By Joanna Elvy
After the WCTRS conference had finished, Karen, Julian and I decided to embark on a day trip to Hangzhou. However this trip was not without its transport challenges. In order to get there we had to take a 50 minute metro ride to Hongqiao station on the outskirts of the city, where we were met with a confusing departure board full of various options, departures and train types. Fortunately the person we spoke to in the ticket office spoke English and was very helpful. Once we were on our way on the high speed train, we found it to be clean, orderly and comfortable and we arrived in Hangzhou less than an hour later.
Once in Hangzhou itself we successfully negotiated it’s metro and found ourselves just a block from the edge of the beautiful West Lake. If I had any abiding memories of the city it was that the air was cleaner and the sky bluer than we had been used to in Shanghai. It was also noticeably hotter but less humid. Our first task was to tackle some dragonfruit lollies that melted quicker than we could eat them. Creating a sticky mess aside we had a very pleasant walk along the lake to the pagoda and back. In an effort to see a more authentic traditional side to China we also visited the old town (Hefang Street) although as Jennifer outlines in her article on Hangzou, this felt more like a Disney version of old China with its dazzling array of gift shops.
The most nerve wracking part of our adventure was getting back to Shanghai. First we tried Hangzhou station itself which was crazily busy but there the ticket machines were for Chinese ID card holders only and the ticket queues were roughly 30-40 deep. As we knew that there more trains to Shanghai from Hangzhou East we gave up and travelled there instead. However, when we arrived the ticket queues were even longer! Here the departure board was not in English so we were not certain about our options whilst in the queue. After a 50 minute wait we were finally served and managed to get standing only tickets for a train in about 2 hours time. The queue to get through security was equally bewildering (all Metro and train stations we visited in China had airport style scanners) and when we got into the main concourse itself we were greeted with perhaps the largest concentration of people we’d ever seen on any mode of transport.
The journey home however was uneventful and not as crowded as we had feared. Overall it gave us an insight into transport in China that a visit to Shanghai alone would not have done. Perhaps next time though we will book our train tickets in advance!