Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Best of: SH-SZ train rides

The first time I wanted to go to Suzhou by train I was quite lost. On the same Friday as I wanted to go I went to the train station during my lunch hour, and lined up in the wrong, 20-meter line. I could not communicate at all with the ticket seller, who frustratedly pointed at the “English speaking service"- counter next to his. Another 20-meter line later I was told that all the tickets to Suzhou had sold out, but that he could sell me a standing ticket. I took it.

I felt lost as I walked into Shanghai Railway Station later that day, but managed to locate the right waiting hall. However, as soon as the gates opened people around me went crazy, they started running and pushing, and I felt as if I was in the middle of 42983642364 people having panic attacks. I didn’t know what to do, so I simply ran with them.

Although I had a standing ticket, I still had been assigned a special carriage and ran over to that one, just like 3827462634876 other people. This was before the bullet trains, and I entered a stinky, dirty train, where people were packed as sardines on top of each other. This was during winter, and I was wearing a thick jacket. On the train it was hot as in a sauna.

About halfway to Suzhou I fainted. I didn’t actually hit the floor, because when I passed out I was in the middle of an ocean of people, so they caught me in my fall. Nobody stole my bag and when I regained consciousness I was assigned the seat of a nice looking older gentleman, who gently but firmly pushed me down. A giggling young couple opposite me handed me a bottle of water.

And that’s how I eventually ended up in Suzhou!

Since that ride, I’ve caught the train between Shanghai and Suzhou about 246876463446 times. I’ve enjoyed the change from slow, T-trains to quick D-trains (so called “Bullet trains”), and I’ve realized that people running on a platform is about as usual as people running in the forests back home in Sweden, and nothing to bother with. Unconsciously I’ve obviously been affected by the stressed-out atmosphere, and more than once have I managed to make a fool of myself: being caught at the ladies’ room, climbing over a fence….

I’ve also met some interesting train buddies, where the most interesting one must have been the guy referring to himself as a “man with sex appeal.”

Ah…. Train memories. And now, they are all over. I’m not going to catch that train to Suzhou anymore, at least not for a long time. I have to say that it feels quite nice, even though it’s the end of a great source of blog-post-inspiration.


Phoenixkidd said...

I remember the packed trains in Japan and never understood why they heated them in winter, when everyone had their jackets on, it would get so miserably hot and crowded and I felt like fainting so many times, at least in summer they were cool and nice.

Dingle said...

The new high speed line from Shanghai to Beijing is going to stop at Suzhou North and Hongqiao airport (presumably the last stop on the metro line 2), that's going to put Suzhou about a 15 to 20 minute train ride away from Shanghai, pretty much commutable!

Mountaincat said...

Thats interesting experience. In the same time roads are virtually empty from cars.

Do you have idea where is possible to by second-hand car?