I’ve barely gotten over my jet leg, and I boarded the high-speed rail to Beijing. I arrived in China just in time to attend China’s First Social Investment Forum. Through my LinkedIn network, I was offered a ticket to attend. So, off I go.
I took the subway to Shanghai’s Hong-Qiao Station (虹桥车站). There are apparently three major rail stations in the City. Unlike New York or London, Shanghai’s subway is relatively new, and has kept up with the times. I was most impressed by the news programming on the TV screens within the subway carts. Though, I do miss the grunginess of the New York subway and the performers!
Upon arrival of Hong-Qiao Station, I was immediately overwhelmed. Everything is big, and new, and shiny. It puts Penn Station to serious shame. I walked around for 15 minutes before realizing I had to go upstairs to the departure terminal. Once identifying where my gate is, I walked around to find lunch. $4 got me a bento box filled with chicken, rice, tofu, and some veggie! I then took a moment to marvel at the train station from the mezzanine.
It is one thing to know that there are a lot of people in China, and it is entirely another to experience. Soon, my train was ready to board. Swarm of people head towards the gate. There are quite a few workers checking ID and ticket. I went to the end of the crowd, unable to discern where the lines are supposed to be. As we move forward, people were aggressively pushing and shoving to get through. I am not exactly sure what the hurry is since the ticket has assigned seat number…
The train is comfortable and FAST. The high-speed rail from Shanghai and Beijing covers 5,700 miles in 5 hours at 303km/hr (188miles/hr). It totally kicks Amtrak’s butt. Luckily, I got a window seat, and was able to comfortably check out the scenery. We hear about China’s rapid development all the time, and it is most impressive to see it first-hand. In the US suburbs, there are matchbox houses that all look exactly the same. Well, in China, they have high-rises that look exactly the same built next to each other.
Train travel is always so much fun. As I sat on the train, I came across this passage in Paulo Coehlo’s Aleph that is most fitting:
Our life is a constant journey, from birth to death. The landscape changes, the people change, our needs change, but the train keeps moving. Life is the train, not the station.