China 2015 Bridge Trip

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Come Along On Our 5th Annual Bridge Trip To China

August 1 - August 16, 2015

With so many high bridges opening in China I have organized our 5th annual 2 week “High Over China” bridge trip for the summer of 2015 that will traverse over dozens of incredible new high bridges and expressways including the World's 8 Highest Road Bridges (Mexico's Baluarte excepted) and the World's 8 Highest Railway Bridges (India's Chenab excepted). The trip will only be open to 4 people as we will be traveling in one high clearance SUV. This is no chartered bus trip for a group of 50 people looking to peer out a window to snap a quick photo of a bridge but a gathering of adventurous bridge fanatics who don’t mind a journey off the beaten path.

This epic bridging tour of 15 full days will include stops to about one quarter of the world’s 100 highest bridges along the new G50, G56, G76 and G60 Kunming expressways - the #1, #2, #3 and #4 greatest high bridge roadways on earth as well as the new Guiyang-Kunming, Yichang-Chongqing, Guiyang-Chengdu - the #1, #2 and #3 greatest high speed railway lines on earth.

For the 2015 trip we will cover road and railway bridges in equal measure with an emphasis on spans that are under construction as well as those that are completed. This will especially be true of the new railway bridges as only 1 of China's 10 highest railway spans is currently operational over the Beipanjiang with 9 others in various stages of construction. Six of these 9 will be on high speed lines. All 10 of these spans exceed 200 meters in height - a threshold no other railway span outside of China has ever exceeded. In 2015 we plan to be the first group of outsiders to visit all 8 of China's highest railway bridges.

Our 5th annual bridge trip will follow the pattern set with the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 High Bridge Trips with a small group of bridge fans meeting in Shanghai before a short flight to Yichang deep in western China where our trip will begin with our personal driver, mini-van and interpreter. For several bridges on the trip our driver will be dropping us off in the center or at one end of the span where we will hike across it on pedestrian walkways or in the safety lane as well as trekking underneath the deck and just about anywhere else we can legally go to get that perfect photo. Expect to smell, touch and feel these bridges in a way you could never do in Europe or the U.S. Prepare for some dust, dirt and a lot of sweat.


The World's 8 Highest Road Bridges in China

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You will visit more than 50 of the world's highest bridges on this trip
including 8 of the world's 10 highest road bridges,
8 of the world's 10 highest rail bridges,
and a special visit to the 2 highest footbridges ever built,
and so much more!


The World's 8 Highest Rail Bridges in China

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The fifth ever HighestBridges.com Organized Bridge Trip to China includes:

• All Ground Transportation via one 8-seat SUV for 2 full weeks

• 15 Nights of Lodging from Friday Night 7/31 through Friday Night 8/14

• Flight from Shanghai to Yichang in Western China.

• Three meals per day plus snacks & drinks

• Construction site visits to at least 10 bridges including Beipanjiang Duge, Puli, Dimuhe, Qingshuihe, Beipanjiang High Speed Railway, Najiehe Railway, Yelanghe Railway and Yachi Bridges.

• Special walk across the two highest and longest footbridges in history.

• Special catwalk tours over 300 meters high within the Aizhai and Balinghe Bridge trusses.

• Exclusive 2015 Trip Photo Album posted on this website.

• View the 2011 Trip Photo Album at: http://highestbridges.com/wiki/index.php?title=2011_High_Bridge_Trip_Photo_Album

• View the 2012 Trip Photo Album at: http://highestbridges.com/wiki/index.php?title=2012_High_Bridge_Trip_Photo_Album

• View the 2013 Trip Photo Album at: http://highestbridges.com/wiki/index.php?title=2013_High_Bridge_Trip_Photo_Album

• View the 2014 Trip Photo Album at: http://highestbridges.com/wiki/index.php?title=2014_High_Bridge_Trip_Photo_Album

• All for just $3,950!

• You can reach me at eric@highestbridges.com


Contents

2015 China Bridge Trip Sampler

Sidhe River Bridge - Currently the highest span on earth

Bridge highlights will begin with visits to Siduhe and Zhijinghe - the highest operational suspension and arch bridges on earth. Special trips will be taken along construction roads on the north side of Siduhe to allow vantage points not accessible to the public traveling along the highway. We will be getting close up views of Longtanhe, the highest concrete beam viaducts on earth as well as the 200 meter high cable stayed monster Zhongjianhe. The classic 1977 Yesanhe arch is also in this region and was once China’s highest at 125 meters.

