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LEE A. WOOD


BETWEEN SHANGHAI AND HANGZHOUN, NORTHBOUND MEETS SOUTHBOUND.

I flew into China, not on Air China but on Air Canada. China has modernised its transportation facilities to allow outside companies to compete with its own national airline. They have increased their runways facilities. When I say increased, I don't mean extended, although they may have, I never saw the old airport in Shanghai, I mean they have built a second airport. The new facilities are an enormous glass and steel edifice on the outskirts of PuDong.

From the PuDong International airport, as I am sure there are from the Shanghai airport, flights are available to many destinations within the country.

Until recently, travelling to Mainland China required months of waiting to obtain a visa and travel within China was controlled. As recently as the early nineties, Chinese citizens required permission to move from house to house or town to town.

Gone are the days of policemen stopping you on the corner to ask for your papers. From Dec. `00 to Jan `01 other than traffic police stopping traffic offenders, I never saw a policeman stop anyone, citizen or tourist.

Chinese and tourists alike travel freely within the country. Like residents in any modern city Shanghainese purchase their own homes in modern apartment complexes.

Tourism is as big an industry in China as it is elsewhere, except that the industry is geared for local tourists rather than foreigners. Very few places are set up to handle visitors who speak anything other than Mandarin. To meet anyone who knows how to say more than `Hello' in English is rare.

MARKET(Pic. of market.)
A market full of souvenir stands in central Shanghai,
where someone will call to you, "Hello, CD".

On the occasion you cross paths with someone who knows the word `hello' they love to try it out and are very pleased when you reply in Mandarin. As I strolled the markets I began to believe my nickname was `CD'. People would call to me, "Hello, CD". I wondered how did they learn my name or do all white people look the same to them? But when I turned to reply, I would see that they had a hand full of CDs and were only trying to sell me some music. Most of them would forget about trying to make a sale when I would shake my head and say, "Boo, shay, shay." (No, thank you.)

I had read the horror stories of trying to ride on busses in the city, pushing to get on and pushing to get off. I only encountered this once when I was going into Shanghai, from PuDong, during rush hour. Other than that I was usually able to find a seat on the bus, which was good as many of the busses aren't tall enough for me to stand up straight, I'm 6' 4".

FULL BUS(Pic. of interior of bus.)
Like any other city, busses are full during rush hour.

Some of the busses have only Chinese characters on the front but many of them are numbered and the signs at the stops show English numerals as well as the Chinese characters. It didn't take long to learn which buses would take me downtown and which would take me home again.

You can get on busses through the rear door as well as the front if the bus has a conductor. Some busses require that you deposit the correct change in the coin box as you get on through the front door. On others you find a seat and the conductor comes around after the bus starts to move.

If you don't know how to say where you are going you can get by with just giving the correct fare but if you need change you will have to be able to pronounce your destination. From the far outskirts of PuDong to the heart of Shanghai the fare was Y4 (Yuan) which at that time was about seventy five cents Canadian.

The conductor will give you a small piece of paper but it is not a transfer that will let you ride another bus, it is simply a preprinted receipt. Boarding another bus requires another fare.

I found riding the bus no less enjoyable than I would in any other city but just as enjoyable for the experience of observing and sometimes interacting with the local citizenry. Certainly nothing could have been more enjoyable than riding the 581 over the NanPu Bridge.

NAN PU SQUARE(Pic. of park.)
What would otherwise be wasted land amidst the coils of the
climbing freeway has been turned into a lovely park.

The bus leaves PuDong Nan Lu and enters a freeway which spirals up and up, over itself. In the coils of the rising freeway is a large park, Nan Pu Square. As the highway straightens out and becomes a bridge over the HuangPu river the view is beyond belief. As far as the eye can see, in every direction is city. Passing beneath you, far below are huge ocean going freighters. At each end of the bridge, in a small cubicle, a soldier, to protect the bridge from vandals, stands at attention.

