Another early start for me today, well, early in comparison with what I’ve quick become accustomed to through travelling.
As I arrived at Suzhou Railway Station with just under an hour before my train was scheduled to leave, I did wonder why I had allowed so much time.
Then I remembered… to ensure I had time to go back to the South Departures Hall if the decision to go to North Departures Hall was wrong… and you never be quite sure just how long the walk will take from the Metro platform to the station.
Despite my catastrophising, it was fine.
After check in, the passengers were herded onto the platform to await the train and this time I knew where I was sitting.
The carriage numbers were signposted along the platform so I knew roughly where to stand… and then I noticed everyone was queuing in lines at intervals along the platform.
How did they know exactly where to stand?
Modern technology is astounding… utterly amazing…
There was a metal plate embedded at regular points along the platform stating which carriage door would align with it. A modern marvel.
What was impressive was that when the train pulled in, the doors did indeed line up with those plates – no rough estimates here.
Where was I off to this time?
Hangzhou, on the far side of Shanghai.
Because Marco Polo said it was alright. Actually, what the Italian explorer said was: “Above, Heaven; below, Hangzhou”.
So, a 13th century description might be a little out of date… I still thought it would be good to see another side of the Shanghai conurbation and this city of nine million people is famous for Xi Hu – the West Lake.
It became the capital of China in the 12th century (the third capital of China I’ve visited after Beijing and Xi’an) and once this status shifted, Hangzhou continued to be a key trade centre.
The two hour journey took us through Shanghai with an impressive view of the Bund skyline in the distance. The land is a mix of residential, roads and farmland.
After a brief conversation with a chap on the train – once more, my thanks to Manchester United – I arrived in Hangzhou.
The hostel was eight miles from the station. Whatever happened, I was not walking.
Jumping on the number 31 bus, it took an hour to wind through the city traffic.
Buses are cheap – dependent on how far you’re going. For a flat fee, on this bus, of 2Y (about 25p) you can ride one stop or for an hour as I did.
I also scored brownie points with the old ladies riding alongside me.
I gave up my seat.
I didn’t move far away though as I was keeping an eye on my rucksack still in the same area. An old lady tapped me on the shoulder and I had the impression that she wasn’t happy with where I was standing and wanted me to move.
The woman I had given my seat up for intervened and slthe lady nodded and sat back.
Thirty seconds later she grabbed my elbow and I turned to see her staring solemnly at me. I wasnt sure where this was going until she gave me a very serious thumbs up for my actions.
At that point, I felt accepted and we all tutted in disapproval when seats were not given up for other older people.
It’s remarkable how often people don’t need o use words for you to feel accepted.
*Featured Photo: It’s about time I included a photo of a Chinese train as the cover shot.