Sunday, 30 November 2008

To Shanghai

Rice fields after harvest.

I was so proud of myself venturing from Shaoxing to Shanghai on my own. I managed to buy the tickets on my own at Shaoxing Train Station - easy really as quite surprisingly there was an English speaker behind the window in the Ticket Office!

After completing class on Friday last, I went to my apartment, collected my already packed luggage (backpack) and set off on foot to the bus stop at the West Gate. When I arrived there were many students and I reasoned that I would struggle to manage my backpack in the packed bus, so I hailed a taxi instead.

At the station in the waiting hall, several Yuexiu students were there and I chatted with them while we waited for the train. In China one waits in a very busy waiting hall - and about five minutes before the train is due to arrive at the platform, we file through the now open gate, have our tickets checked and then line up where we think the carriage will stop. Each ticket has the carriage number, and if you have paid for a seat, the seat number.

Usually, despite the orderly way everyone queues to get into their carriage, the train usually arrives and one discovers that the carriage they must enter is further along the platform, so there is a mad scramble!

On the train there was a lady asleep in my seat - the train had come from Ningbo, so she reasoned that for some of the trip anyway she would sit in someone else's seat. She did not pay for a seat. I woke her, and she got up and moved when I showed her my ticket. There were other students on the train too, and we chatted until they got off.

The activities on the train are always amusing. People wandering up and down the aisle, railway staff back and forth selling food and drinks, and hot water for the tea. Most Chinese people carry a small container of tea of some sort, and the boiling water top up is most popular. Mobile phones going off all the time, loud conversations between travellers, loud music.

I had my MP3 player going, and I was reading and enjoying the views from the train window as we passed through villages, cities, farmland, and fish farms. The scenery is ever changing. It is harvest time in the rice fields, and many of them are laid bare and the workers are burning the stubble left on the fields. In front of many of the houses you can see the rice laid out on the ground - sometimes just on the cement and other times on bamboo mats or in flat cane baskets. The rice must be continually turned over so that it all dries out properly.

Beside the houses are bags of rice. This drying of the rice continues for several weeks and someone is always "on duty" to continually rake the rice to keep the air circulating around it.

In the fields there are many green vegetables growing - it is quite a sight - neat rows of vegetables as far as the eye can see. In some places new plastic domes (or hot houses as we would call them) are being erected to protect the plants from the cold. It is down to 1 and 2 degrees at the moment and will get colder, and maybe even snow.

The scenery is ever changing. In the nearly three hour trip between Shaoxing and Shanghai the train only makes a few stops - Hangzhou and Haining. The landscape is every changing though - there are so many rivers, streams, canals, farms, cities, parks, factories, housing estates, villages, fields. So hard to describe it all - even such a short trip really.

I would love to take more photos - but taking photos through the window of a fast moving train does not guarantee success, but I managed a few!

When the train arrived at Shanghai there was a mad scramble as everyone tries to be the first off the train. It will never be me! People with all sorts of luggage from plastic sheets tied up holding all the precious "cargo", suitcases, backpacks, computer bags, shopping bags, and the ever popular red, white and blue carry bag that even we in Australia are familiar with!

Shanghai Station Sth is very modern, and it is easy to get off the train, up the escalator and in my case along the walkway to the underground railway (subway). I had to catch a train on Line 1, for two stations,get off and get the subway on line 4 to my destination. Managed it with one small hiccup, but arrived safely.

My host was at the station to meet me and we wandered back to her apartment. Now I had been there just 2 months before, but the landscape had changed dramatically. Soem buildings had been completely demolished, and were being replaced by modern housing. In her own apartment block it was surrounded by bamboo scaffolding, as the apartment was being refurbished.

It was quite cold and good to get inside. We chatted for ages before enjoying a good meal which included tender pork pieces with a special port seasoning, steamed carrot, broccoli, and boiled potatoes. And some good Australian red wine!

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