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From far north to deep south, seniors relax on China's longest rail journey
Author:Tian Xuefei and Zhou Huiying  Source:China Daily   

About 1,000 tourists - mostly seniors - boarded a train on Monday for an eight-day trip from Harbin, in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, to Hainan Island in the very south.

"The 4,100-kilometer trip is the longest tourist route by train in China," said Kong Deqi, director of the tourist train department of Harbin Railway International Travel Agency.

"The train will cross the provinces of Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Hebei, Anhui, Hunan and Jiangxi, along with the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region," Kong said.

Those on the inaugural journey can enjoy beautiful scenery and two-day stops in Yingtan, Jiangxi province, and Guilin, Guangxi.

After crossing the Qiongzhou Strait from Zhanjiang to Hainan Island by ship, the tourists will be sent to their final destination - Sanya - by bus.

"In recent years, more seniors in Heilongjiang have been spending the winter in Sanya because of its pleasant climate," she said. "To meet the increasing demand, we developed the tourist train."

Kong added: "The average age of tourists on the train is about 65. "Most of them will stay in Sanya for the whole winter."

To provide better care for the seniors, they are divided into 40 groups, each with a tour leader. A specialized doctor is present for the whole trip.

"We have prepared various activities for the long journey, including performances and chess matches," Kong said. "It will be an entirely new experience for the tourists."

Before departing, Liu Huimin, 79, said: "I am looking forward to the longest trip by train. In recent years, I have chosen Sanya to spend the winter with my wife. In the past, we had to travel by plane, which is not comfortable at all for seniors. The rhythm of the tourist train suits us better. We can gradually adapt to the great change of climate from cold to warm, which can prevent health problems.

"In addition, it will be quite a different experience for me to enjoy such a long trip from the northernmost province to the southernmost one."

Kong said the train will take the seniors home in April.

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