A Trip to Shanghai

(From September 2009)  We took a trip to Shanghai on Saturday with two other teachers from school.  One teacher Allison is from New Zealand and is new to Suzhou like us, this year.  She has lived in Hong Kong the last five years working at a school there.  Sybil, the other teacher, is from South Africa, and has been in Suzhou for the last four years, so she knows her way around and was our guide.
We took the fast train from Suzhou to Shanghai which takes about 30-40 minutes.  We had first class tickets, which cost about $7 round trip.  First class means you get “soft” seats, with cushions, as opposed to second class or hard seats.  We got to sit in the “Soft Seat Lounge” while we waited for our train. The train system here is relatively new and on time.  We moved with the masses of people boarding the train and found our car and seats.  The trip was nonstop to Shanghai.  The train went up to and over 200kph (120mph) on the way.  The ride was smooth (not even any “clickity-clack” sound!).
We got to the Shanghai station and got off the train with many people, moved through the station and walked across  a plaza with thousands of people and down into the subway system.  It was much like being in NYC during rush hour.
The subway system is also new. clean, and efficient.  We waited in line and showed the ticket person a map written in Chinese and pointed to the station we wanted to go to, he sold us our ticket (a magnetic card).  There are some English signs you can follow, but very few people who speak English,so it is a bit of a challenge getting around.  The magnetic cards you just wave over a card reader to get through the turnstiles.  We walked down more stairs to  line 1 going into town.  One thing interesting about their subway. at most stations, they have a metal and glass wall with sliding doors that separate the platform from the tracks.  The train comes and stops exactly at the doors, which open and align with the subway car doors, you get on, the doors close and you’re off.  So there is no chance of falling onto the tracks.

Shanghai subway

People were orderly.  There is a certain amount of bumping and jostling, but that is to be expected with so many people.  Unlike the US, there is no “personal bubble of space” expected here.  On the subway car, it was again crowded, again much like rush hour in NYC.
We went 3 stops and got of at People’s Square, a large green area in the center of Shanghai.  From what we read, in the 1930s there was a horse-racing track built here by the British, so this is where the green area came from.  The art museum we were going to is the old clubhouse of the racetrack.  The subway underground all  of this was filled with stores and vendors. There was a whole underground street recreated to look like Shanghai of the ’30s.  Barbara bargained with and bought two rhinestone hairpieces in the underground.

Shanghai skyscrapers

When we came up from the underground we were in the large square that was surrounded by new modern skyscrapers, and various museums, and shops on the street level which were connected to the underground.  Thankfully the weather had cooled and it was a beautiful day with less humidity and heat than we’ve been having.  People here use umbrellas to protect from the sun, so you see lots of umbrellas in use.  We walked around the square, looked in some shops, went for lunch at a Japanese fast-food-chain (good food and reasonably priced).
We went the the Art Museum and spent an hour there.  As already mentioned, it was the old clubhouse of the racetrack-quite a large building elegant with marble floors and columns, beautiful architecture from the 1930s.  They had a very good exhibition of traditional Asian painting with trees, leaves, blossoms, fruit, with birds or fish and some Chinese character writing down the side.  We saw a lot of pictures with bamboo, or pomegranate fruit, which we see growing on trees all over the place here.
After the museum, we walked some more in the park, sat and rested, watched the people who were also watching us.
We went back on the subway around 5, went to the train station, got our train about 6:30, and back to Suzhou, taking a bus and getting home around 8. It was a very nice day.

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