more opportunities will emerge.
We did some farewell photos on the platform before we tried to leave the railway station…but that was a problem now, as all gates were closed and nobody was around. It took a few minutes until we found somebody to open the door again. But this triggered the nearby police station and once again a photo of my passport was made. All public transport was then also left. But this was not a problem. We just walked down the road into the town and after half an hour or about 3 kilometres we just choose an arbitrary hotel to check in.