Published: November 30th -0001October 3rd 2010
This past week was our holiday but the rest of the country started on Friday and has the next week off. On Thursday, we finished a four day stint in Hong Kong and flew from Shenzhen to visit my son, Philip, who just moved to Changsha a couple of weeks ago.
Changsha is half the size of our "hometown" of Wuhan but the downtown area is much more concentrated. Much of the city center is contained in a few city blocks. This results in a mass of humanity on the streets, especially during a holiday weekend such as during our visit. We were literally pushed along with the crowd at times but after living in China for almost four years, it wasn't much of a step up from day-to-day walking around!
The pedestrian streets we walked along had a huge selection of stores, Western and Chinese, and the smaller ones had wonderful art galleries and craft shops. There definitely seemed to be less foreigners around than in Wuhan, but that is not saying much. Also, there was a great bar street that was lined with shoe-box bars on either side for quite a distance. The one we hung out
in for both nights was mainly frequented by foreigners, most of whom were ESL teachers in the city. It was a great little three-floor place owned by a foreigner and his Chinese wife. If you were on the third floor, there was a button on the wall to push anytime you wanted another drink and someone would come running up the stairs to take your order! Great idea!!
As with most of the other cities we have visited, there is usually at least one significant park or mountain to visit. Despite the huge urban sprawl, generally bad air and polluted waters, the Chinese love their green space. Ten minutes away from Phil's apartment was a small mountain park that we made a quick visit to during a couple of down hours. We started walking up to the top but didn't make it because of time restraints. Phil had a modeling engagement that he had to get to later that afternoon. Yes, you heard correct, modeling. He had been in the city less than two weeks and had already been approached to model for a nearby department store!
He and the four others had no idea what to expect.
They showed up at the prescribed time and proceeded to be dressed and sent down a couple of runways that had been set up outside one of the stores. They were modeling clothing from several different stores all owned by the same woman. Five young Chinese girls ran around finding stuff that fit and handing them accessories as they started their walks. I'm sure this was a day to remember for them as they undressed and dressed the five foreigners in the store! A young Australian girl had also been accosted as a model and prop to accompany the guys on their strolls! Dance music blasted in the background and a narrator described what they were wearing as they each strutted their stuff for a couple of hours. The pay was pretty good for two hours of walking and they all received the cash when they left. Watching this spectacle for a couple of hours was definitely one of the highlight of the trip!
Phil's apartment is close to the Xiangjang River which runs through the city. In fact, he has a great view of the river from his living room window. There is a walking path along the
river which seems to go for quite a distance. Along the riverbanks, there were lots of fishing boats visible, some of which seemed to be selling stuff to customers on the shore. There is also a huge island that stretches along the middle of the river and is another large park. We will make a point of visiting it the next time we get to Changsha.
We headed back to Wuhan on Saturday afternoon on the new bullet train, another incredible experience. China is in the middle of a multibillion dollar project of networking the country with these high-speed trains. The stations are space-age, the ticketing system is foolproof and the trains leave every twenty minutes. We taxied to the station, went to the computer automated ticket dispenser. With a few touches of the screen, we chose our destination, departure time and ticket class. The machine sucked in our 100 kwai notes and spit our change and tickets back out other slots. The regular train from Changsha to Wuhan takes at least 10 hours. This train travels the 400 plus kilometers in one hour and twenty minutes! According to Wikipedia, it is the fasted train in the world at
this point! The average speed for the journey is advertised as about 310 km/h but we hit speeds of 340km/h as we were cruising along. There is a digital readout on the train that shows you the speed at any given time. It was comfortable, spacious, and fairly inexpensive by western standards. The 400 km trip cost us each 175 yuan, about $30. We were both really impressed. This particular train goes from Wuhan to Guangzhou.
"China's high speed rail lines consists of upgraded conventional rail lines, newly-built high-speed passenger designated lines (PDLs), and the world’s first high-speed commercial magnetic levitation (maglev) line. China's HSR network is undergoing a building boom. With generous funding from the Chinese government's economic stimulus program, 17,000 kilometres (11,000 mi) of high-speed lines are now under construction. The entire HSR network will reach 13,000 kilometres (8,100 mi) by 2012 and 16,000 kilometres (9,900 mi) by 2020.
China is the first and only country to have commercial high-speed train service on conventional rail lines that can reach a top operational speed of 350 km/h (217 mph). Notable examples of high-speed train service include the Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, a national trunk line that travels 968
kilometres (601 mi) in 3 hours reaching top speeds of 350 kilometres per hour (220 mph) and averaging 310 kilometres per hour (190 mph)." copied from Wikipedia.
Well, there you have it, fresh from the pages of Wikipedia. Until the next adventure....
There are more photos below