HUANG PU RIVER(Pic. of Huang Pu river.)
The surface and the banks of the river are home to industry.

On the West bank of the river the bridge, its sides lined with flower boxes, spirals back to sea level.

The city is crisscrossed with new freeways. Beneath some of them, on the ground, are large lights that give a ghostly hue of blue to the underneath of the concrete spans that arc high overhead. Others have flood lights all along their sides.

DOWNTOWN FREEWAY(Pic. of Freeway.)
The sides of the freeway are decorated with flowerboxes.
Under the freeway are walkways and green zones.
Here a green zone has exercise equipment and the walkway is used by street vendors.

Unlike modern Canada which grew up around cars and highways, China, early in the twentieth century, turned to rail to move freight and passengers. China is crisscrossed with railway tracks.

CENTURY SQUARE(Pic. of Century Square.)
In the center of the nearly deserted Century Square,
two curved domes cover the entrances to the subway.

Below ground, in Shanghai, the subway system is fast and quiet. Long cars speed through brightly lit tunnels. The wide, spacious cars, with five doors per side, have no doors on the ends allowing passengers to move freely from car to car. The PA system is clear and announces the names of the stops in English. Unfortuneately it is too quiet and is difficult to hear over the noise of the passengers.

The pay system works on a card system. You punch in your destination, the screen tells you how many Yuan to put in, Y2 for 2 or 3 stops, Y3 for 4 to 6 stops, and you get a thin plastic card.

You place the card in a slot on the top of the turnstile, walk through the turnstile and retrieve your card as it comes out a slot on the other end.

When you leave the train you must use the card to exit through another turnstile. This time you don't get your card back.

As I was exiting the turnstile I looked down. A young lady was crawling out from underneath the next turnstile. She looked at me with a worried look and I gave her a smile, sheepishly she returned the smile, sprang to her feet and dashed away.

TRAIN STATION
(Pic. of train station.)
The Main Train Station In Shanghai.
The Blue Tubes Form A Roof Over The Entrance
To A Subway Station.

EXTERIOR

THE EXTERIOR OF THE SHANGHAI TRAIN STATION
INTERIOR

THE INTERIOR OF THE SHANGHAI TRAIN STATION
WAITING ROOM

DESPITE THE IMMENSITY OF THIS WAITING ROOM THE SHANGHAI TRAIN STATION IS SO LARGE IT HAS MORE THAN ONE
ALL ABOARD

`BOARD! PLANK. I KNOW, OLD JOKE

Above ground, trains with twenty and thirty passenger cars whisk travellers, businessmen, and tourists from one part of the vast nation to another. Unlike Canada which is only now twining its major rail lines, China often has three and four tracks on a road bed. Trains pass one another while others scream past in the opposite direction.

In Shanghai, at Tianmu XiLu and HengFeng Lu, the train station is modern, and huge, with hundreds of passengers lining up to get tickets at all hours of the day. The waiting rooms are cavernous. When boarding time comes there are three or four turnstiles moving passengers past the officials who check for tickets.

There are two types of trains that leave the Shanghai station, express and milk run, which means there are two prices. The express to Zhuji, with air conditioned cars and passenger limitation is priced at Y50.

The milk run, which actually only made five stops, allowed you to open the windows, this was handy as the windows were too grimy to take pictures through, and had unlimited passenger capacity. In other words, after they sold all the seats at Y27 they sold Y22 tickets to anyone who wanted to stand in the aisle.

TRAINS IN CHINA, FROM SHANGHAI TO HANGZHOU

FILTERED SUN

THE SUN FILTERS THROUGH THE SMOG AND
LOW LYING CLOUD AS THE TRAIN PASSES UNDER A FREEWAY

PASSING THROUGH
THE TRAIN TO HANGZHOU SEEMED TO STOP
AT EVERY SECOND STATION
NORTH / SOUTH

SOUTHBOUND MEETS NORTHBOUND

SUNSET

THE COUNTRYSIDE IS VERY CLOSE TO SEA LEVEL AND VERY FLAT
IT TAKES A LONG TIME FOR THE SUN TO SET

The trip to Zhuji took five hours. After each stop the isle became more crowded as we seemed to pick up more passenger than we let off. The overhead racks became jammed with luggage and small parcels.

