02/20/2013 08:52 am ET

China Train Travel: A 36-Hour, Long-Distance Journey Between Beijing And Kunming

Thirty-six hours is the lifespan of the adult mayfly. It is the average work week (plus one hour of overtime) in France. It is the name of a 1965 film starring James Garner. It is also an incredibly long time to spend on a train. In the midst of the Lunar New Year rush, your correspondent is travelling 36 hours by rail from Beijing to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, in China’s southwest.

The Chinese government is justifiably proud of its network of futuristic high speed trains. The newest addition -- the longest high-speed railway line in the world -- opened at the end of 2012, allowing passengers to make the 1,418 km journey from Beijing to the southern metropolis of Guangzhou in just eight hours. But high-speed rail service to remote Yunnan isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2015.

Instead your correspondent is on the T-61 train out of Beijing West Station.