While everything is on hold and in the grip of the coronavirus (not only) in China, I don’t want to miss out on sharing some travelling I did, before things went crazy.
After spending a couple of days exploring Guangzhou a little further and walking down memory lane a bit, I took an overnight train to Shanghai. Several times I had been to this city, the last time only a couple of years ago on a quick stopover with my mom on our way to Cambodia. I remember Shanghai as the most western city in China. As much as the cultural and historical heart of the country beats in Beijing, Shanghai very likely has quite a high heart rate when it comes to financial businesses. The city is known to be a global center for finance, innovation, and transportation, and the Port of Shanghai is the world’s busiest container port. Also, by 2019 with about 180 000 people almost as double as many foreigners live in Shanghai as in Beijing. In total about 24 million people live in this huge city at the southern estuary of the river Yangtze, where also the HuangPu flows right through. The most prominent place is probably the famous Bund that is a waterfront boulevard in central Shanghai. Here you can find the magnificent buildings from colonial times in the Beaux Arts style, from back when the British, French, Japanese, Russian, US-Americans, Germans where holding numerous banks, trading houses and even embassies. Opposing this historical part of Shanghai, you’d find the modern and somewhat iconic skyline of the city with some of the cities best-known buildings such as the Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower and many more. A visit is never complete without paying the Bund a short visit.
However, I didn’t come to Shanghai for sightseeing. These two days where filled with catching up: Helen, who I studied with, happens to be a teacher in Shanghai and eventually we found time and opportunity to meet up after haven’t seen for a mere 15 years. It didn’t feel like we haven’t met for a long time at all! Good times!
… and – social media made it happen! – I met up again with Anja, who flies around the globe for a living. We both grew up in the same area and we went to school together for many years. After school paths have separated, but when I put in my Instagram story, that I am travelling around China a bit, she contacted me and half-seriously/have jokingly asked me about the odds to meet up as she was about to fly to Shanghai. … and It worked out! We met in the labyrinth of one of those huge Chinese markets where we went shopping for glasses together while catching up. We couldn’t believe it ourselves – the last time we actually met was 2008 in New York City and now again on literally the other side of the planet.
After days full of laughter, sharing stories and experiences and after I got myself two new fancy fake-designer glasses for a fracture of the original price I’d have to pay elsewhere, I eventually took a high speed train back to the capital. I usually love going on epic train rides on a slow pace, but unfortunately all tickets for the ordinary trains were sold out. So I got a ticket for a fast one: being on a train that only needs 6.5 hours to cover 1300 km was impressive. But to my disappointment the world outside of my window was very dull: construction sites, faceless conglomerates of ever-same looking high-rise apartment buildings, a grey and hazy sky because of miserable January-weather and air pollution. But, on the positive side, that is definitely a serious and, even more important, sustainable alternative to a domestic flight.