At each stop vendors would push carts along the outside of the train selling food, snacks, and liquid refreshment which passengers buy through the open windows. Between stops vendors with smaller carts traverse the isles of the train.

It is amazing how the vendors navigate their carts through the standing passengers. There is actually little confusion when two carts meet.

Near the end of our journey we left our seats too early and went to the doors. Many people, with their belongings were riding, standing and squatting, in the doorwells and in the space between the cars.

There was a man, with a little girl, trying to reach me so his daughter could hear me speak English. The man was standing in the doorway of one car. I was standing in the space between cars. A lady with a big bag was standing in the next doorway on the second car. On the other side of her was a vendor who had his cart stopped, across from the bathroom, at a small room at the end of the car.

The vendor was refilling his cart from the supplies in the room. People were trying to get past his cart to get into the bathroom. A second vendor, with his cart, was coming from behind the first vendor. A third vendor, with cart, was trying to come through from the first car, behind the man who was trying to reach me.

All of us were surrounded by a mass of humanity that was constantly shifting, trying to ease the passage of the vending carts. All that is except for the lady with the huge bag. She wouldn't, or couldn't, lift it off the floor and there was no where to push it to the side amongst all the feet.

Eventually, with much jostling, the cart was lifted, carefully so as not to spill anything or touch anyone, as the cart was hot and contained soup. Passed from hand to hand, the cart, with vendor squeezing along behind, made it around the lady, and over her bag, to the next car where it totally blocked the isle as it got parked, beside the first cart, at the supply room.

Through all this jostling the man had manoeuvred his way to me. He asked me if I was Canadian and I wondered why. It turned out to be a natural assumption on his part as he had lived in Toronto for awhile. His daughter of three had never seen a white person. I said `Hi', and shook her hand. She gave me a big smile and I managed to give her a small clear rubber ball with a Canadian flag in the middle before I was swept off the train with the departing passengers.

BEAUTIFUL LADY(Pic. of Chen Jun.)
A beautiful young lady, Chen Jun, poses in front of
a `Beautiful Lady of China', on the platform of the Zhuji train depot.

I didn't see any trolley busses in Zhuji but their system of smaller busses was similar to that of Shanghai.

While I hadn't seen many pedicabs in Shanghai there are many in Zhuji. Most of the pedicabs are enclosed, some with curtains but many with hard walls.

There were also many vehicles that looked like pedicabs but had motors. Many of these are like oversize garden tractors, with no mufflers they can be heard for a long way. They seem to burn a crude oil and leave behind a terrible smoke and smell. Some of them incorporate the front of a motorcycle.

Many of these are not for passengers but have an open box for cargo. Some of the boxes can be tipped to dump and are used to haul concrete or dirt, etc.

PEDICAB ?(Pic. of 3 wheel truck.)
A very common vehicle on country roads and in the smaller cities.

Many of these vehicles have a bench on the front of the box for the driver to sit while others have seats and are enclosed against the elements. Some have a steering wheel, some are rear wheel drive. Some are shaft driven while others are belt or chain drive. Outside of Shanghai, these, with their various designs, are a very common vehicle on city streets and along the highways.

Returning from Zhuji we skipped the train on Saturday night because they were only selling standing tickets. Believing the train to be full we waited until Sunday night when again we could only buy standing tickets. Not looking forward to standing for five hours we boarded the train to find that there were many unoccupied seats.

They weren't selling cheap seats because the train was full but because it wasn't and savvy passenger would never pay for a seat knowing they would get one anyway. After all, who wants to go to Shanghai on a Saturday or Sunday night?

When we reached Hangzhou many passengers got off and very few got on. From that point on, not only did everyone have a seat but many people got a bench to themselves and were able to stretch out.

