Mine steam in Sandaoling
January 12, 2020, Sunday:
Meeting of all participants at Hami airport at 12:00. Hami is connected to Beijing by a daily direct flight, which leaves the Chinese capital around 8am in the morning. Depending on the selected long-haul flight and its arrival time in Beijing, a direct transition or an overnight stay in Beijing is possible/necessary.
Alternatives exist via Chengdu or Shanghai, but often with an additional overnight stay in Hami. Talk to us, we will help you to book an optimal journey!
From Hami we drive with our group bus about 2 hours to Sandaoling and start with the first pictures of the JS steam locomotives.
Overnight stay in Sandaoling.
13 January 2020, Monday - 18 January 2020, Saturday:
The Sandaoling open pit coal mine offers us the largest steam locomotive show in the world every day for 24 hours: about 6-7 JS class steam locomotives (3 or 4 in open pit and 3 for shunting and transport to the mines in Erjing) move heavy coal trains day and night. Pure action!
Thanks to a new operational management, even more pictures of heavily loaded coal trains coming out of the opencast mine are now possible. This is a unique spectacle when the JS rush to the surface under full steam from the lowlands of the open-cast mine - on the last few metres wird´s then with the power occasionally very close, even walking speed with the usual hard exhaust blows of the JS is not unusual.
Experience this raw unadulterated elemental force as long as you can!
Sandaoling offers something for everyone: the newcomer to China steam as well as the old hand who wants to enjoy the fantastic pictures of the steam trains fighting their way out of the open pit mine.
In 2020 we want to give each of our fellow travellers enough time for this really unique steam locomotive paradise and will stay a full 6 days in the mining area of Sandaoling. We visit the loading at the "blue tower", the whole way from the loading to the coal washing, the unloading places themselves, the way to the underground mine Erjing, the workshop and the depots of the railway - and all this by day & night!
Of course, the unique spark flying pictures of the JS storming out of the open pit mine are also on the program. If desired, every night.
We have the permits to photograph the loading facilities where powerful shovel excavators load the black raw material into the freight wagons. The workshop also offers beautiful motifs - but whether steam locomotives will still be used for major repairs in 2020, or whether permits will still be issued at all due to a larger police presence on site, remains to be seen.
What else? Yes, of course the sunrises and sunsets. Fantastic. We know when and where we need to be for the best shots ... come with us, there won't be many more possibilities for full steam ahead in winter!
Hotel in Sandaoling.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our lunch is often packaged or served as a simple snack on the spot. Under no circumstances will we go to a restaurant for lunch!
19 January 2020, Monday:
You may say 6 days in Sandaoling is more than enough, but you will find (like many other photographers) that there should have been a few more days. There are always new motives, and even the "old places" remain great after the xten visit.
Nevertheless we have to say goodbye to the biggest steam show in the world and take our bus to the airport in Hami. There the journey ends in the early afternoon: You have connection to the plane to Peking, and from there home. Arrival in Europe would be the next morning (January 20, 2020).
But now it is still not over …
During the planning of the tour we received requests from absolute China fans who wanted to visit the famous ice festival of Harbin – according to the motto "if you are already there …".
The festival is absolutely worth seeing during the day and at night. You have to have some patience and indulgence with local photographers, who (due to lack of mental capacity or social competence) stand in front of you even during an obvious picture, but it offers so many unique motives that it is worth it to be there in any case!
So on January 19, 2020 all visitors of the ice festival will fly to Harbin after the sandaoling part and reach the city in the late evening (flight not included in the travel price).
Overnight stay in a tourist class hotel in Harbin.
20 January 2020, Tuesday - 22 January 2020, Wednesday:
The spectacular ice festival inspires photographers in winter with its atmospheric works of art made of ice and snow, which are spread all over the city and are wonderfully illuminated at night. In weeks of work, ice artists create huge copies of famous sculptures and buildings from all over the world.
