24 October 2017

China High Speed Rail: Wuhan - Shanghai!

For a developing country, China's high speed rail network is quite remarkable, looking at one section that I took at the end of July 2017 brought together one place that I lived in for two years and three others that I have visited. From Wuhan Railway Station to Shanghai Hongqiao with two express stops in Hefei and Nanjing south stations concluded my experiences in China. 

Setting off from Wuhan Railway Station on the 28th of July 2017 signified the end of my time living in Wuhan, China. From the first moments in Hankou to the final moment that saw me running for my first class carriage kept me on my toes. English teaching was definitely my trade during that time but I got around the city to see some amazing sights indeed, some slightly unrefined but that's Wuhan! The Yellow Crane Tower impressed me with its panoramic views over Wuchang and across the Yangtze River. My Guanggu location had me crazy, but towards the end of my second year of living there I felt comfortable amongst the madness. It was such a conflicting feeling as I relaxed into my Shanghai bound first class seat, I had wanted that moment to happen, it was definitely tinged with sadness. Living in Wuhan hadn't been a walk in the park but those pitfalls and challenges shaped me for my next chapter. W!

Wuhan's East Lake had me chilled with its never-ending scenic views, contrasting with the quiet of Hubei's tranquil charms I had my first mad nights out at Wuhan Prison. That underground bar gave me my first taste of Wuhan nightlife, that evolved with my partner in crime Fiona because turned the party up! Coffee and cake along Tanhualin served a slice of Wuhan life that gave me life, over the waters in Hankou I was shown another sedate scene thanks to a special friend. Hanyang had a set of new rules, fashioning itself into something else I adored Qinghuan Pavilion and Guishan Park without hesitation. My nonstop kindergarten life glued all of this craziness together, keeping it together I applied myself to my trade. I had traveled from Wuhan Railway Station many times before that Shanghai departure but that final journey finally pulled me away from Wuhan. That Hubei city gave a fist full of surprises but a bucket full of dreams that I worked hard to turn into gold! Chill out, Wuhan!

Stopping in Hefei, Anhui, the third time round gave me a sense of accomplishment, casting my mind back to my Nanjing trip I had passed through Anhui's south station with a certain curiosity. Biting the bullet for 2017's Dragon Boat Festival weekend took me to Hefei, Anhui to see what that pint-sized city had to offer. Quiet but perfectly formed, Hefei had a very pedestrian feel about it with not much madness going on compared to the many big cities in China. A certain phase of construction was going strong around Hefei's south rail station but the remainder of the city sat waiting for the next phase. Investing my time visiting cities that didn't attract the masses always gave me life, Hefei had an unrefined nature that oozed qualities that larger cities have lost within the maddening crowds. Lord Bao kept it calm for me, allowing me to do some serious walking without being surrounded by the usual madness! Hefei knew this!

Hefei had parks without admission fees, being within a national holiday it was amazing to be one of the only people going about their business within the city's Municipal Square, the calmness was almost unnerving. Compared to my previous Dragon Boat Festival weekend I was pleasantly surprised to experience it without crowds or fussing, it can be quite something else in China during these holidays. Not forgetting my high speed rail journey from Wuhan, I felt appreciative for my time spent in Hefei as that Anhui city needed time but I had seen it before the boom bang had truly happened. Hefei had my attention for some reason, it was meant to have been one of my first twenty-seven places for my first China chapter. My G train hurtled towards its Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station terminus, my view of Wuhan had disappeared already but I was feeling blessed nevertheless, Hefei and Wuhan's chapters had been closed tightly but I was good with that development. Jiangsu grew nearer.

The penultimate stop along my final China high speed rail journey from Wuhan to Shanghai Hognqiao was fast approaching. Nanjing had me going round in circles, trusting that Jiangsu city during 2016's Dragon Boat Festival I saw everything that I wanted, well considering I got lost multiple times! The chilled nature of Nanjing's city streets impressed me much, giving me a sense of calm that Wuhan could only dream of. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen had brought me to my third and final place of remembrance after Wuhan and Guangzhou respectively. The Mausoleum of Zhongshan was worth the wait, even the manic crowds didn't bother me as much as usual, but that lady needed to respect the rules regarding photography! Unlike Wuhan and Hefei it wasn't easy to take a peak of Nanjing's city vista because that high speed train sneaked into Nanjing South Railway Station and departed after a few moments bound of Shanghai Hongqiao.

Reliving those Nanjing memories as that speedy train hurtled towards one of China's four metropolis's it gave me time to think what milestones I had achieved during those two years in China. The time period when I visited Nanjing was such a busy time, the escape to Nanjing showed me places that instilled some chill into my life for that long weekend. Spending a snapshot alongside the waters of the Qinhuai River showed me a lovely river vista, chaotic with tourists I casted those people out of my view to enjoy the sights that surrounded me. First Class was treating me well, I relaxed back into my seat as the Chinese countryside whizzed past me, the ordeal of getting on the train was pure drama but I was well on my way to connect with my flight that bound for Moscow in the early hours of the next morning. Nanjing once again became a distant memory, hurtling through the remainder of Jiangsu Province meant the municipality of Shanghai was growing ever closer. England called me B!

Checking Baidu Maps on my phone revealed my train was passing through Suzhou, Jiangsu. Suzhou wasn't one of my stops because my train was bound straight for Hongqiao Railway Station but that Jiangsu Province city played a pivotal part during the first phases of my time in China, it was all so new back then! Leaving that blurred view of Suzhou's city limits meant my high speed train finally made its approach into its final station stop, getting my things together was fine but the next phase of journey to Shanghai's Pudong International Airport was going to be a mad one! Hongqiao Railway Station oozed that Shanghai city feeling as I passed through the main station concourse. The taxi line was a joke, not wasting any time I used my suitcases as buffers as I powered to the east exit because that seemed like a great idea at that time! It was an ordeal with three suitcases but I made it into a DiDi bound for the airport. Oh S!

I had completed my final high speed rail journey in China for that chapter from Wuhan Railway Station to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in under five hours, stopping at two key stations flashed back memories of my previous visits to those places. Leaving Wuhan had to be done but I didn't appreciate the craze before and during the boarding process! Returning to Shanghai, the city that I arrived into two years previous of that late July 2017 high speed arrival was magic, time was still on my side! I definitely plan on creating more China high speed rail themed blogs in the future as I'm planning to make my return to China in a few weeks but to Beijing because Wuhan just wasn't international! Through the stress of that epic journey it was one major relief to touchdown into London Heathrow Airport the following day, the epic journey from Wuhan to London via Shanghai and Moscow was something else entirely! So, next time will be from Wuhan to Shenzhen North! I'll revisit Shenzhen!

Tickets, please!

Joseph Harrison

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