I had a table to myself but as I was too tall to stretch out. I sat on the bench and rested my arms on the table. Several times I awoke and found a different lady sitting beside me.

While the tables on one side of the train had two long benches and sat six the tables on the other side of the isle had a long bench and a short bench so only sat five.

There was a group of six ladies sitting at the table across the isle from me and they were taking turns having the sixth lady sit beside me while I slept.

If you've heard the stories about the bathrooms in China, you may not find them to be true in the cities but you will find them to be true on the train. The facilities are small and have a short concrete trough on the floor with a hole at one end, a curled up lip at the other and two foot pads to stand on while you squat.

BATHROOM(Pic. of old toilet.)
This toilet, in the `Old City Temple' in Shanghai, is very similar
to what is found on trains.

Passengers in China are great eaters of sunflower seeds and the floor is a handy receptacle for the shells. The floors in the stations and on the train are covered with orange peel, sunflower seed shells, sugar cane, and other litter.

On the return train there was room to work and attendants would walk through the cars sweeping the garbage off the tables onto the floors and then sweeping the floor.

Along the route, the train passes over, and under, many new bridges. Highways and freeways are being built everywhere in modern China, although the traffic is not there to demand them, yet.

Shortly after taking the train to Zhuji I experienced one of the freeways we had passed under by taking a bus to Hangzhou.

The destination board in the bus station, like that in the train depot, can be confusing as the posted ticket prices, and the departure times, are in Chinese only.

DESTINATION BOARD
(Pic. of interior of bus depot.)
Interior of the Shanghai bus depot.

BUS TRAVEL IN WEST CENTRAL CHINA

SHANGHAI BUS DEPOT

INTERIOR OF A SHANGHAI BUS
SHANGHAI CITY BUS
BUSSES

THE BUS FROM ZHUJI TO CAO TA
FREEWAY CONSTRUCTION

CHINA IS EXPERIENCING A TRANSPORTATION BOOM.
THREE MORE FREEWWAYS WILL PASS OVER THE NEW ONE WE ARE ON
BUS / TRAIN

THE BUS, ON A NEW FREEWAY, PASSES OVER THE TRAIN
NOTICE HOW MANY TRACKS, TWO IN EACH DIRECTION
WUXIE

EVERY CITY HAS AN EFFICIENT BUS SYSTEM
HANGZHOU

THE BUSSES MAY BE MODERN BUT
LARGE FREIGHT LOADS STILL REQUIRE USE OF THE ROOF

The bus depot in Shanghai is in the district of PuDong at Lian Nan Rd. and PuDong Nan Rd. The price of Y47, (Chinese Yuan.) plus Y3 for insurance, will entitle you to a fairly pleasant, 2 hour, ride aboard a fairly new Daewoo bus equipped with TV.

While most of the passengers kept their curtains closed, to sleep or watch the movie, I kept my curtains open. Though the sky was heavily overcast the visibility was about half a mile.

TOLL BOOTH(Pic. of toll booth.)
One of the two toll booths on the Shanghai to Hangzhou freeway.

Everywhere I looked I saw new construction, businesses, residential complexes, homes, roads, and freeways. One thing I didn't see was traffic. There were few trucks and even fewer cars. Though the tollbooths were many lanes wide, and all booths seemed to be open, there was little for them to do.

If a person was to rent a car to tour the country they would be able to enjoy first class highways and most of the signs are printed in pin yin as well as Chinese.

Hangzhou, like Shanghai has a trolley bus system and like Shanghai, street maps are available that show the bus routes.

In the cities most of the traffic is busses, trucks, and taxis. Taxis are small and if you have a party of three or four with as many large suitcases you will need to take two taxis. All taxi rates are by meter. Some drivers may accept a tip but most will refuse as tipping is not allowed.

Like any foreign country, travel is difficult but not impossible. For those who love: to travel; to see beautiful scenery: meet new people; and aren't afraid to get lost, China is definitely worth the price of the ticket.

END

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