Published: August 15th 2010August 1st 2010
Live cattle exports comes closest to describing the train journey from Beijing to Shanghai.
All the soft and hard sleeper tickets were booked out for a week so I had to settle for a hard seat in third class. I boarded the train feeling sorry for myself, dreading 18hrs sitting on a non-reclinable seat. But my god at least I had a seat. I soon discovered China rail sold standing tickets! I’m not talking about a few people standing here and there. I mean all possible floor place was sold out. It may not have been an Auschwitz style carriage, but it came pretty close. You literally could not move. I don’t know how people got to the toilet. I did see a lot of buckets...
Needless to say by the time the train rolled into Shanghai I was well and truly exhausted. After a short stop in Burger King (my consumption of Western junk food is directly proportional to both lack of sleep and alcohol), I made my way to my hostel.
Shanghai is truly awe-inspiring. When you walk to the Bund and see the Pudong sky-line for the first time, it just hits you: There is
a very good chance that these people are going to run the world quite soon, so you might as well start learning Mandarin. There is this feeling of wild-west capitalism pulsing through the city. Like heading West in nineteenth century America, there is sense that if you dropped everything and came here, you could make a fortune courtesy of 1.3 billion emerging consumers.
My Shanghai highlights included: the Bund, the Pudong skyline, walking on East Nanjing Rd, the Communist Propaganda museum, and visiting the World Expo.
The Bund is the colonial heart of Shanghai. One moment you are walking around 1930s neo-classical New York, then you turn your head and Pudong stands like two modern Manhattans stitched together across the river. It’s a great area to stroll around and take in the contrasting views of the city.
Considering the transport chaos caused by the World Expo had briefly reduced me to a refugee, I felt I'd better check it out. The entire country seems determined to visit. The Expo itself was relatively interesting. I got a night ticket as it was cheaper, cooler and less crowded. Truth be told I think I had more fun pretending I
was from different European countries so that I could skip the massive queues, than I had looking at the actual exhibits.
The Irish exhibit was our standard mix of green, diddly-diddlyness that we generally go for, but having been away from home so long it managed to tug on my heart strings. The Expo was worth a short visit, but not the two or three days necessary to see most exhibits properly. In no one's world is a 7 hour wait to experience the culture of Saudi Arabi worthwhile...
Anyway at the end of my time in Shanghai I met up with a friend from home who was travelling in China. He’s keeping a travel blog
as well. I think a direct quotation from his Shanghai post summarises our meeting:
“I met up with a friend from UCD who I hadn't seen in about a year. It was so good to talk to someone without having the generic hostel chat: “where are you from?”, “where are you travelling?” blah, blah blah ad infinitum. We went to an €8 all you can drink bar. About an hour in we were convinced all the alcohol was watered
down. An hour later we were proved wrong in a dramatic fashion...
I think I’ll end this entry here.”
I have nothing to add
There are more photos below