Beipanjiang Duge - the World's Highest Cable Stayed Bridge in 2016

In 2015 the highest public footbridge in history will be open with a 430 meter suspension span completely decked with glass. At 250 meters the drop down into the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon will be unforgettable. The entire park is a creation unlike any other in China with a slide, zip line and mountain elevator.


Puli Bridge - The world's highest suspension bridge

Heading west to Liupanshui we will tour the Dimuhe suspension bridge where an even higher chicken wire, Tibet-style footbridge is in use with a drop of 270 meters to the water. Also in the Liupanshi region is Balinghe, Beipanjiang Shuipan and the Beipanjiang Railway Bridge.


Beipanjiang High Speed Railway Bridge - the World's Highest Railway Bridge when it opens in 2016

The new Beipanjiang High Speed Railway Bridge will be entering the record books in 2016 when it becomes the world’s highest railway bridge at 295 meters, toppling the 15-year old record long held by the Beipanjiang's own 2001 steel arch bridge. Even more amazing, the new Beipanjiang high speed crossing will be the longest concrete arch on earth with a clear span of 445 meters, breaking the record held by China's own Wanxian Bridge across the Yangtze River.


Longtanhe Viaduct - The world's largest beam bridge viaduct

Further along the G56 into Yunnan is Puli Bridge with a 500 meter high deck that will make it briefly the world's highest operational suspension bridge in 2015. East of Bijie are two high speed railway arches that will be epic in scale when they become operational in 2017. The first is the Xixhe 255 meter high arch span that will be unique as the two halves will be under construction on scaffolding high up on the edge of the canyon waiting to be rotated out over the canyon. The nearby Yachi Railway Bridge will be even more spectacular with a central span of 436 meters that rank among the longest span railway arches ever constructed.


Dimuhe Footbridge - the world's highest and longest span Tibet-style footbridge

With a deck almost 200 meters higher then Mexico's Baluarte, the Beipanjiang Bridge Duge is going to turn heads around the world with its drop of over 500 meters supported by towers 269 meters tall.

Beipanjiang 2003 - The world's highest from 2003-2005

The highest bridge in the world upon its opening in late 2003, the 366 meter high Beipanjiang Huajiang highway bridge became the second Chinese span in just two years to take this honor. The first was 2001’s Liuguanghe bridge. In addition, the Beipanjiang became the first bridge to break the 300 meter height thresholds as well as the first suspension bridge in the world to surpass the height of Colorado’s Royal Gorge bridge after a 74-year reign. The span is unique for having an extremely thin .6 meter thick prestressed concrete slab deck and cable suspenders just 5 meters apart. While not as high at 247 meters, we will also be visiting the very similarly designed Azhihe Bridge which also has a thin slab deck.


Aizhai Bridge - the world's longest span high bridge

Probably the most beautiful high bridge in all of China, the Aizhai Bridge made media headlines when it opened in 2012 on the new G65 expressway in Hunan Province as the world's highest tunnel to tunnel bridge span. Located over a protected scenic spot, the towering rock formations and cliffs of the DeHang canyon have made the crossing a new tourist destination and in 2014 the walkway inside the huge truss will be open to the public for the first time, allowing unprecedented views of the deep abyss below.


Balinghe Bridge in Guizhou - The world's 2nd longest span high bridge

Heading west from Guiyang along the new Kunming highway will be a stop to a bridge that will simply take your breath away - the crossing of the Balinghe. Towering 370 meters, this is currently the second highest road bridge on earth after Siduhe. A new visitors center will be opening beneath the bridge. We will be taking a tour through the inside of the 10 meter truss.


Dimuhe suspension bridge - One of the world's 10 highest on the G56 expressway

100 miles further north along the Beipanjiang River our convoy will be stopping by the construction site of highest railway bridge on earth over the Beipanjiang River. Also on this route we will visit the new Balinghe high speed railway bridge on the new Guiyang-Kunming line.


Driving further west on the Kunming highway we will encounter yet another Royal Gorge Buster - the Beipanjiang Hukun expressway bridge with a deck more than 300 meters high.


China High Speed Railway Map - 2014 map of lines completed or under construction with the location of the world's 10 highest railway bridges. Click in for a closer look!



Our adventure will reach new heights as we venture across the highest and longest footbridge span ever built. With an anchorage to anchorage distance greater then the Brooklyn Bridge, this narrow feat of engineering is sure to induce vertigo into those with weak knees. At almost 300 meters this shaky, chicken wire deck is more then 5 times higher then the famous Capilano Bridge in Canada!



Wuzuohe - One of the last links on the G76 expressway

The new Qingshuihe Bridge made headlines in Guizhou Province when it was announced in 2013 as a longer and higher sequel to the Balinghe Bridge with a span of 1,130 meters supporting a deep truss deck 406 meters high. With some luck we can hopefully take a tour high up into one of the 200 meter tall towers.


Zhangjiajie Glass Footbridge - The highest footbridge ever built




Finally we will venture to the remote construction sites of one of highest railway bridge crossings that have ever been undertaken in the world of bridges - the Najiehe Railway Bridge. Najiehe may not be as long but the steel box arch will be 320 meters high making it almost equal to India's Chenab Bridge.






Once the organized 2 week trip is over, I will be traveling for another 2 weeks to visit more obscure high bridges. Anyone would be welcome to continue on with me, splitting travel expenses evenly.


A total of 2 to 4 people will be on the trip plus myself, an interpreter and a driver. As trip planners and organizers, we will be taking care of everything for the 2 to 4 additional guests. This includes the round trip air fare from Shanghai to Western China as well as the hotels, meals and car travel. We are hoping to pair single people together in hotel rooms but if you don’t mind the additional cost you can have your own private room for the duration of the trip. With each spot being filled on a first-come, first-served basis, you might be out of luck if you wait too long!


This trip is not for the timid or physically challenged. We will occasionally be traveling down into the canyons beneath these bridges on dirt roads that are often bumpy and dusty. There will be short but occasionally strenuous hikes down paths to reach spectacular viewpoints. At the end of the day you will be a little sweaty, dirty and wanting a hot meal, a hot shower and a cool hotel room to sleep in.


Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have at Eric@HighestBridges.com. The price of this 3-week trip is under 4,000 dollars which is an incredible bargain, so don't be shy about contacting me. This trip can only happen if at least 4 people sign up!

List of 30 Highest Bridges on the Tour

Yachi Railway Bridge Drawing - The main span will be 436 meters
Beipanjiang High Speed Railway Bridge - Closure of the internal steel arch on what is soon to become the World's Longest concrete arch bridge
China 2011 & 2013 High Bridge Trip Route

Looking To Create Your Own High Bridge Trip?

Regardless of whether you want to be a part of my bridge tour or head off to Western China on your own, you need to understand up front that you cannot drive to these high bridges yourself. Since you must hire your own guide and/or driver, the following travel advice is for anyone who might be thinking about planning their own high bridge trip through Western China. Much of this advice also applies to those who might be coming on my 2015 trip.

Make sure your taxi driver does not mind going "off-road"

With so many spectacular, high bridges in one region of the world, many will be wanting to hop on the next plane to China and begin a whirlwind tour of these “high”ways in the sky. Before you run out and buy a ticket, there are some very informative suggestions you need to learn about. These are not just tips but very important warnings that can make the difference between a once in a lifetime experience or an unforgettable nightmare.

A visit to the rural mountains of Western China is a world apart from a trip to a modern city like Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong. The big city hotels and western style restaurants that cater to English speaking tourists are not to be found in Western China outside of a handful of large cities. The high bridges located within this web site are far away from these big cities in mountainous regions of mostly poor farmers, many who have never seen a foreigner. This means that you will have to be resourceful and adapt to a rough environment that is more like a third world country where access to reliable transportation, food and lodging cannot be taken for granted.

A typical Chinese lunch in the mountains of Hubei province

First, do not even think of driving or renting a car in China’s western provinces. You can only visit these bridges by hiring a taxi driver for every day you are there. The mountain roads are incredibly dangerous, requiring an experienced driver to dodge any and every imaginable form of human and animal life as well as reckless trucks, automobiles and motorcycles. These assaults will come at you from every direction. When you are on these secondary roads, your driver is going to be using his horn constantly. Driving-by-horn in the mountains is not just an option but an important survival tool. To avoid colliding with people, bicycles and animals, a constant “beep” is required to warn each and every one of them. For a taxi driver, the use of a horn is second nature - for you it is not. Much of the time you will be on unpaved dirt roads filled with potholes, rocks and mud. Trucks and buses coming in the opposite direction are going to pass slower traffic by coming head on into your lane, forcing you to come to a sudden stop. If you did get in a collision, in a very real sense, you would be at fault even though the other driver came into your lane! Other times you will be stuck behind a slow moving truck, trapped in a cloud of dust and exhaust thicker than a dense fog.

