Shanghai, CH – Kunming, CH//14September17[CRH]

There’s, arguably, never been a better time to travel to China.

Despite fraught political tensions between Western powers and the communist government in the East, now is a great time to escape to China and discover a society that feels truly alien.

Out of all the rapidly developing countries in the world, China is one that demands to be visited as soon as you possibly can. Unlike the rapidly Westernised climes of India or the ram-packed mega-cities of South America, China has kept it’s cultural identity intact, through a mixture of social media censoring (sites like Facebook are blocked through the country’s ISPs) and government propaganda. Despite the country’s controlling obsession over it’s people, this is a great place to visit, as long as you have the time.

Although China might well have held onto it’s unique personality for this long it’s worth visiting soon, because this might change irrevocably within a matter of years, thanks in part to the 14,000 miles of high-speed rail links that have been installed throughout the country.

Whilst the UK endlessly talks in circles when it comes to just a few hundred miles of high-speed rail tracks; for better or worse, China has forged ahead blasting across miles of countryside and through mountains where necessary.

The result of this incredible engineering achievement?

You can now travel from the far East of Shanghai to Western Kunming in just 12 hours – a distance that has taken over three times as long on traditional train routes. A flight might still only take 4 hours, but the views that you’re treated to on the train are well worth the time.

Travelling at speeds of up to 220 mph, the High-Speed rail experience in China is one of class and comfort. A second class ticket affords you a comfortable seat with plenty of legroom. The experience is similar to a business-class flight and offers a unique way to experience the country. Your travel companions for East to West journey are unlikely to be working people. For a Western traveller, the price of 870 yuan (around £100) is very reasonable, but for many workers in China, this will simply be out of the question.

Although it’s tempting to ride the entire length of this colossal railway, from East to West, to do so would mean missing out on some of the true hidden gems that rural China has to offer. Whilst many locals might not have the money to ride on the High Speed trains, that didn’t stop developers from building stations right outside some of the most obscure villages in the country. Many of these remote communities have had little or no contact with the rest of China, let alone the world, so the arrival of High Speed rail means that a new chapter has opened for these previously sheltered people.

If you have 10-days or longer to explore China, then it’s worth considering booking a series of trips on this wonderfully scenic, comfortable railway.

Leave it too long and the country might well change beyond recognition.