travel junkie goes back to china... and swings by Hangzhou

10:57 PM

Second day in Shanghai started with me racing against time.

Set the alarm on my mobile at six in the morning to give myself enough time to do the following:

1. get ready – this includes morning ablution and breakfast.
2. brave the chilly morning and walk to East Nanjing station.
3. get to the other end of line 2 at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station so I can board the 07:44 D train.

But since my good sense was also on holiday, I decided to stay in bed for another 15 minutes. BAD MOVE.

Consequently, I left the hostel at 06:50 and reached the subway at 07:00. I didn’t know the train had to make nine freaking stops before finally reaching mine. So for every ping and announcement on the PA system, I was praying to St. Jude to get me to the station on time. Funny enough, St. Jude did get me to my stop, Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, at exactly 07:44. (Instead, perhaps I should’ve asked him to get me there at 07:34 and give me enough time to go up the station, pass through security, and walk to the platform.)

Feeling defeated, I called up local girl Rachel and told her I missed my train and will be on the next one. Hopefully, I will be there at Hangzhou around 9:30 am.

I then lined up at the ticket window that said “English speaking” something and changed my D-train ticket to a Z-train ticket. ( Now, before you get confused, here’s an overview of the train system in China.) I handed the lady my D-train ticket and was asked for about another RMB20 for my Z-train second-class ticket. Apparently, I didn’t have to pay for the new ticket because I wasn’t able to use the old one. (Isn’t that such a great policy? If only we have the same rule here at home.)

The ride from shanghai to Hangzhou was uneventful. Except perhaps when a girl who got on at a later stop, disturbed my sleep to ask if I could slide over to her window seat so she could sit across from her friend. I don’t know why (maybe it was the bitch in me) but I turned her down and carried on with my nap.


second-class seats on the Z-train to Hangzhou

Had to catch an early train so needed a fast meal. where else but from the golden arches. Grabbed a spicy grilled chicken sandwich meal and ate it while in transit.

At the dark and seemingly commie Hangzhou train station, Rachel met me with a big smile and a very warm hug. She held on to me so tight that it felt like we’ve been friends forever. You see, Rachel was introduced to me through email by my buddy Cathy just a week before I left Manila. (They were classmates in Hawaii.) So the very warm welcome was a pleasant surprise.  

We walked about a block to the bus stop which I didn't mind, considering it was a pleasantly cool morning. As we alighted the bus and walked to the lake, a lot of things were racing through my head. In particular was Marco Polo’s description of this city;

“the city is beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world, so great that it hath an hundred miles of compass. And there are in it twelve thousand bridges of stone, for the most part so lofty that a great fleet could pass beneath them.”

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect except perhaps that coming alive of a still from a National Geographic Channel documentary that was burnt into my memory. And boy, I wasn't disappointed. Marco Polo’s West Lake was like a goddess rising - beautiful, enchanting, and divine.

the very very very old bridge of west lake

one of the very few boats on the lake at the time i was there

nice spot to sit down with someone

elders hanging out around west lake is a usual sight

tai-ichi along the lake

practicing chinese calligraphy on the pavement

Rachel and I spent the morning walking around the lake and well, getting to know each other. After all, we only had a couple of emails and a week between us. 

I originally wanted to have lunch at Louwailou Restaurant, as recommended by Lonely Planet but it turned out to be one expensive resto and quite hard on the pocket. (In this case, Rachel's pocket who insisted on treating me to lunch.) Instead, she fed me a generous spread (about six or seven dishes for just the two of us!) at grandmother's - one of China's most famous restaurants. (Thanks so much, Rachel! When you come to Manila, I'll be the one feeding you!)
Afterwhich, we explored more of the lakeside parks and attractions before heading off to Qinghengfang Old Street. If you ask me, it was a typical tourist spot with souvenir stalls lining up the street save for a very old chinese drug store (where i suspect even the locals go for their meds.) We went in and was greeted by a typical scene of old-er salespeople, rows and rows of glass jars, and big scary fungi.  

Unfortunately, Rachel had work that evening and thus had to cut our date short. I promised, though, to be back and bring along with me our mutual friend Cathy.

qinghefang old street

happy buddha for luck

kids happy to be with buddha
Either it was because of  the heavy lunch or sheer exhaustion but I slept through the hour-long train ride back to Shanghai.

Abe, another friend who's been to Shanghai, insisted that I get my hinny off to Nanjing Road. And me being a good friend, I did what I was told.  So I braved the chilly winter night and I alighted the train at West Nanjing Station and explored Shanghai's popular shopping district on foot. I went from West to East Nanjing Road and needless to say, the street was ablaze with lights and the frenzied shopping energy was contagious.

lights of east nanjing road

I kept on walking until I reached The Bund simply because:

1. it was the natural thing to do.
2. it was another route to my hostel that i haven't tried. 

The bund at night was charming to say the least and across the river, Pudong lit up quite prettily too. I found a nice spot along the promenade where I took in the sight of the illuminated architecture and the throngs of people who were enchanted by it. But hell, it was freezing! And at around nine in the evening, I finally gave in to the cold and put on my white beret (it's said that body heat also escapes through your head) and two pairs of gloves - a knitted pair under leather ones.

the bund ablaze at night

pudong district seems a bit sci-fi like at night

Read about my final day in Shanghai on my next post.

PS. More stories to come about my days in Beijing.

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