Wuhan page 1 of Carter's China Trip


We were very happy our hosts were there to get us through the station in Guangzhou.  It was classic movie fare—crowds pushing against barricades trying to get through.  Professor Guobin Chi spoke to the right person and we were let through while those not in our group were pushed back.  We hurried, then waited, then we went down a hallway by ourselves and soon emerged along a red, white and blue train.  We were not all in the same car.

This was called a hard sleeper train.  We did not have private compartments but slots with six bunks—three high with a walkway between.  Mike and I had the lower bunks (we probably paid more).  Each bunk had a blanket and a pillow.  You crawled under the blanket to take off your pants. 

In the middle bunks above were a young couple traveling back to their home area to get married.  With a great amount of effort we had a conversation in English.  (I certainly gained an appreciation for the fact that I speak English but it is embarrassing that I could not speak his language.)  He was an engineer and she worked in the factory.  He had 20 days of vacation and got another 10 days to get married.  It was going to take them more than two days to get home via the train. 

Of course there was hot water on the train.  The toilet in our car was not western, but it did the job.  Many of the Chinese passengers brought dehydrated noodle dishes and fixed them by pouring hot water into the container.  My dinner that night was a tray of goodies wrapped in cellophane.  I ate selectively but it was adequate.  We got to see some countryside that evening before it got dark.  We passed through some low mountains.  At 10:20 they turned the lights out on the train.


Zoomed map of area traveled in China. Red dots show cities visited.  Red lines show travel by bus and train.  

map modified from the CIA Factbook web map of China


Friday started at 5:20 when they turned the lights on.  We got off the train in Wuhan at about 6:00 and were met with colleagues from Wuhan University.  I piled into a rather luxurious Toyota van with leather seats.  They took us to the Lake View Garden Hotel where we got to eat breakfast and wash up.  The lobby of this hotel was quite impressive.  I tried out a chair appropriate to my rank.  Two of our hosts waited for us under an intricately carved wall.  The sleeping room was not so luxurious.  

I shared a room with Pedro Martinez from Cuba.  Here was my opportunity to practice Spanish.  Pedro was not used to speaking English and it had been years since I spoke Spanish.  But, we did fairly well.  It was more a matter of phrases and words than complete sentences.  

We had a breakfast buffet at the hotel that was mostly western, but it was good.  Of course there was watermelon.  At 9:00 we are off for a visit to Wuhan University.  It was here that I saw the first traffic light with a display of numbers counting down the seconds until the light would change to green. 

Wuhan University is a quality university with a large program in the surveying and mapping sciences.  I had corresponded with colleagues from this University through the Map Use Commission.  There are four campuses produced through a recent consolidation of area universities. 

Here we learned that the faculty and staff live in university apartments.  The higher your rank and the more senior you are, the larger your apartment.  Faculty members are not well compensated in China. 

If you have enough money I believe you can buy your own apartment.  I never full comprehended how housing is allocated and who can live where.  Suffice it to say, it is not the American system with people living anywhere they want and then driving to work every day.  You don’t see much space devoted to parking lots.  This is another measure of how much less energy they consume and how we are locked into a system requiring that everyone have an automobile.

At the University we had presentations on the software they have created.  The prime product is GeoStar.  This looks a lot like the popular ESRI software, ArcView and Arc/Info.  Their package competes with the ESRI products but GeoStar is not a rip-off of the other packages.  Although I slept well on the train, I got hit with a wave of sleepiness this morning.  This seems to have been my only jet lag problem and it came days after I got to China.

  In the cartographic section we got to see the many maps and atlases they have produced I n recent years.  I focused on the variety of atlas products of Shenzhen, the border city north of Hong Kong, and the watershed of the Yangtze River.  These are very attractive products and I got to study them further at the conference in Beijing.


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Return to the beginning of Carter's China travels

Dr. James R. Carter, Geography-Geology Department,  Illinois State University,  jrcarter@ilstu.edu