Our family's stay in Shanghai, China

Travel By Train

Mom, Jenna and Laura by the high speed train, a very comfortable way to travel.

David and Laura on the train. Unlike planes, you can use your electronics throughout the trip, with outlets at every seat.

Sorry I’ve been so neglectful of our blog!  We are still here and well, but life has been busy.  We spent 6 days in Beijing and I’ve been swamped with new projects that I’ve started from China, thanks to patient, understanding clients.

Our last major trip in China was to Beijing.  We had the option of flying or taking the train and we decided to take the train.  A Chinese guy we met on our trip asked why we did not fly.  I replied that in the U.S., travel by train is less common and often, less convenient than flying.  Since train travel is so convenient here, we decided to take the train.

Jenna enjoys her music while riding on the train.

All four of us enjoyed traveling by train.  It was about 5 hours by high-speed train and made only two stops.  It was very smooth, with comfortable seats, lots of leg room and even power outlets.   We had access to our suitcases the entire trip and there was a lot to see along the way.  Here are some photos I took going up and coming back.  It gives you an idea of what China is like outside the big cities.  The focus is not always crisp and clear.  We were, after all, traveling over 300 km/hour (about 190mph).

Our trip back to Shanghai started out a bit more eventful than I would have liked.  David had to go back to work on Monday, but the girls and I decided to stay an extra day to see a few more things.  The morning we were to leave, we checked out of the hotel and I requested a taxi card for the Beijing South Railway Station to take the train to Shanghai.

We saw lots of construction activity between Shanghai and Beijing. These appear to be apartment buildings and there were at least 15-20 identical buildings being constructed. Sometimes they were in and around cities;  others were in the middle of farmland.  The sheer number of apartments China needs is staggering.

This looks like a newer housing development with smaller apartment buildings. It was outside the city, in what appeared to be a farming community. Even here, you find apartments, not individual houses.

When we arrived at the train station, we were dropped at the curb, but could see the station across a busy street.  I can’t say it felt quite right, but since the taxi driver did not speak English, I could not ask questions.  As is often the case with busy streets, there was walkway to the station underground.  Unfortunately, they had an escalator going up, but not down, so we had to carry everything down the stairs.  Jenna’s suitcase was too heavy for her, so I took mine down and returned for hers.  About 1/3 of the way down a nice Chinese gentleman took her suitcase from me and carried it the rest of the way.

There were it seemed acres and acres and acres of farmland. Much of it looked like a patchwork quilt with green crops, harvested fields and in some cases, burned fields. For all this farmland, there were very few tractors.

Although most were not, there were what appeared to be intentionally flooded fields and some had people standing in them working.

We arrived in the station and found we had to go through turnstiles.  I took out our train tickets, thinking I needed those to scan.  But, no, I did not need our train tickets.  After multiple conversations in broken English, we learned that our taxi driver had not dropped us at the train station, but at the subway station.  I have no idea whether the hotel staff misunderstood and wrote the wrong thing on the taxi card or whether the taxi driver misread the card.  Either way, the girls and I were in the subway station, needed to get to the train station and had no clue how to navigate the subway.  I briefly considered going back up and finding a taxi, but was worried it would take too much time and we would miss our train.  I wasn’t sure how I would navigate the subway, but thought there would be a map, signs and maybe someone to ask.  It seemed like a better choice.

We saw many of these 3-sided shelter-type structures, covered with plastic, but never could see what was in them. But they dotted the landscape.

I bought our subway tickets and the girls and I started down the stairs.  And yes, yet again, there was an escalator up and stairs down.  As we started to go down, a young Chinese guy walked up and asked if we needed help.  I started to ignore him.  In China, particularly in tourist areas, it’s not unusual to have people offer to help you, give you a personal tour, or sell you something.  We generally ignore unsolicited offers of help.  But, for whatever reason, I actually stopped and looked at him directly.  I said, well, we need to get to the train station and did not realize the taxi had dropped us at the subway station.  He replied, I can help you get there.  Frankly, I was quite skeptical and a little nervous.  Quite often, the Chinese person who offers help is not doing so just to be helpful.  They will want something in return.  Yet, I did not know how I would get to the train station without help from someone.  So, I told him I was not familiar with the subway in Beijing and yes, I could use help getting to the train station.  He said, very confidently “I will help you.”  My response:  “Can I trust you to help me?”  He replied, “Oh yes.  I am a college student at the university in Beijing.  You can trust me.  I will help you.”  I can’t say I was entirely convinced, but he was nice, clean-cut, and spoke fluent English.  Frankly, I did not have a lot of options.  He took Jenna’s suitcase for her and down the stairs we went.

If you look closely near the center of the photo (l-r) in the lower third, you will see a group of people and it looks like one is spraying water. On this trip, we did not see large irrigation systems. Just people with what looked like large water hoses.

He made a phone call, looked at the map and showed me on the map exactly what we needed to do.  If the subway had been a direct line to the station, the girls and I would probably have been okay.  But you had to get off at one station and get on another subway line to reach the train station.

We often saw fields like this with just one or two people working. Nearby would be a dirt road with a bike or moped alongside. I can’t imagine the overwhelming feeling of having fields this size to work by hand.

As we were waiting, he asked to see my train ticket and my “radar” went crazy.  I thought, Okay, here goes, he wants to see the tickets and could run off with my ticket.  So, I carefully pulled out only 1 of the 3 tickets and held it tightly in my hand.  No need to worry though.  He just wanted to see the time to make sure we were not rushed.

Andrew (his American name) led us from the subway station, switched lines and then onto the next line directly to the train station.  He helped Jenna with her suitcase and was as friendly and helpful as he could possibly have been.  What started out as one of our most difficult experiences in China, turned into one our best, all because one guy stopped to help.  My faith is not always as strong as it should be and like many, I have doubts at times.  But, I know that God sent Andrew to us that day.  The girls and I were surrounded by people who spoke little or no English, yet here was a guy who was fluent.  He was observant enough to notice we needed help.  He had the time and was willing to lead us right to the train station.

Abandoned, empty apartment buildings, some looked liked they had been partially demolished. Scenes like this are not uncommon. Also not uncommon, are partially constructed buildings with no signs of life, as if they started constructed, but abandoned the project before completion.

We aren’t sure if this is an aqueduct or what, but it was so interesting and stood out against the backdrop of farm fields, I had to take a picture.

I hope you enjoy the train travel photos.  We will have more blogs on our Beijing trip, including our rickshaw rides, both planned and unplanned!

This photo was taken on the outskirts of Shanghai. Sad, forlorn looking buildings are like this are not unusual anywhere we have been. Grey, unpainted concrete is common. Sometimes they are partially demolished with people still living in the undemolished portion. Often rubble, trash heaps, etc. are nearby. As we have said before China is a country of incredible extremes from great wealth to great poverty.

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Comments on: "Travel By Train" (1)

  1. Tammy Kalstad said:

    It has been great to read about your journey – can’t wait to hear about your time in person. We are excited for you to get back to Noblesville. Please let me know when you get back and we can be ready for the girls to rejoin the groups! I will keep you in my prayers for safe travels back to the USA and Noblesville!
    Tammy Kalstad

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