Time Travel to the Cultural Revolution – Jiayang (嘉阳) & Bajiaogou (芭焦沟)
This was originally featured in my earlier blog post on Chengdu and Leshan, but I’ve decided to have a separate post for this instead of having it being lost in an old and long blog post. Located in Sichuan, China, is this preserved coal burning steam locomotive that travels deep into the mountains to a unique village where time has essentially stood still since the Cultural Revolution.I had actually read about this steam train in a CNN report by chance earlier in the year before this trip: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/04/travel/china-chengdu-jiayang-railway/
I’ve always had a soft spot for trains. There is a certain romanticism associated with going on a train journey which I probably got from reading too many travel stories. Since I was in the area, I asked my Chinese colleague if it was possible to see this attraction on the Sunday after travelling to Leshan from Chengdu. My Chinese colleague had originally wanted to bring me to see Mt. Emei but due to the foggy and raining weather, we decided to see the train instead. We drove by car to Jiayang, and it was not easy to find the place. Finally, we found the train station and proceeded to buy tickets for the 2pm train.
Since we had a lot of time before the 2pm train, we decided to look around the town and have our lunch.
After our power laden lunch, we were ready for anything. So off we went to catch the 2pm train.
The unique feature about this train is that it runs on narrow gauge rails which are half the width of standard rails. This was to save money and construction costs during the cultural revolution. Because of the narrow rails, the carriages are quite small, and stability is an issue. So the ride is a real shaky and noisy one. The train also travels slowly due to the narrow rails and I estimate that it goes around 30-40km/h.
Waiting to reboard the train after our photo stop.
Since we had to wait for the train to come back which takes another 2 hours or more, we had time to explore Bajiaogou village. The whole village is like stuck in a time warp from the 1960’s communist era. Except for the newly rebuilt train station and adjacent hotel (which was empty) the rest of the village looks like a relic out of Mao Zedong’s time. There are no roads to this village and the train is the only way in and out. Although now I see the villagers riding their motorbikes on the tracks to follow it out to Jiayang.
As we drove to Jiayang without taking any public transport I don’t have any first hand experience on this. But the information on public transportation to Jiayang can be found here. Prices for the train tickets and timings can also be found in the website. It takes around 2 hrs from Chengdu and 1.5hrs from Leshan to get to Jiayang.
Most of the tourists are Chinese. There were few foreign tourists if any, and I saw a Caucasian guy walking along the tracks and photographing the train as it passed by. I guess he must be a train spotter enthusiast. If you want to visit this rather interesting place, factor in 1 day for travel time and sight seeing.