Day 9 (24 Dec 2009): Paris of the East [Hangzhou – Shanghai]

For your convenience, please refer to The Journey for the itinerary and the latest updates.

Weather: Hazy

We left the hostel early for our train to Paris of the East: Shanghai.

My humble breakfast at Hangzhou train station (6.5 RMB)

Train number: CRH D5658
Depart: Hangzhou 10:07
Arrive: Shanghai South 11:25 (Non-stop)
Time taken: 1h18m
Distance traveled: 173km
Cost: 54RMB (2nd Class)

I love sitting on trains. The train that we took was a China Railway High-speed (CRH) one between Hangzhou and Shanghai. There was no stop between the two stations and it took only 78 minutes to cover the 173km between them.

Hangzhou Train Station platform 1

To my amazement there were actually standing passengers for the train. Apparently you could just turn up at the station and buy standing tickets (no discount though).

Modern interior

Top speed reached was 160kph

I was kinda excited to take train in China. It would be the seventh country where I had traveled by rail (after Malaysia, Thailand, India, Turkey, Bulgaria and Britain). We reached Shanghai South station on time and soon were on our way to Blue Mountain Youth Hostel.

Shanghai was definitely more urbane and bustling. At the metro stations, everyone was pushing everybody else away to get to the ticket machines. Before passengers could alight from the train other passengers were rushing in. It’s the survival of the fittest in this urban jungle.

Metro ride between Shanghai South Station and Lu Ban Rd Station (where our hostel is located)

On arrival we had some difficulties locating the hostel but we managed to sort that out. We were given 6 bed dorm instead of the 4 bed one which we booked; there weren’t any other vacancies and we had to make do with that. Turned out that two of our roommates were snorers and we were in for two long nights.

Alan had arranged to visit his friend Kee Yeh who was doing a job attachment in Suzhou the next day so we went to Shanghai station (different from the Shanghai South Station where we arrived from Hangzhou) to get our train tickets.

Shanghai Station - Full of people like everywhere else in China

During our long leisurely lunch and dessert, we took a train to People’s Square . We would walk from down Shanghai’s premier shopping street Nanjing East Road and then onwards to the Bund along Huangpu river.

People's Square Metro Station - Full of people again

Big rocket and small rocket

Church

People's Park

We decided to escape the cold by venturing inside Shanghai’s Raffles City. It is one of the top end malls in Shanghai and the prices attest to that. I realize that malls all over the world are identical; I might as well be at Singapore’s Raffles City:(.

However, we weren’t really disappointed as there were performances for the shoppers.

Trying to raise temperature in the cold weather

African drummer

Back outside…

Classic and modern style co-exist

..onto Nanjing East Road.

Nanjing East Rd

Pedestrianized Shopping Street

A piece of Taksim in Shanghai

Colonial Style Buildings

Kua simi?

Plaque at the eastern end of the street

Judas

We knew that we were reaching the Bund when we saw Peace Hotel (still under construction).

Peace Hotel - One of Shanghai's landmark

Visibility was BAD

The Bund was closed for renovation and it was difficult walking on the potholed pavement. It certainly wasn’t the best time to visit as there were many constructions going on in anticipation for the World Expo 2010.

The Bund closed (construction for World Expo 2010)

Customs House

European Lion

Then we decided to walk back to Nanjing Lu and take the metro to Lujiazui (in Pudong, the other side of Huangpu River).

Nanjing Lu by night

Once at Lujiazui, we tried to take the river cruise but it won’t be operating until 2010. Neither did we go up the Oriental Pearl Tower due to poor visibility.

Oriental Pearl Tower

View of Bund from Pudong

After failing in our numerous attempts to take good photos, we decided to have a good meal for Christmas Eve at a fancy shopping mall in Lujiazui . Most of the restaurants are packed and the one that we chose was quite crowded as well. We had to wait a while before being served and the staff actually ushered a couple who arrived after us to a table first. I wasn’t too pleased and told the staff about it. She could only offer a weak sorry and I was really thinking of taking my business elsewhere. Besides the incompetent staff, the couple who took the table was very rude. They knew that we were ahead of them but decided to treat us as invisible instead.

Over dinner Alan and I were ranting over what had happened. I didn’t want to bash China for sake of bashing it but everything in Shanghai culminated in our frustration. Most people were rude; it is a free-for-all in almost everything and no one is willing to concede any space. The huge population in China creates an intense amount of competition for everything; it isn’t surprising that everyone care only for themselves and to hell with the rest. The Chinese nationals in Singapore are also products of the same system and therefore behave accordingly.

It was cold on Christmas’ eve and we headed back to the hostel after dinner. Sadly our Christmas’ Eve was spent trying to sleep under loud snores of our roommates.

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