In China, it is generally accepted that trains are a faster way to travel than by car, unless, of course, you live in Yunnan, China! Due to its remote location and unique cultural make-up, Yunnan province in southwest China is known for a number of such idiosyncrasies, which have been compiled and aptly named "The 18 Oddities of Yunnan."
Recognition of this strange phenomenon arose from the Yunnan-Vietnam Railway, which was constructed in 1910. Known as a "one-metre gauge railway," this train route used a 1 meter (3.2 ft) gauge track to move through the mountainous terrain of Yunnan province, connecting Kunming, China with Haiphong, Vietnam.
At that time, China had few domestic railways and even fewer that connected across international borders, so this 1-meter gauge line connecting directly to Vietnam played an important role in the development of Yunnan's transportation structure and economic growth, helping to replace the traditional method of transportation - horseback.
Due to Yunnan, China's unique and diverse topographic features, trains forced to climb and descend the numerous peaks and gorges that fill the province move at a rather slow pace, and now that a highway system has been constructed, it has become even more apparent. As an example, driving a car from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, to Kaiyuan in the south of the province usually takes about 5 hours, while on the train it can take 8 hours or longer. However, for those who want to travel Yunnan, the slow speed can be quite nice for sightseeing!
In 2000, cross-border passenger service into Vietnam was discontinued due to landslides and frequent delays, and the line only used for international freight, and in recognition of the historic line, Yunnan province built a museum to honor this railway's service of over a century. Luckily, though, for those who want to experience this breath-taking way of travel in Yunnan, passenger service was reopened in July of 2008!
When you visit China and come to tour Kunming, make sure to take the train through this picturesque province, and don't be surprised to see cars overtaking your train car!