China-Laos Railway is cutting journey times and raising living standards

China Daily|Updated: October 27, 2023

The line is carrying a growing number of cross-border tourists. Luo Wangshu reports from Vientiane.

The high-profile China-Laos Railway is benefiting tourists from all over the world and also bringing more opportunities for people in the tourism sector.

The 1,035-kilometer electrified line links Kunming, capital of Southwestern China's Yunnan province, with Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. It began operations in December 2021, and launched a cross-border passenger service in April, with bullet trains running in both directions between Kunming and Vientiane.

The railway has cut the journey time between Kunming and Vientiane to 10 1/2 hours, including inspections at customs clearance stations at the respective borders.

By the end of August, the railway had recorded 20.79 million passenger trips, according to a newly released white paper by the State Council Information Office of China.

"It was fast, efficient and pleasant," said Stuart Hart, a tourist from the United Kingdom who was visiting Laos, sharing his firsthand experience as a passenger on the railway. He has taken the service twice.

Hart, who lived in Shanghai for two years, said the service was as good as the trains he had experienced in China.

Tourists Juliet and Dean O'Reilly, also from the UK, said the Vientiane Railway Station is big and beautiful. They took a ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, a popular tourism destination in Laos.

Before the railway opened, the only public transportation between Vientiane and Luang Prabang was by bus.

"The bus took an entire day … It was not a pleasant experience to sit on a crowded bus from morning to dawn. The winding mountain road made the trip even worse," said Vongthong Somphavath, a Luang Prabang native who currently works in Vientiane.

She added that the trip only takes about two hours by train now.

"Besides the speed, the scenery along the railway is much better than that from the bus," she said. "There are some complaints about ticket prices, but the fact is that the tickets always sell out very quickly."

Luang Prabang, the former capital of the Kingdom of Laos, is a popular tourist site, with beautiful natural views along the Mekong River and abundant cultural relics, such as the former royal residence and famous temples.

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