I-5: Return to Hangzhou - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

October 10, 2019

I-5: Return to Hangzhou

Level Three of the Train Station (shops and ticketing) looking down at Level Two (waiting areas and shops)
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I've confirmed that my carefully purchased inner tube did not get left at Mango's along with the luggage that would have gotten mailed back to Haikou the first day if it hadn't been raining so hard when I left so I tried to at least buy a patch kit from the local hardware store or a corner tire patch place before I left but one didn't have one and the other refused to sell me one. He only patches tires you see. He doesn't provide other people with the ability to patch them themselves.

Hopefully the Giant in Hangzhou that sold me tire levers will have at least a tube in my size (26" definitely being more common than a wide 700c but 26" with Presta still being frustratingly uncommon) as, based on past experience with most Chinese bike shops, the only patch kit they'll have will be the convenient 'glueless' kind with four rubber patches and a tiny piece of sandpaper. 

I arrived in Shanghai the day before yesterday via the Hongqiao Railway Station which has most of the high speed rail connections. However, it was at least an hour of city travel away from me in order to save an hour (and then spend an extra 50 yuan) on my train ticket so it seemed prudent to go with the slow rail. 

Which was fine by me. The bullet trains were all fun and interesting and whoooooshy the first few times I took them, but I prefer the layout and style of the slow trains.

They are, for lack of a better word, more communalist.

Shared table for passengers
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Image not found :(
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Instead of each passenger having an individual drop down tray table and slightly reclinable seat (depending on your class of ticket and the class of high speed train), the slow trains cluster the passengers together with a single table to share between either 4 or 6 seats. For particularly long trains or nicer classes, each table cluster will also come with its own hot water thermos and thermos holder. The assumption is that of course you are traveling with other people and if you aren't traveling with other people (you weirdo) you want to interact with the other people who happen to be going the same direction you are.

The fast trains, however, even when you are traveling with other people, make it as hard as humanly possible to interact with anyone else. The same sound dampening that quiets the rushing outside noise from the speed of the train somehow forces people who want to talk to each other from any position other than right next to each other to have to raise their voices enough so that everyone on the train is uncomfortably brought in to the conversation.

And don't get me started on the arm rests that no one uses but which pinch my wide American hips and butt versus the possibility that I'm spreading an extra half inch into someone else's space.

I'll grant you, I can't use a laptop in the seats on a slow train but I've never actually found myself wanting to either.

I'm also a massive curmudgeon when it comes to this decade's redesign of the sleeper cars to insulate each compartment from the others in such a way as to "safely" prevent the possibility of night time thieves by hampering air circulation, narrowing corridors, removing places to sit and interact with fellow passengers, making the storage of luggage more difficult, making it harder to safely climb up to the higher bunks, and—if you have a thief on the top bunks in your compartment—giving him quiet and exclusive access to everyone's stored luggage. 

I digress. And my preference in train type is neither here nor there since the times I'm taking a train in China, I generally have no choice in the matter. It's just that today's journey from a major city to a different major city happened to cover an area that still has slow trains available.

The Shanghai South Railway Station is so modern and so clean and so beautiful and such a modernist work of art that I was sure it had to be a completely modern train station. It's not, however. In fact, one of the Top 100 Most Influential Photos of the 20th Century, A Motherless Chinese Child was shot there on August 28, 1937. The current design is only a little over a decade old though and makes it, according to reports at the time, "one of the biggest train stations in Asia".

Departures Board
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Incredible Ceiling
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I've been to quite a few of these Chinese stations that call themselves biggest and I can't hardly see how Shanghai South Railway even gets on the list. Perhaps it is the circular design that guides you places without making you feel like you've walked miles upon miles but it seemed smaller than Hangzhou Station either two days ago or today, smaller than Shijiazhuang Station from my last tour, and smaller than Beijing West Station or Guangzhou Station.

I think for civil engineers (and the cities that fund them) to refer to a train station or a bridge or a tunnel as the biggest, longest, most capable of serving a high volume of passengers, it must be some kind of pride thing that has absolutely nothing to do with actual size.

Wandering the Corridors of Hangzhou Station in search of a toilet and the taxi ranks
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Got in to Hangzhou at a little past 1pm. Took an hour to find my way out of the train station (I wish I was joking). Even before Lenovo Customer Service telling me that of course they hadn't actually ordered my replacement screen because the validity issue regarding my clearly valid warranty hadn't been solved yet, I'd already decided that spending a night in Hangzhou and starting in the morning would be better; would mean that I might make it all the way to the end of cityland by the time dark falls; would mean that I'd actually get to enjoy my ride out of the city through the West Lake part of Hangzhou; would mean that I could have curry for dinner.

Sully and MiniMe (MiniHe?) v2.0 at dinner
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Today's ride: 7 km (4 miles)
Total: 394 km (245 miles)

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