Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wuhan and Nanjing, the slow road to Shanghai

Wuhan, not really the most beautiful place ever

After finishing the Yangtze River cruise I wanted to get to Shanghai. It was a 700km or so train journey that started in Wuhan and went through Nanjing before getting there. With time running out on my visa and still so much more to see in China I was hoping to get to Shanghai as soon as possible, but unfortunately train timetables gave me a couple of days to slowly meander along the route.

The Chinese version of space exploration, Wuhan

Seeing I got in so late to Wuhan I didn't have an opportunity to get a ticket out of there straight away so was forced to spend two nights in this city of which I've never really heard of, and is a city that doesn't really deserve to be known.

One of the biggest pedestrian shopping malls in China, in Wuhan

It was getting to the end of my second week in China and I had a pretty good idea of how things work, what I like to eat and what to go see. Typically I'd get a few steamed buns for breakfast, but here in Wuhan I got to enjoy a different breakfast treat. The local breakfast was a fried flat bread filled with chili and other delicious Chinese spices. Washed down with my favorite apple milks made it one of the best breakfasts of my trip. The next morning I got two of the breads because they were just so good. Next after seeing hundreds of religious sites throughout every country I was not too disappointed to chop the Wuhan main Buddhist monastery due to them not giving student discount.

As close as I got to the entrance to Wuhans main tourist attraction

The Yangtze following through Wuhan

So apart from that it was rather uneventful. Being one of the only guests at the hostel I had to spend the day by myself wondering around. The night market and the food street I found were alright, but not really amazing. Leaving the city the next day was quite relieving as I was getting closer to the ever elusive Shanghai. I took a hard seater train to Nanjing a good 12 hours away. It was actually a nice soft seat, but 12 hours is a long time to be sitting in one place. I easily finished my book I had and was left to sleep off the rest of the time. One interesting part was when the couple sitting beside me offered me these weird seeds to eat. They came in shells and you had to bite them apart. With quite a complicated method to it I managed to get some seeds, but mostly just made a horrible mess.

The night market was overflowing with everything in Wuhan

Nanjing from a far distance behind a lake

Because of the stupid day train timetable I didn't arrive till 11pm in Nanjing. Here I got another interesting experience of feeling completely exposed to a travellers nightmare much like in Wuhan. This was because the hostel I was staying at, the Sunflower International Youth Hostel, had some fantastic directions being, quote, “From Nanjing Railway station: Take the subway to San Shan Street stop, Exit 4. Ask locals for Zhan Yuan Lu.”. Having to find a local at midnight to show me where the Zhan Yuan Lu was not a fun task. I came out the subway station and realised I didn't even know what street I was on now. I walked a few blocks to see if I could even see any signs, their weren't any locals around to ask anyway. Feeling like it would be a good time to just start crying and give up on everything, I was lucky to run into a lady who spoke some English and quite persistently lead me nearly to the hostel door. These are the kind of experiences that make you believe in humanity and the rewards of independent travel, but at the same time leave you feeling incredibly home sick and just wanting to be in the comfort of a mundane life.

I walk the lakes edge, living on the line of danger

My day in Nanjing was rather mundane too. I went to the train station in the morning and got a ticket on night train out. Being on the other side of town from where I was staying I basically just spent the day walking back to the hostel. My slight down and out feeling at the time was cheered up with an expensive and rather over the top delicious Blizzard shake, full of chocolate and ice cream. Feeling better I went on a black and white photo expedition, capturing the busy life of a Chinese city. As demonstrated here:

Guy on the left has seen way too much

Too many tourists from within China

Too many decorations going on

The guys on the left are actually dressed in yellow

Everyone is doing something

Too much rubbish

Dangerous intersection

Too many cyclists

Too many motorbikes

The train at night was actually something I was quite excited about. It was a bullet train that flew along at over 200km/hr to Shanghai, much different from slow Russian trains. So even though I left at 7pm it only took 2 hours to get to Shanghai, and being a pretty advanced city had a well established hostel with good directions to it. So even though it was the third time in a row that I'd turned up to a city in the middle of the night I had no problem getting my head on a pillow without feeling like I'd be roughing it for the night. Ahh, travelling by yourself, it makes you realise you are alive!

Bullet trains are bad ass

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