Sunday, 19 March 2017

Old Shanghai and train to Nanjing

ALLIE: DAY 32: Sunday, 18th of March

A walk through the old quarters and onwards by train to my home town Nanjing

I try to be sporty again and get up to do some running along the Bund. Lots of old buddies flying their kites, some folks practising western classical standard dance and a few groups doing Taiqiquan. Most of them are in their 60 or 70ies. The young Chinese seem to avoid the governments recommendation in “keep your health, do exercise!” Wild Saturdays nights out in the city are certainly more preferable to them.

view through coffee shop window to lively street scene
I show Phil around the old circular China town. Nearly all the old houses have been torn down. At least some of the area has been rebuilt in traditional Chinese style but some areas have been turned into hideous looking new housing estates. What a pity!

We get pestered by sellers: ”What to buy Lolei watch? All fake, really cheap!” – “NO!! bu yao!”. After being constantly buggered by these people we really get fed up and I talk to a police man and complain about the situation.

 “Yes, we know about the situation, and it gets worse, but we can’t do anything about it. There are too many of them” he explains to me and then starts to involve me in a conversation about English learning and life in rich Germany.

traditional life in the old quarter
Oh one thing that really makes me happy is to find my favourite Chinese hand cream in one of the small stores. The Chinese nowadays all prefer to buy Nivea and expensive foreign products, so my wonderfully perfumed and ever so cheap cream is at the verge of extinction!

crowded Shanghai streets
When I had asked how and where to buy our train tickets to Nanjing, we were told its easy, just go to the station an hour before and get it there.

Well, I shouldn’t have believed that the situation of the Chinese railway has changed that dramatically within the last 10 years. As we get to the station and I ask for the tickets to Nanjing

I only hear the very familiar word  (at least it was 20 years ago) – “Mei you! No more, sold out!”. What to do now? 

Our friends in Nanjing are expecting us and the next train available would be only the slow train that takes 6 hours. I ask several stationers and we are finally allowed to board the train without tickets. 
modern futuristic Shanghai 

Amazingly we even get two seats and paying up later on the train seems to be no problem. Puh!

It reminded me very much of my many travels 15 years ago, when buying tickets was always a huge problem and made me furious of the system.

But we must give credit to the railway: its always very punctual. Once our neighbours on the train discover that I can speak Chinese they get very curious and chatty.
busy streets in Nanjing
Our train pulls into the brand new train station at Nanjing exactly on time. We are greeted by Meitie and Herbert Bock, friends that we know from ballooning in Bagan.

He is working for Siemens and they have been living here for 3 years in which – as they tell us – the city must have changed tremendously.

Well, but I haven’t been here for at least 8-10 years and I don’t recognize a single structure anymore, except the Jingling Hotel in the city center. 

This hotel was built in 1986 and was then famed as the only 5 star hotel in this whole area. Nowadays it looks rather smallish and basic against the surrounding 50 floor super modern sky scrapers.

with Meitie and Herbert Bock at dinner
I am lost! This town has been like a little village when I was here as a student in 1988.

We used to cycle around the quiet streets with lots of bicycles and hardly any cars and the highest buildings were no more then 4 floors. Now its full of neon lights, Starbucks and a frightening amount of wild traffic. 

We retreat from the madness of the streets to a lovely traditional restaurant where we enjoy Nanjing beer and local specialties.
We stay overnight at our friends house in a enclosed compound on the eastern side of Nanjing.

PHIL: Day 32/ March 18

A morning visiting the reconstructed and un-reconstructed areas of Shanghai’s old heart.

The ‘new’ part, faithfully (I guess) reproducing the old shop-houses and tea rooms of pre-European Shanghai, packed with Chinese and overseas tourists (a Sunday) as was the Starbucks we visited. 
Shanghai catholic church

The ‘original’ scruffy (but much more interesting) streets have no tourists but every food (and other) product you can imagine from live eels to Chinese herbal medicines. 

A Catholic church, somehow not destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, has just finished Mass and an elderly organist makes us welcome as he waits for choir practice to begin.

People’s Park, by contrast, is surrounded by a mixture of spectacular and, generally, pleasing modern structures and the remains of the early 19th –century neo-classical commercial buildings which used to overlook the racecourse that the Park supplanted. 

the famous teahouse in the old Shanghai quarters
The pedestrian street, Nanjing Lu, is a stalking-ground for fake watch salesmen (and women) who become a real irritation after a few minutes. 

We complain to a tourist policeman (of whom there is a plentiful supply) but he shrugs his shoulders, commenting that they occasionally arrest a busload of these hawkers and cart them off but, Hydra-like, they are replaced by yet more within hours. 

Advice on getting the train to Nanjing made it sound easy, but at Shanghai railway station 

Allie is told the train we plan to take is full and all the others are ‘stopping trains’ which take twice as long. She persuades an official to allow us past the barrier and, by good fortune, we pick a carriage with a smiling, chatty supervisor lady who leads us to what appear to be the only free seats on the whole train.
10 years later with Liu Hong, my best friends from my student times in Nanjing

The prospect of spending hours without a seat or, worse still, awaiting a slow train, is dispelled in an instant and we sit drinking Tsing Tao beer and catching up on the appalling backlog of photo and diary transfer to the laptop after ten days inability over the time of our visit to DPRK.

Due to be met off the train by our hosts, a couple who work for Siemens in Nanjing.

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