Love stories blooming along with construction of China-Laos Railway

The Lane Xang EMU train passes by the China-Laos borderline inside a tunnel on Oct. 15, 2021. - Xinhua

VIENTIANE (Xinhua): As the China-Laos Railway nears completion, people are not only impressed by the mega infrastructure project, but also the beautiful love stories that unfolded along with the railway's construction.

In May 20, 2018, an engagement ceremony was held between Xiong Yinghao, a 32-year-old Chinese engineer at the China Railway No. 2 Engineering Group (CREC-2), and his colleague, 27-year-old Lao local woman Manichanh Duangmany who worked as a translator.

They were the first cross-border couple working for the China-Laos Railway to get engaged.

A Lao traditional ceremony was held in Manichanh's village in the capital Vientiane. Amid the blessings of the villagers and colleagues, they fed each other with sticky rice while the villagers put on string bracelets on their wrists to express best wishes as per Lao tradition.

The couple are now the parents of a three-year-old boy and a six-month-old girl.

"Our project (China-Laos Railway) is almost over, and lots of things need to be done. My son and daughter are living with my wife in my hometown in Sichuan (in southwest China)," Xiong, who was still busy working at the construction site in Laos, told Xinhua recently.

"I have not seen my daughter since she was born due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I am looking forward to getting on a train to go home, the sooner the better," he said.

Xiong and Manichanh are one of the couples that found their other half during their work for the China-Laos Railway, which started construction in December 2016.

Jiang Cong, a Chinese engineer at the China Railway Wuhan Electrification Engineering Group Co., Ltd, who joined the project in February 2020, posted a recruitment notice looking for a local language interpreter on Lao social media platform. Khou Vang, who was studying at the National University of Laos at that time, contacted Jiang.

Attracted by Chinese culture, Khou gave herself a Chinese name, Wang Ru, and had been teaching herself Chinese at university.

The two fell in love and started a seven-month long distance relationship.

Khou's parents did not agree with their daughter's relationship with Jiang at the beginning as they thought China was too far away and it would be difficult to see their daughter if she marries a foreign man.

"With the (China-Laos) railway Jiang is building, it will take only three hours to travel from Vientiane to the Laos-China border, and traveling will not be a difficulty at all," Khou told her parents, who finally gave their blessings to their daughter and decided to start learn Chinese too.

Jiang and Khou got married in September 2020 and now they have a lovely baby. Khou's parents are looking forward to the early opening of the railway, so that "the traffic will be so convenient that we will travel to China to see our daughter and grandson."

The China-Laos Railway is a docking project between the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Laos' strategy to convert itself from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub.

The electrified passenger and cargo railway is built with the full application of Chinese management and technical standards. The construction of the project started in December 2016 and is scheduled to be completed and open to traffic in December 2021.

Yuan Zhixiang, a Chinese engineer who graduated from university in 2017 and worked at CREC-5 in Nateuy, a mountainous town some 400 km north of Vientiane, married a local woman and settled down in Laos.

In 2019, the couple's first daughter was born in southwest China's Yunnan Province. Yuan named his daughter "Siyi," meaning "remembering the friendship (between China and Laos)" in Chinese.

"I haven't travelled back to China due to inconvenience caused by the pandemic. After living in Laos for a long time, I have known the country better. There are a lot of things we want to do once the railway is completed," he said.

On Oct. 18, the couple welcomed their second daughter.

When asked about the second baby's name, Yuan could not help smiling and said the name is "Si'an," which means "wishing for wellness" in Chinese.

"I hope the pandemic would be over soon, and express my best wishes to the two countries," he said.

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