Train to Hangzhou

On Wednesday night I travelled by train from Shanghai to Hangzhou.  I was very nervous I was going by myself and was not even sure on the pronunciation of Hangzhou to ensure that I ended up on a train going to the right place!!
Driver Fu dropped me off outside the station, which is clean (smoke free – amazing in China, where you can still smoke almost everywhere), modern, easy to navigate and super efficient.   Once through the security (x-ray for me and luggage, but not as rigorous as at the airport) it was off to find somewhere to buy a ticket.  I had looked up train times online – here is the best timetable and related information!  www.chinatrainguide.com. For all it’s efficiency, I was frustrated to find that tickets can only be bought online 3 days in advance.
Everyone had warned me that the station would be busy as it is just a few days before a National Holiday (Golden Week) and that everyone would be travelling.  But, I only had to wait in line for about 10 minutes and the station is so open that I was surprised by the lack of people.
About 5 minutes before departure, the gates opened and everyone was allowed down to the platform. Watching the train come into the station was quite the experience as it seemed to go on for ever! I think it was the longest train I had ever seen before. I did not realise on the outward journey that I actually had an assigned seat in a carriage (I could not read the ticket!!) I just got on and sat in an open seat – and the carriage was quite empty. Watching the train come in, I could see that there were several buffet carriages, and a couple of different classes – I had booked the cheapest ticket. Even the cheap seats were spacious and comfortable. (The UK could learn a lot from this train service!!). And, one of the coolest things was a special foot pedal that turned the row around 180 degrees, so if you were travelling as a family, you could face each other!
The station at Hangzhou was not as modern or clean as Shanghai, but still easy to navigate around. Straight into the taxi queue to make my way to my hotel and here was my first issue of the night….. the taxi driver did not understand “Dragon hotel”! It was a good job I had a local contact on speed dial so she could explain to the taxi driver where I needed to go!
This trip was for me to present at a conference – another first for me in China. It was strange to be presenting in a room full of people listening to me talk through headphones! My presentation was simultaneously translated into Chinese so all reactions were slightly delayed. My colleague said that I had great praise after I had finished (but I guess I will never know for sure!!)
The train ride back to Shanghai was a different experience again. It was VERY busy and now I had to take my assigned seat! Lots of people travelling to be with family for Mid Autumn Festival and National Holiday. It was a little bit confusing trying to connect with driver Fu as the station in Shanghai is huge with 4 different exits. Eventually I found him and made it back home.
The train experience was so good, that Owen and I are now thinking about this for our trip to Chengdu in November.

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