Again with the Trains!
OMFG! Take a fast train why don't you! No really, try it. The train we took from Suzhou to Shanghai today was so fast. It took an hour to get from Morag's place to the train station by bus, and then half an hour to get all the way to Shanghai. Check it on the map. Wicked ass. Our top speed was 341km/h. I know some of the fancy Japanese Mag-Lev trains go over 400km/h, but that is the fastest I have ever gone, except in a plane. I loved it.
OMFG! The subways in Shanghai! What a system. Big, complicated, cheap, clean, easy to navigate ticket buying system in English and Chinese (all touch screen), and on some of the lines the platforms have a glass panel and the train doors line up with sliding glass doors in the panel and it is like a big long train elevator door system. The best part about the trains though (besides the little LED flashing station indicator that shows you where you are and where you are going) is that there are no doors between cars, so you stand at one end of the train and you can see all the way down to the other end, and when it turns a corner it is like you are on the inside of a snake.
OMFG! The money here! A couple of posts back I mentioned that the social life/economy in the cities we have visited doesn't match up to the image created by those vintage Maoist posters. Well Shanghai, the birthplace of Chinese Communism, has gone completely the other way. (At least on the surface, I know little of the ins-and-outs of contemporary Chinese politics and there may well be things going on that rival the heyday of the Gang Of Four.) One of the activities we attempted today (and failed at) was visit a museum at the little house where the founding meeting of the Chinese Communist Party took place. It is in this ultra chi-chi boutique lined avenue. It is within spitting distance of a Rolls Royce dealership, and restaurants that look like they would be by invitation only. Just 2 blocks away are HUGE flagship Apple, and Versace outlets and acre after acre of upscale stores. (There was a Beard Papa though, and we did get a Cream Bun, and it was delightful.) The Party and what came out of it must still be important to people though, the whole time we were standing around the museum, people kept coming up and taking pictures of their families in front of the plaque on the door.
Really today was a failure in many ways. We slept late. We almost fought at the house, and then again when we got off the train in Shanghai. I tripped and hurt my knee. Two of the four places we set out to visit were closed by the time we got there. I got Beard Papa cream all in my mustache, some Belgians/Germans/Austrians made fun of us for taking the subway instead of walking, and the women at the Buddhist restaurant tonight treated me like I was an imbecile. But it wasn't a failure. The train and subway rocked it. The Chinese Propaganda Poster Museum was fantastic. Most of those posters were trashed when Deng Xiaoping took office, and the museum has thousands. We bought a nice one for Morag's room, to remind her that science is hard work, but paramount for the revolution. We didn't make it to the Jade Buddha Temple on time, but we did make it to the Jade Buddha Temple Vegetarian Restaurant, and despite the withering service, the food was such a pleasure. It was the first vegetarian restaurant we have been to, it was a relief not to have to keep an eye out for stray flesh, all the different fake meats were divine, and the greens weren't completely over cooked. (Bok Choy gets sort of gross when it is cooked to death, and I LOVE Bok Choy.)
We are back at our Hostel, the bar may be playing nasty techno, but it is smoke free, almost empty, just us another backpack type couple and some chinese guys playing poker. The fireworks are going, but they are far enough off in the distance that they can be ignored.
Tomorrow we are doing a couple of other sections of the city. The Bund (old European downtown) and Pudong (crazy new skyscraper downtown). The plan is to go home on an evening train, but we are going to decide if we want another night over breakfast tomorrow.