I wanted to ride the rails all over again

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Publish Time: 2019-06-14 Author: Wang Keju From: China Daily

When I heard I was being sent on a two-week interview tour along the route of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, it felt like I had hit the jackpot.

According to guide books and friends who had experienced the journey, when I rode the train from Xining, capital of the northwestern province of Qinghai, to Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, I would be entranced by the amazing scenery during the climb to our destination.

I flew to Xining for my first stop. To be honest, I felt let down by the low-population, fourth-tier city and its quiet, shabby downtown.

It was an atypical "metropolis", but the book stores that could be seen across the city comforted me a little.

Things got wild when I got on the train to Lhasa.

It was an early departure, about 7:30 am, and the altitude sickness I had fought most of the night had prevented me from getting excited about the journey. All I wanted was to have a sound sleep.

However, lofty, snowcapped mountains were quickly veiled in a wispy mist as the train climbed higher.

Through the window, great expanses of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau rolled into view - grasslands dotted with black yaks, and prayer flags fluttering from gold-topped temples.

Despite my fatigue, I was unable to close my eyes, so I shot videos of the beautiful scenery.

The picturesque views and the oxygen from masks supplied with every seat almost made me forget that I was travelling across one of the world's highest plateaus.

That was until the train stopped at Nagchu Station in the northern part of Tibet, 350 kilometers from Lhasa and more than 4,500 meters above sea level.

After getting off the train, my breath was literally taken away - oxygen levels drop by a drastic 60 percent at this point.

Even walking was an unreasonable task for me.

As 960 km of the 1,956-km line sit at 4,000 m above sea level, it's hard to imagine how the designers and engineers tackled the challenges during the railway's construction.

The high elevation and lack of oxygen are not the only things that make this railway stand out.

The efforts taken to protect the fragile ecosystem and environment along the route also amazed me.

The trains are equipped with special waste and sewage collection devices, and a separate garbage train runs behind to take the trash to collection stations for disposal.

Upon arrival at Lhasa Station, I was amazed by its magnificence. The locals told me it used to be the grandest building of its kind in the district, but many other buildings that sprang up after the opening of railway now dwarf the station.

The 23-hour train ride totally drained me, but standing in the station square, knowing it was the end of my journey, I felt a strong desire to get back on the train and experience those dramatic moments all over again.

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