Not only do we visit the ice sculptures, but we also photograph the Songhua River, where the ice blocks are made by hand, where ice fishermen spend their days, and where the older population of the city meets in general - an infinite abundance of motifs! If we are lucky, we also experience the famous winter swimming, when the especially hardened ones plunge into the icy floods of the Songhua...
We will also be able to photograph the famous snow leopards - unfortunately not in the wild, but in the city's snow leopard park!
Hotel in Harbin.
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
23 January 2020, Thursday:
Early in the morning we take the bus to Harbin airport, where the journey ends. Via Beijing or Shanghai you can fly home where you will usually arrive in the late afternoon of the same day.
Please note that our rail program corresponds to the steam traction status in March 2019. Changes up to the start of the trip may occur and will be taken into account in the final itinerary.
Please also note the important information on steam traction and flights to and within China(s) for this trip, which can be found in the "Comments" section.
Travel prices, per person - Sandaoling Programme (12 - 19 January 2020):
2.260 Euro in half double room
310 Euro single room supplement
For the Harbin Programme (19 - 23 January 2020):
1.180 Euro in half double room
180 Euro single room supplement
The tour price includes (depending on the booked program):
- Photographs of the coal mine in Sandaoling;
- Dongbolizhan railway station for shift change;
- Repair works in Sandaoling (if permission is granted);
- All SY-covered special trains in Tiefa as per programme;
- Visit to the Harbin Ice Festival;
- Visit of the snow leopard park in Harbin;
- Night shots wherever possible;
- All bus and train transfers as per programme;
- Accommodation and meals as advertised;
- Tanago information material;
- Tanago tour guide (German/English speaking), plus local tour guide.
Not included in the tour price are the arrival and departure in China, all transfers not mentioned, all expenses of a personal nature (minibar, telephone, cleaning, etc.), visa for China, tips.
unfortunately, the Chinese government is inexorably tightening the price screw for visas. Also we as organizers are not spared by the price increases, quite the opposite, we pay even more than private applicants by the value added tax.
Therefore we offer you for these trips either the possibility to get the visa through us, then we charge you 210 €. Alternatively, you can commission a visa service to handle the application for you. Depending on the company you have commissioned, you can save a few euros here. Or you can apply for the visa at the Chinese representations in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich yourself.
We are looking forward to a new and most likely very last pilgrimage to the Chinese steam locomotives! We were so often wrong with the date for the steam end in Sandaoling, although we have been travelling the country for 30 years - but now it really seems that after 2020 there will be no more steam winter in Sandaoling!
Information about the trip and about the international and domestic flights:
As already described, the future of steam traction in Sandaoling is uncertain: in March 2019 a large commission met in Sandaoling to discuss the last years of open pit mining. Status of the talks on 15.3.2019: coal production will not be further reduced, and the mine will operate at the current production rate until the end of January 2020, after which production will decline continuously until the final shutdown in September 2020. But it wouldn't be China if a party official somewhere didn't make a different decision and everything came in a completely different way.
In other words, there are some special conditions for this trip that you accept with your booking:
we reserve the right to cancel part 1 (sandaoling) of the trip at very short notice and without notice if the steam traction in the opencast mine has either been drastically restricted or has come to a standstill before our trip. In this case we will refund all payments for the land program.
All other individual expenses and costs (visa, arrival and departure to China, other individual arrangements) will not be refunded by us.
If you instruct us to also arrange the long-haul flights for you, we will book Air China from/via DUS,FRA,MUC to Beijing, as only Air China allows a partial refund of already booked and issued tickets, the cost of cancellation here is 290 € per person and ticket.
If you book your own long-haul flights, we assume no liability.
All flights from Europe to China arrive in China the following day, for the return flights of our Sandaoling program (travel part 1) we have oriented ourselves to the "night flights", on which you depart after midnight in Beijing, and arrive the same day in the morning in Europe. If you have any other wishes, please contact us.
