Oct 14 2010

Trained in Shanghai

Turned on Bloomberg TV this morning, a commercial was being played. A male voice over asking if you know where the fastest train that runs at over 400 kilometer an hour runs. He went on to give you a clue that it isn’t in France (TGV is stale … hmmmm … actually it has been keeping up with the Joneses ..), not in Japan (what’s there?) and not in the USA (does US have a train?) but in China (ha .. can you believe that?). Then the screen shows a train with blue logo CRH Hexie Hao 和谐号 runs, fast, I reckon?

Btw, it was In the Loop with Betty Liu, who was joined by two striking girls – Sheila Dharmarajan, etc., perhaps of Indian descent. Has Bloomberg gone Asia? Why Betty? Did she take a punch? She’s ugly with her nostrils facing the sky, hundred teeth, and pair of eyes more like a erotic dancer than .. oh I got it, it just what the station needs for its manly audience? DSCN0755 Sara Eisen looks like a cheer leader than serious business reporter. Come on .. Whatever.

Let’s go back to the train talk.

I needed to go to Yangzhou but there isn’t a fast connection between Shanghai and Yangzhou (surprise), so I opted the D3002 from SHA (Hongqiao station – Rainbow Bridge) to ZhenJiang (6:48-8:36, cost CNY73, about US$11) and G7151 ZJ-SHA (16:57-18:34; CNY115). Then its about 30 minutes car ride to Yangzhou. There are also buses. The bus terminal is next to the train terminal in ZhenJiang 镇江.

Hongqiao station is a new gray structure. It blinded in with the surrounding well, especially in the misty early morning. One side is vacant flat land, farther down is vertical overlapping highways. But once stepping inside, instantly I felt I became a nothing; I was dwarfed by the open space and the emptiness. Might be it’s early in the morning or the station has filled to its capacity, there wasn’t the expected humming and buzzing of a major train hub. It felt sterilized.

waiting area unfinished business ..

Hongqiao Railway Station 虹桥火车站 has just began to operate in July, little over two months ago. There are signs of odds and ends that needs to be tied. Luggage is being screened at entrance. One young lady who supposed to stare at the monitor was asleep and few others were just chatting or sitting around.
This station connects to subway Metro (Line 2 and 10) and HongQiao Airport. It kills and pains (actually just kill me so I won’t feel the pain) me to see so many metropolis have light rails/subways/trains that connect to their airports (from down town, not from some hicksvill Jamaica!) while New York doesn’t. I still love Noo Yawk but the love comes from knowing I couldn’t afford to live else where.

water gates

At a corner there was a bottled water station, each ticket would get stamped for a bottle. Perhaps a promotion for the company. There is a small room that offers both cold and hot drinking water. Crunching toilets with censor flush but no toilet paper. There were modern young girls dressed to kill and there were peasants who traveled with brooms. The gate opened 20 minutes prior to the departure.
Part of the platforms are in the open air but they are mop-clean.

shiny platformShanghai is clean. There are always cleaners in uniform dutifully performing. It was 6am but a lady in drag was already down there mopping.

The interior of the train is practical no nonsense: comfortable but not plushy as those high speed European trains one accustomed to. It offers both hot and cold water. Train attendants, mostly young women are less than friendly.

The D3002 was originated from Shanghai and departed on time. It stopped at Kunshan 昆山南, Suzhou 苏州, Wuxi 无锡, Changzhou 常州, Danyan 丹阳, then Zhenjiang 镇江 at 08:36, about 237 kilometer. The train stopped couple of minutes at each station except KunShan South station, where it lingered for more than 10 minutes. I was the only passenger in my caboose. A cleaning young girl passed, as she was mopping the floor. Out side of the train windows, there were unfinished highways, rails and highrises, vanishing from my view quickly. Booming is such an understatement.
DSCN0752 DSCN0761

At Kunshan, a group of four got aboard, and the loud yapping if not yelling began. Why do Chinese have to talk so thunderously? The mob didn’t start to show up until SuZhou. Once got to WuXi the caboose filled to the brim, feeling like a refugee camp – brought back the fading memory of my youth, taking train rides. The luggage of all shape and color were everywhere and the standing only ticket holders jammed into our caboose’s the narrow pathway. Add to the stress was everyone was talking to someone.

List of train stations I’ve been to in China