Last week I mentioned I was thinking of going to Shanghai during our upcoming holiday. Well, I’ve booked my train tickets and I’m off tomorrow. I can’t tell you how much I need a holiday and to get away from Xi’an for a bit. I realised the other day that since November when I arrived in Xi’an, the furthest away I’ve been was in January when I went the 50km to the Terracotta Warriors. Since then I haven’t been more than about 10km from the spot I’m sitting in now, in Starbucks. I think part of my getting down about petty annoyances is to do with the pressure cooker environment of having a small circle of friends in a small geographic environment.
I’m actually quite excited to be taking the train to Shanghai. Everyone said I should fly since “it’s only two hours”, but I’ve booked the train as it’s cheaper and far more interesting even though it does take 16 hours. I absolutely abhor flying. The whole process is tedious, and in today’s world of heightened security the constant harassment by personnel playing their roles in the theatre of security dehumanises the experience and adds a load of irritation to the proceedings, but there’s still something appealing about taking a train. And a two hour flight doesn’t take anything like two hours. When flying you spend ages getting to the airport, ages waiting while you check in, ages waiting to go through security, ages waiting to board the plane, then ages waiting for your bags once you “arrive”, then ages trying to get from the airport to the place you’re actually going. “But it only takes two hours to fly” people say. No. A “two hour” flight is actually closer to five hours of harassment by airport staff, security personnel and airline staff.
When travelling by train you go to the station, which is almost always in the centre of the city, get on the train, and then arrive in the centre of the city you’re travelling to. On the journey you see the world go by the window and feel it go by underneath. You see the landscape change and different people getting on and off the train at each stop. There’s something a lot more human about taking the train; travelling huge distances but still on a human scale and interacting with different passengers. In fact, when I went from London to Barcelona and back to do my CELTA I took the train instead of flying. It’s just so much more pleasant. I’m still a little excited to think that the train I’m taking left Lhasa at 11am CST this morning and I’ll pick it up in Xi’an tomorrow evening before it arrives in Shanghai on Friday morning.
I have no idea what I’ll get up to in Shanghai. My friend Neil lives there and I just found out that a friend from my CELTA, Andy, is also there at the moment, so no doubt I’ll catch up with them. As usual when I visit a place I’m less interested in having an itinerary of specific locations to visit then just soaking up the atmosphere and getting a feel for the place. I know I want to eat some good western food as I’ve heard it’s pretty good in Shanghai and I haven’t had a roast dinner in almost half a year. I also want to see the famous skyline from the Bund across to Pudong, and I’d like to go to the viewing gallery in a tall building to take in the view.
As I’ll be back from Shanghai this time next week this is just a short blog update but I’m sure there’ll be a double-bumper blog next week!