Hired drivers and taxis are good because they know their regions well, they know what roads might be under construction or are washed out, what roads are dangerous and what roads are safe. Outside of the major highways, maps have little or no detail and only Chinese names. The rural sign-age you encounter on local roads will also be in Chinese language if there is even a sign at all.

Our taxi driver looks over food preparations in the back room

But even if you could convince a Chinese car rental company to rent you a car and even if you could read Chinese road signs, and even if you could learn to use the horn and dodge oncoming traffic, the most important reason to hire a driver relates to the bridges themselves. You are there to walk across and under the bridges to take photos and experience the scenery. Many of these bridges do not have safe areas to pull over and park. In some cases, your driver will have to drop you off and park further down the highway and wait for you. In other cases you will want him to take you down to the bottom of the bridge on some unknown side road. A personal driver means having no worries about leaving your car on the side of the road with your belongings left unattended. It means no worries about getting lost, and best of all, no worries about getting in an accident. There is also no cost difference. For a little over a $125, you will have your own personal car and driver for the entire day. No insurance papers or damage waivers to fill out, no unforeseen tows or car repairs, no expensive late fees.

Finally, the best reason you might want a driver is food. When you are up in the mountains, you will not be able to stop off at a Denny’s or a McDonalds. The driver will know what places to avoid. He will not shy away from going into the back of the restaurant to check on the quality and trustworthiness of the meat you will be eating and how it will be prepared.

Now that I have convinced you that hiring a driver is the only way to go, you need to be warned that many drivers cannot be trusted and you will have to pick a driver that can be counted on to serve you and not try to steal or rip you off. If you don’t watch out you could find yourself sitting on the side of some mountain road, your taxi driver having taken off with your belongings, never to be see again.

Due to the long distances between these bridges, there might be days you are going to have to bring all of your luggage with you as your one or two day taxi driver is going to be dropping you off in a different city from the city where you hired him in the morning. That means you will have to entrust your belongings with him as you visit the different bridges. As an outsider in these regions, you are going to stick out like a sore thumb. People might want to take advantage of you if you let them.

Driving among 3-wheeled taxis in Guizhou province

If you do not have the money to have a travel agent set you up with your own driver for the entire trip then the best person to find you a good taxi driver each day will be the concierge at the hotel you are staying at. They will have a known pool of drivers that they use and the drivers will be less likely to try anything funny. Even so, a driver knows you are unfamiliar with negotiating and so the price you agree on should be clear and well established before you leave. You should expect to pay him extra if the day extends to 14 hours instead of 12 as you had planned or if you drove 600 miles (966 km) instead of 500 (805 km). All of this should be worked out in advance. You should expect to pay him in cash when you get back to your hotel in the evening. If you have to stay overnight away from his city, you will need to pay for his hotel room. You should also expect to pay for his lunch. It is an inexpensive courtesy that may earn you some points if you get back a little late or want him to do something risky like illegally pulling over in the middle of a bridge, etc. And if you had a great day, why not invite him to dinner when you get back to the hotel. I got along with my driver so well in Guiyang, he agreed to come back the next morning and spend two hours showing me another high bridge I had not know of - for free! When you get into the taxi, always snap a digital photo of his license which should be on the dashboard.

The most important thing you can try to bring with you on a vacation to Western China is another person, whether it be your own spouse, a close friend or a hired Chinese guide. He or she can be a second set of eyes as well as someone who can go along with you when you venture down into some unknown gorge to take photos. I visited many of China’s high bridges with an English speaking Chinese engineering student from Shanghai who handled all of the dealings with the taxis and hotels. He made sure every driver was an honest one as well as telling the driver what will be in store for them. Many of these small taxis have low clearances that are unsuitable for such horrible roads and a driver might not want to head into the mountains to have his car get abused for the same money he can make in the city on normal roads. Communicating your desire to go “off-road” is crucial to finding a good match for a driver. Finally, do not ever agree to go along with a taxi driver who wants to “bring his friend along” for the day. Two guys taking you into the mountains or down a back alley could easily be a setup for a rip-off.

China Road Atlas and regional maps

Once a good driver is found, your biggest hurdle will be communication. The driver will not know English or any other language outside of Chinese, so you will need to be prepared. Prior to leaving for China, you should print out a full size image of every bridge you plan to visit along with the Chinese and English names also printed on the photo. In addition, be sure to print out any maps from this web site with the location and names of the bridges you want to visit as well as purchasing a China Road Atlas that is available at most airports and bookstores. Also good for planning your entire trip is a fold out map like the ones sold by Nelles that cover the general regions of Central and Southern China. People are very un-knowledgeable about bridges. They don’t know the difference between a suspension or a cable stayed bridge. Photos, names and map locations of each bridge will be your only way to show the driver exactly what bridge you want to visit and its general location. Even so, expect to be frustrated as you will get lost from time to time - ultimately the driver is not likely to know these rural back roads any better than you will. Asking locals for directions will often be your only guide.

Outside of the concierges in the nicer 4 or 5 star hotels in the cities of Chongqing, Guiyang and Kunming, people in the western provinces do not speak English or any other foreign language. There are few hotels in most of the smaller cities and towns in the mountains. For those visiting the West Hurong highway, the cities to stay in are Enshi and Yesanguanzhen. Along the Yangtze River, most of the larger cities have hotels that cater to tourists. You should always plan on getting back to a hotel by the end of the day. Driving at night is generally not safe except on the major highways and in the cities. You can read more at http://wikitravel.org/en/Driving_in_China. Be sure to scroll down to the section titled “Danger”. Remember, for every mile a person travels on a road in China, the likelihood of getting killed is the same as driving 10 miles in Europe or the U.S.

An inexpensive but comfortable soft sleeper room on a train to the 3 Gorges region

Now that I’ve covered the nasty side of travel on China’s tough roads, I will go over the easy side of travel - the planes, trains and buses. Unlike most countries in the world where you must buy plane tickets in advance, China’s airports are more like bus terminals where you can sometimes purchase a ticket just a few hours before a flight. Even so, large discounts can be had on the web if you book a ticket on line at least a day in advance. All of the airlines can be compared and purchased on http://english.ctrip.com/. This makes it a perfect way to travel between a larger city like Chongqing or Guiyang with some of the smaller cities like Yichang or Wanxian. Instead of spending 5 hours in a bus you can hop between two cities in just an hour.

Buses may be slower than planes but they are the only form of transportation outside of a taxi that can take you to some of the smaller cities and towns that are in the mountains. In addition to easy accessibility, they also tend to run more frequently than planes and trains and are quite comfortable.

Bridge engineer Shijie Du and HighestBridges.com creator Eric Sakowski

Trains are not any quicker than a bus or a taxi but they are incredibly cheap in China and allow you to catch up on sleep or take in the countryside. Train tickets are generally divided into separate classes. The hard and soft seat are the cheapest and most common way to travel but they are often crowded and uncomfortable for long routes. The best is the soft sleeper with only 4 beds to a room and not much more than a hard sleeper where there are 6 beds to a room. Getting a ticket is the most difficult aspect of train travel. Large stations are often crowded and travel during holiday periods should be avoided. You don’t have to worry about eating as all trains have roving trollies and a dining car where cooks can prepare hot Chinese meals. You might want to prepare for the toilets though as they can be dirty and stinky and require you to squat over a hole in the floor, keeping your balance as you try to aim. Finally, expect to bring your own toilet paper - train bathrooms will never have any.

So if you use some common sense and plan out your route carefully, you can have a bridge adventure you will never forget. Just remember that sudden setbacks will come up. Bad weather can come at anytime. Cars, buses and trains break down. Also remember that the advice I have given to you is no substitute for all of the normal, travel related things that you would have to prepare for on any big trip to China that are mentioned in such guidebooks as Lonely Planet or Fodors. The process of obtaining travel insurance, visas, permits and vaccinations are all well described in these books and beyond the scope of this website. Since I have traveled to western China several times, I do have some good contacts with drivers who have visited some of these high bridges and are trustworthy. If you are planning a bridge trip to western China, I will be glad to give you any advice and suggestions.

You can reach me at eric@highestbridges.com

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