I had been looking forward to the train ride from Beijing to Shanghai ever since construction began in 2008. The line opened for service in June 2011, but an accident due to a brake malfunction caused the authorities to recall 54 trains in August of that year. All the recalled trains went back into service in December 2011. Designed to travel at 380 kilometers an hour, speed is restricted to 305 clicks to save energy. It took just under five hours to travel the 1300 kilometers to Shanghai and on the rubberized wheels smoother than travelling at 100 clicks back home. The ladies spent a good deal of the time in the comfortable restaurant car, but I was happy to sit and do a little blogging while we travelled.
We passed through a number of cities on our way south, any one of them as large or larger than Toronto, and over the Yellow River in the north and the Yangtze closer to Shanghai. The countryside was largely flat and agricultural, and although there were a few hills in the distance, they were mostly obscured by the ever present smog. The train station, like the ones in Tianjin and Beijing, was clean, spacious and modern and we had no trouble finding a cab for the forty minute run to our hotel, which cost 80 Yuan (around $12). Pam had chosen another Holiday Inn Express for its location right beside the train station to Hangzhou where we were to catch our flight back to Malaysia. Once again we had booked through Agoda, and once again our reservations were secure and fully paid for, making check-in and check-out a breeze.
Once settled we walked to the train station where we caught a subway to People’s Square, figuring from the map that it would make a good starting point for our exploration of Shanghai. As soon as we got there we found a Hop On-Hop Off bus tour. Our good friends Bill and Kim McNamara always used these things to get oriented to a new city, and it sounded like a good deal, 300 Yuan ($50) for 48 hours and entry to a number of sites. The red line took us down to the Bund, the impressive street of buildings overlooking the Huangpo River that flows through Shanghai. One of those buildings, home of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, figures prominently in my family’s history.
At the end of the Bund we turned back into the city, past the Yu Gardens and the French Concession, and back to Rompin Park and People’s Square. This arm of the tour lasts 30 minutes, and connects to the blue and green lines which cover other parts of the city. We walked up the street to find a local noodle shop and found one offering a huge bowl of noodles, bean sprouts and sliced beef for 20Yuan ($3). Then we walked down Nanjing Street which is closed to vehicles from the park most of the way down to the Bund. Hawkers selling every imaginable gizmo lined the street. A simple bu yao was enough to get them to back off.
By the time we got back to the waterfront the lights were on, and the buildings across the river in Pudong District were all aglow. Some, like the Citi Bank tower had artistic light displays of butterflies and flower petals, but others, like the distinctly Asian Pearl Tower were simply stunning by virtue of their design.
It would have been easy enough to catch a subway back to our hotel, but we were all tired and opted for a cab instead. It was a mere 30 Yuan ($5) for the four of us, and well worth it. Once again the beds were comfortable, and with air in Shanghai a mild 20 degrees, sleeping was a delight. Shanghai looks wonderful, filled with colour and light, and with an almost holiday mood among the people compared to the austere and severe atmosphere of Beijing. We slept well in anticipation of a full day.