Next Station: China

We’re living in some of the most “wow” moments of the world. Maybe the telly will tell you it’s for the worse, but at 300 km/h on a state-of-the-art CRH (or better, China Standard HSR trainset) rail service, you can’t but feel it really is for the better.

The fastest HSR train from Beijing to Kunming, a journey that used to take 48+ hours just 5 years back, is now being made faster by 2 hours so it’s just shy of 11 hours as of 16 April 2017. Two days later, on 18 April 2017, Next Station: China will be officially launched. This completely independent, shoot-and-tweet-as-we-go rolling Web documentary, told in the first person, will go to all stations in China where you can simply get a ticket and step on a train. Just on the Chinese mainland alone, if we froze time right now (in late March 2017), that’d be 2,306 of them. The vast expansion of the whole network, including the sprawling HSR system, will mean this figure is only going to grow more and more.

I’m David Feng, and together with what I’d like to call “my team”, we’re setting foot to the entire Chinese national railway network. My wife, Tracy, will pop in for a fair bit of the train trek. I’m also making it a “we” project as there’ll be plenty of friends in the rail communities helping along, and we can’t under any circumstances forget even the unsong heroes — train and station crew — who do anything and everything, even if it’s just holding a camera, or help double-check station info so that we can mix and match “wow” scenes with useful information you can make use of. This epic journey will be unprecedented; it will reach all four edges of China — the northwest, northeast, southwest, and the coastline along the southeast, and we’re calling at any and all stations open to the public.

I first came up with this idea in mid-2009, after I was more than sure I was sick to death of flying between Beijing and Shanghai. (This was before the Beijing-Shanghai HSR opened; since then, I’ve never flown again between these two cities or around much of the country.) We now have (right now) a 22,000+ km network, and an even bigger regular (slower trains) network, which means for me, all I have to do is to pick a train on my iPhone, pay directly by mobile payment (no need to reach for wallet!), pick up my ticket at any station, and just simply step on and go! The safe and highly efficient rail network will be what I’ll be focusing on for our epic journey.

There will be no such thing as a “comfort zone” any more. We’re headed to deserts, snowland, tropical islands, treacherously mountainous terrain, flatland, coastlines, megalopolises and terraced fields. The goal is to be in all 2,306+ stations from 18 April 2017 — 10 years to the day when CRH high speed services started across China — through to early February 2022 — right before the Beijing & Zhangjiakou 2022 Winter Olympics begin. We will actually visit in person every single station.

I invite you to join the journey — first from Twitter and Facebook — and very soon, across YouTube, Instagram, Weibo, and WeChat Public Platform. There will be tweets, pictures, videos, and at larger stations, livecasts, as well as a video at the very end, and it will all be in English, presented to you the way I, David Feng, see it. This will be a completely self-funded project, I’m doing all the shots and scripts (certainly with a little help from friends), and it will be fantastic to have you onboard throughout the entire journey.

All onboard now, ladies and gentlemen! Bon voyage!

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