KARAN
Train to Tibet

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway in China is an engineering marvel- the world's highest railway, built over hostile terrain of permafrost and high desert. This itself makes it a fascinating journey, but beyond the infrastructure, there are the people. A glimpse into the life onboard a 48 hour train ride from Shanghai to Lhasa.

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The route, traversing across the length of China


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As the giant sign at Shanghai station announces the "Z164" train to Lhasa, passengers settle into what will be their home for the next two days.


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While the tourists are usually in the "soft sleeper" with private cabins, for the locals the more affordable option is the "hard sleeper" with little privacy. Here, the unspoken rule is to use the corridor to socialize, to not disturb those sleeping.


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As we make our way through the Shaanxi province, there is plenty to capture the imagination.


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The man at the food stall at Xian has something for everyone.


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Meanwhile, the passengers use the extended stop at Xian to stretch a leg.


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Back on the move, it's mealtime and the Dining Car makes roaring business. The food options are limited, but opportunities to meet fellow travelers is the main draw.


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Few more hours of westward trek gets us to Lanzhou, and brings another opportunity for the passengers to enjoy some fresh evening air and stretch out.


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It's summer vacation time, the train is full of kids heading home, captivated by the landscape, enjoying the freedom to run around unlike in an airplane.


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Further west in Qinghai, the security is now heightened. In the middle of the night at Golmud, coach attendants stand guard ensuring no passenger gets left behind, especially not the foreign tourists.


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As we approach the highest point of the route- Tanggula at 16,657 feet on the Tibetan pleateu, the train staff comes by to remind everyone not to miss it.


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It's a long run of several hours across the high desert. What's to do? Well, document the scenes for future memories.


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48 hours later, we pull into Lhasa a full 6 minutes late. The large crowd disembarking is a reminder that this train is a lifeline for hundreds of locals.