Living the High Life on the Blue Carpet

Saturday, March 29, 2014
Guilin, Guangxi, China
Imagine dear reader, you have decided on a grand launch, you book a venue in the best street in China, The Bund Shanghai, and one of the most iconic buildings in that street (number 18). You invite all the movers and shakers and just to make sure they are looked after have 20 or so heavies outside the door, all wearing DJ's and hidden microphones, and dolly girls inside the door to welcome the lovely people. The blue carpet is rolled out (it matches the buildings lighting), the press photographers are there, everything is ready.

An elderly couple arrive . He is wearing his travel suit which looked good when he bought it but that was at least 15 years ago and anyhow it is covered with an anorak. She has a smart shirt and leggings but somehow the trainers and fleece don't do them justice.
The heavies all look at each other, the briefing talked about mad knife men or youngsters trying to gatecrash, nothing like these two so they decide it's best to ignore them and talk frantically in their hidden microphones.
The doorman assumes that if 20 heavies say they are OK it must be all right, perhaps they are eccentric billionaires, so he opens the door, the photographers are not sure what to do, they don't recognise the elderly couple but perhaps they are American film directors, the dolly girls all smile sweetly. Out of the 50 people looking at the elderly couple one, rather attractive, lady has the gumption to realise these people are not movers and shakers, they are trying to get to get to the restaurant upstairs and point the old folks to the lift.

That embarrassment over we had a very nice meal in a restaurant called Mr & Mrs Bund, supposedly one of the 50 best restaurants in the world although it was not as good as Checkers in Montgomery . It was very smart, they even had small chairs for the ladies handbags next to their seats, they had the good sense to remove the one for our table. On the way out the dolly girls all thanked us for coming and the heavies carried on ignoring us.

Today we moved on again to Guilin but not before another train ride. When I was a small boy the Brian Cox of the day was a chap called Eric Laithwaite, a no nonsense northerner who was Professor of Electrical Engineering at Imperial College. He did the Christmas lectures one year at the Royal Institution and was always on the television, in black and white of course. His claim to fame was he invented the linear induction motor, an improved version of the electromagnetic Maglev system which was invented by a German before the war. Eric went a bit barmy towards the end of his career, the only person to be invited to present a paper at the Royal Institution and then for it to be refused publication!

Anyhow, the reason for all this rambling is that very few electromagnetic railways have been built, largely because they are very expensive to build and they take a great deal of power to run. There are a few little ones around, the train between the north and south terminals of Gatwick being one. The Chinese have a different view about costs so they have built a 30km Maglev line between the outskirts of Shanghai and one of the airports, it travels at 430kph, that's about 250mph but for some reason at lunchtime (11.00 - 16.00) it only runs at 300kph, no idea why, perhaps the driver has a liquid lunch and is unable to concentrate. Unfortunately we were on the slow lunchtime service, it is still impressive especially when you pass the other train also travelling at 300kph in the other direction!

At one end of the railway is quite a big museum dedicated to the design and implementation of this railway and having bored Gill silly with my waxing lyrical about Eric, the patron saint of electrical engineers, I was a bit upset that he did not get a mention. Just lots of warm words about the Germans who built it.

After a two and a half hour flight we have arrived in Guilin where it is very warm but the pollution levels seem much worse than Shanghai of Beijing. Tomorrow we do a few lakes and pagodas, possibly in the pouring rain if the weather forecast is right.
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