Thursday, 2 October 2008

So many people

We were up early on Monday morning - and met with the other foreign teachers at 7.30 am to catch a taxi to the Railway Station in Shaoxing. We all had our tickets for Hangzhou - and were looking forward to a good day. When we arrived at the station, I remembered why I didn't like travelling at holiday time. The queue to get through security stretched from the station right out to the roadway. So many people trying to catch trains.

(I heard later that from Shanghai on that day 700 trains departed from the main station - these were long distance trains - just imagine the workload for the railway staff!!!)

We did eventually get through and made our way to the crowded noisy waiting room. The system here is that you wait in the "waiting hall" until just before your train is due, when they will open two gates and you get your ticket checked and then go to the platform and line up where your carriage number (check your ticket) is due to stop.

The train comes from Ningbo, on its way to Hangzhou and probably Shanghai - I didn't look. We duly lined up, and when our train arrived there was the usual crush to get in, hardly giving time or space for those who are alighting.

Always when you get on there is someone else sitting in "your" seat. Many people don't buy tickets for seats, and just hope that a "vacant" seat is available. No such luck on this day. We moved on those people who had taken up our seats, and sat on the seats for which we had paid.
There is so much activity on the train - so many people shouting, phones rining, children shrieking and so forth. It is rather fun, but tiring after a while. We arrived at the East Bus station and joined the throngs as they left the train, walked along the station, down stairs, along a concourse, up stairs, tickets checked and out into the busy chaotic streets with hawkers, bikes, e-bikes, food stalls, shouting. We made our way to the bus. Now here I must explain. One of the challenges when travelling in a group. One of our number "knew" the way on the bus. Sure, we got on the right bus, but she can only tell how to get there if she can see the route from the front of the bus. The bus was crowded and she was pushed to the back of the bus.

Some of us, despite the fun we had on the bus, would rather have caught a taxi to the Silk Market. Just a few RMB more. But, we'd been "outvoted" and the bus won out.

We asked someone on the bus to tell us where to get off for the silk market. In the end the whole back end of the bus got involved as everyone tried to help direct us. It was hilarious. Old people, young people, everyone - adding their thoughts to the discussion. Eventually we were told "three more stops" and duly arrived at the Silk Market.

The "Silk Market" is a purpose built commercial area with small shops selling silk items. There are shops fronting the street, and now another row is being built behind them. On a quiet day it is very pleasant, but it was holiday time and the street was very busy with shoppers from foreign tourists like us, to locals.

The street itself is a "walking" street, but all sorts of smaller vehicles ply their trade through the street. Folk on bicycles, folk on e-bikes with two, three or so people clinging to it as it winds its way among the pedestrians, and tricycles carting boxes, food, and all sorts of items traverse the walking street, so one has to have one's wits about them, or risk tangling with these vehicles.

My purchases were minimal - although I enjoy the experience I have been twice before, and I really wasn't in need of buying anything. I did manage a couple of bargains - more pashminas.

Two hours later we had had enough of the Silk Market and ready to move on to our next destination.

No comments: