Day 9: The One Where the Gang Gets Back Together

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We had to wake up very early to make our train, but I was glad we were at least able to snag breakfast before we left the hotel. For some reason, the city decided to build the train station 45 minutes away from the city center. While western train stations may be smaller, older, and generally worse than Chinese train stations, at least they are usually located in the city center. That said, the Xi’an station made the Beijing station look like nothing. The building was enormous and was one large open space with escalators to the platforms in the middle and stores located around the perimeter. It looked more like an airport than a train station. I tried to buy an ice cream from McDonalds, but the ice cream machine was broken. It appears to be a universal problem, so I bought an ice cream from a convenience store instead. The only negative of my experience with the train was my suitcase. I had noticed the handle was loose after the flight to Beijing, and the train to Xi’an had finished it off, snapping the handle clean off. Thus, I was forced to haul my suitcase around with a rope; this was very inconvenient. On the train we ate some weird Chinese snacks and pastries we bought in Xi’an. They were pretty good, and one was very similar to a moon pie.

Xi’an Train Station

After many hours of sleeping, we arrived in Shanghai. Just walking through the train station, I could sense that Shanghai was a different type of city than Beijing or Xi’an. The station felt busy, fast paced, and modern. I was thrilled to see the return of the orange juice vending machine, an essential modern service that had been missing in Xi’an. We got on the bus to head to the Shanghai history museum in an area of the city called Pudong. We drove past elevated highways, traditional Chinese palace, French style apartments, and eventually we reached Pudong, the most incredible city I’d seen in my entire life. We got off the bus and were surrounded by skyscrapers. In every direction were these massive buildings, bigger than anything in America. The museum was in the TV Tower, a very uniquely designed building. Outside the TV tower, we were finally reunited with the sick boys and Liliana. It was a joyous reunion. The museum was neat. It was cool to see how the city evolved from a Chinese village to a center of foreign influence and concessions to the metropolis it is today. Outside the museum, a group of monks had a photoshoot with the girls. We were told the monks lived in Western China and may have never seen westerners before. At dinner, we all seemingly forgot how to use chopsticks as we hilariously spilled our food and our tea all over the table. Finally, we did what I had been waiting for: the river cruise.

Pudong

The cruise along the Huangpu River had amazing views of the bund, the older, very European part of the city, and Pudong, the brand new financial center of the world. All of the buildings in Pudong have been built in the last 30 years. That seemed impossible to me; it’s an entire city after all! But it is just another example of the staggering construction projects China is capable of undertaking. We took a lot of photos on the cruise and probably annoyed a lot of other tourists, but our group was reunited and very happy. After the cruise, we were finally able to check in to the hotel, by far the fanciest we had stayed in so far. After checking in, a few of us walked to a nearby park to explore. We ruined a few romantic moments, saw a cat, and laid down on the grass gazing at the skyline of this incredible city.

Pudong at night

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