Waking up, I was still scared to eat the breakfast I normally eat, so today I had a lot of rolls and some potatoes. It was good, but it was quite bland. I was one of 7 members of our group who were sick enough to go the hospital. It was a late morning because there were only 7 students still in Beijing, and my new roommate and I were down by about 9 or so. We had to leave for the bullet train by 11, so we had a few hours to eat and pack for Shanghai (we were skipping Xi’an to catch up with the rest of our group).
It was a nice bus ride to the train station, and when we got there it was the first time I could really see China’s huge population. There were people everywhere, all waiting to get on these trains that I had always thought were a tourist attraction. Well, they were about as much of daily life and culture in China as Chinese food. EVERYONE was taking the bullet train. And for good reason! Rather than flying to Shanghai from Beijing in 3 hours, you could take the train in 4 and have more leg room. Overall, a better deal than flying.
Once on the train, we headed out. It was a long ride, and I hadn’t been able to download any podcasts at the hotel due to the internet restrictions such as no Google or news outlets (I can’t wait to be in America). The ride itself had no problems, and it was quiet and peaceful. The countryside was particularly interesting. Just as I had originally thought of China, we drove by countless fields and pastures. Only, the sky was grey. Why? Because of all the pollution they have created in recent years. It became a gloomy scene, something that could have been so pretty, just like the fields in South Africa. There were also occasional cities, or just large collections of apartment complexes. Not a great contrast to the fields and pastures.
After the long train ride, we finally got to check out Shanghai. The first impression of the city wasn’t a great one; everything smelled like cigarette smoke. There also looked like there were more people in the city than Beijing just by trying to travel to our bus from the train station. There were fewer people on their phones than in Beijing, but there was still a large majority using cellular devices as they tried to walk around. We got to the bus, and had a nice view of the city. The city itself was much bigger than Beijing at first impression, and there were more skyscrapers. Soon after, we checked into one of the nicest hotels I have ever seen. The Regal is a 5-star business hotel, meaning it has tons of nice amenities. After exploring the ping-pong table, pool and bowling alley, we went to dinner at a nice noodle place Liliana (our guide) knew. Originally skeptical of ordering seafood after past stomach issues, I got it and loved it (with a complete and safe night’s sleep following). Already Shanghai is better than Beijing, and with high hopes I was really looking forward to the rest of the trip.