It really all started back in 2003 when I came home from work to find a magazine in the kitchen opened at an article about the rammed earth mansions inhabited by the Hakka people of south eastern China along with a note upon which was written in large demanding letters "I want to go here!!". Most of our trips start this way - Anne decides on a destination and I then work out the most interesting way of getting there without passing through too many disaster areas.

Coincidentally the idea of a train trip from the UK to Hong Kong had first occurred to us back in 2001 when we were concluding our previous expedition around South East Asia in Hong Kong. One evening when getting on the metro in Kowloon I had noticed a very faded sign offering tickets to London. Apparently prior to the Russian Revolution this was accepted as the quickest way to travel back to Europe, although with the various political upheavals of the 20th Century the idea was pretty much forgotten.

With the opening up of most of the former Soviet Union since the millennium, and with the new Chinese economic drive allowing more or less unrestricted access to all parts of China (even the grubby bits), we resolved to put the two ideas together and visit the Hakka homelands without getting on a plane.