Despite many permissions and "red stamp" on the part of the visited industrial enterprises a certain "residual risk" remains, which we also do not want to conceal. It can happen that permits are obtained in the run-up to our trip with a lot of effort and were reconfirmed the day before - but we remain standing in front of closed doors on the day of our visit because local managers, even village policemen, can make decisions that completely contradict our permits. Even if we have dozens of confirmations in our hands that everything is "guaranteed" as discussed in advance, this is no guarantee at all.
We also ask for your understanding that the extent of the plan steam in Sandaoling as well as the covering of the special trains in Tiefa cannot be controlled and guaranteed by us. In Sandaoling it happens more often that either the loading or unloading of the coal trains is stopped by technical problems at the facilities. Then the traffic from the opencast mine comes to a complete standstill, wenn´s runs badly, even for several hours! Likewise the JS Tender advance can drive, or fail. In Tiefa there are at present only the two SY 1771 and 1772 as operational locomotives. If a locomotive breaks down, this can influence our special train timetable or even completely disrupt it until services fail. Neither we nor the mine railways involved can provide any compensation or reimbursement.
Unfortunately, the central government in Beijing has extremely tightened control over the Uighur population in Xinyang province, where Sandaoling is located. Road checks have been set up everywhere, every office building is secured with anti-tank barriers, and even petrol stations today resemble high-security wings. On our 2019 trip we were closely observed by the Chinese Stasi, but not prevented from taking pictures of the steam locomotives. They just wanted to know where we were and what we were doing... If you have difficulties travelling to a dictatorship to photograph a steam locomotive, please stay right at home. This trip is not for local agitation. If you do not follow the rules, you will endanger the entire group program and will be sent home immediately and without further claims!
The quality of the hotels, roads and other infrastructure cannot be compared to Western Europe. Please do not expect luxury. Our local hotels offer simple rooms with shower/WC, functioning heating and hot water around the clock, as well as free Internet access. Our buses will not reach German standards even in touristically successful cities, the further we lose ourselves in the province, the further the standards of the buses decline. You shouldn't expect functioning heaters or tightly closing doors in all buses.
In China, the law of the strongest applies, according to which terms such as occupational health and safety, accident prevention or even consideration are indeed components of the Chinese language, but they are virtually non-existent in the everyday life of the Chinese. Please be careful and pay attention to your surroundings!
In order to make the best possible use of our time in China, we start early in the morning, take the breakfast with us, usually packed, or have a short stop at a pasta or Swabian ravioli stand, at noon there is usually a small snack on the way, in the evening there is plenty to eat. Original Chinese of course, which usually looks and tastes different than the Chinese at home!
The costs of the land program are a kind of "all-inclusive". Your additional costs on this trip are therefore limited to excessive drink consumption outside the "all-inclusive" or potential extra wishes. In addition, there is only one contribution to the tip box. Calculate as a general order of magnitude about 150 Yuan per day ... If you want to experience the Sandaolinger spark flight every evening, we would have to collect again.
Please also read our comments on the topic of "International travel health insurance". On our trip to China in February 2013, one of our participants fell ill. Without insurance he would have stayed at the Chinese hospital in Fuxin - and would not have been able to fly home. Four days before the beginning of our India Tour 2016 one participant had to cancel due to illness - the cancellation fee was 75%! Don't save at the wrong end, that's what a travel health insurance is for.
Temperatures & Technology:
It gets cold. We have experienced values down to -20°C on previous trips (in Harbin it can get even colder), a sometimes strong blowing wind does not bother you only if you have adjusted your clothes to "winter" in the best way. We generally expect a very dry cold, which is much easier to endure than the humid winter time with us, partly snow. The sun usually shines intensively.
Bring in any case a headgear against wind and sun! Also use sturdy shoes (we will be on the road all day long) and be dressed for "outdoors". Please leave jackets or trousers in bright colours in your wardrobe at home.
A Chinese tourist visa is required for entry into China. All participants need a passport, which must be valid beyond the date of travel at least six months and must contain at least 2 free pages. This information only applies to German citizens. Please check the possibly deviating regulations for your home country!
See you soon in China!