Today was a late morning and we departed for the train station by noon. We arrived a the bullet train station only an hour and a half before our train departed, so we didn’t have to wait long before boarding. Like many other public spaces in China, I was impressed not only by the size of the station, but also the amount of people that occupied the waiting hall. We were soon seated on the bullet train to Shanghai, with reclining chairs and ample leg room, a luxurious experience compared to the airplane we sat in getting to Beijing.
When they tell you the bullet train’s going to be fast, trust me, it’s plenty fast. Here I tried to take a timelapse from one station to the next, but other than the last few seconds where we were slowing down to stop, it just looks like a series of random images.
Some things I found interesting about the journey included how much the train swayed. As you can probably see in the video with the horizon moving up and down, the train frequently seemed to sway back and forth on the tracks. When a bullet train heading the opposite direction passed us, it hit with a roar and even more shaking. Even so, the ride was very smooth which was impressive considering we were moving forward at about 200mph.
I also noticed that the gray smog that plagued Beijing never seemed to leave the skies, even as we moved away from the cities and into the countryside. I don’t think we had a single day of blue skies in Beijing, but I was surprised to see that trend continue over such a large part of eastern China. It was very nice to see the sights of the countryside anyway, especially when we would ride past mountainous outcroppings.
When looking through the safety manual that was provided in the backs of every seat I found this image below:
I believe that it references China’s social credit system, which rates Chinese citizens based on their actions. Scores can be lowered for things such as jaywalking, spreading fake news, and apparently, riding the train without a ticket. This program is relatively new for the Chinese government, but a low score can prevent you from getting a government job, traveling by plane or train, and even being put on a public blacklist. This was something that hadn’t been brought up at any of our discussions with our Chinese guides, but I still thought was interesting. This form of punishment I think really only works in more authoritarian systems of government where the power is very centralized in the state, and it’s one thing that I hope never gets adopted in the United States.
Upon arrival in Shanghai we dropped our things off at the hotel, and Lilliana brought us to a delicious noodle place only a few blocks from the hotel.
After dinner we had time to explore the incredible five-star hotel that would be our home for the next week. This place had all the works: pool, ping pong tables, racquetball court, indoor tennis court! (We later found that the indoor tennis courts cost money to use, but it was still cool that they were there.) Our rooms were incredibly nice, and the view from our room on the 21st floor was incredible: