The twelve hour train journey to Luoyang started at one in the morning and our carriage was full already. Hell it was going to be, but unlike some we had seats and the places were graciously given up? But any extra space around the seat, for example legroom was something to be fought for. There are always a handful of Chinese men with their possessions in large material bags that have tickets but no seat number. They look like they could be part of this huge 120 million migrant labour force. They sort of inhabit the space around you.
There was a different feeling to this journey, people were less friendly and there was less of the ‘we are all in it together’. There was one couple, the boyfriend soon fell asleep but she managed to talk, more of a monologue really, to the other passengers for most of the trip. Some moved away after a while but most stayed and occasionally grunted in response, probably trying to be polite.
Luoyang, one of the sites of Chinas cradle of civilisation is now a medium sized city of 6.5 million people, with only 1.5 million in the city centre area. It is only the third largest in Hennan province. On the train journey into the centre we went past many new blocks of high rises under construction, it is not going to stay this size for long.
It is quite astonishing that cities the size of London are just materialising in a generation.
It is the size, the fact it was one of the four old capitals of China, once starting point for the Silk Route and Rome sent an envoy here in 166 A.D. and I had never heard of Luoyang!
The Cygnus International hotel was a tower block and we were on the 16th floor which gave us a great view of our part of the city,. High rises to the left, high rises to the right and a commercial centre in front
Venturing out one tends not too stray far, not for fear of getting lost but for the time it takes to cross these eight lane city centre junctions.One finds the best way to get around is turn right, turn right and so on. The commercial centre in this part of downtown Luoyang is smallish. With all the middle of the road European brand names ( the Burberrys, Gucci etc were in an indoor plaza across the block) Adidas Kappa Nike and French womens fashion stores with the requisite McDonalds and KFC. And here a Carrefour!
If you didn’t look at the faces of the crowd you could be in any North American or European city. One reads in the business press that the way to save our western economies is for China to expand its middle class so they can buy more european goods. But most western goods are manufactured in China. Chinese flock to Apple and Nike stores desiring to consume brands but the products are made just round the corner. Profits might go back but the jobs are here. The top end luxury goods market is another affair with the employment and profits in Europe but this is only ever going to be a small percentage of Chinese consumption.
In Luoyang it appears the Chinese love to shop. And apart from the malls every street is a shopping street.
In the few days we were there the tower block opposite us unfurled a 50 meter banner claiming a new bank was opening soon. Banks, construction and retail boom and apparently lots of consumer credit !!
Luoyang is a pleasant city situated on the Yellow River with a small old town area with historic gate. It is a greenish city with lots of trees and is famous for its flowers and the annual International Peony Festival.
Ate in a typical Hot-Pot restaurant where one cooks slices of beef and mushrooms in a boiling hot bouillon. Luckily a girl came round to clean my glasses.