For the first time since we moved to
We took it easy the first weekend and met some friends for brunch, followed by a leisurely tour of the riverfront and the famous skyline (through the haze, of course). For his second weekend, however, we decided it was time to make the trip to
So I was charged with procuring our tickets from the train station the day before our trip. Train stations are notorious for being a cluster in
I followed a great number of signs and found a large ticket counter. After gazing at a train schedule entirely in characters and feeling defeated at the 20 jam packed lines before me, I decided this was the wrong counter. I followed more signs. I went outside. Low and behold! I found another counter in a separate building. It was less hectic, too. I quickly scanned for an English ticket line, but coming up empty handed, I just picked a line with a ticket girl who looked calm and collected. Such an inexact science…
So the next morning, the three of us get to the station and go down to the platform to board the train. "That ain't no bullet train," David said as we approached the car. Oh no, I thought. I forgot to ask for the bullet train! No wonder it was so cheap! To be fair, I had no idea how to say bullet train, so I probably would've had to resort to ridiculous sign language to indicate "fast!", but it might have worked. I was concentrating so hard on the vital info to convey, that I forgot to confirm which kind of train we were taking. The guys insisted it was okay, that it would only take a little longer. I just felt dumb. We settled in for a 2 and a half hour ride (instead of the speedy 1.25 hour trip on the bullet). It was just fine, but we made sure to get the fast train on our return trip, for the time factor and for the comfortable seats.
Plenty of attractions await visitors in Hangzhou, but we had no schedule or list of must sees, so we just took it easy. We had some lunch, wandered along the waterfront, and then took a boat across the lake. The forecast had predicted rain, but we lucked out. We apparently left the rain behind in Shanghai and enjoyed a warmish day with hazy sunshine. I was so happy. Trees were budding and flowers were peeking out all over the place. We even saw a real, live lawn of gorgeous green grass. I wanted to run through it barefoot so badly despite it being roped off. Well, I did until David mused at how many people must have spit in it. Way to kill the dream!
It came time to leave and we suddenly realized it would be nearly impossible to catch a cab back to the train station. So many people were clogging the street and the traffic was not moving through very quickly. With our departure time getting near, it was a mild panic, as it wouldn't have been a total tragedy if we missed the train. We could just go back later or the next day. Still, it was frustrating to not know what to do. We're used to just hailing a cab wherever we are with no problem. After some time, a dilapidated van pulled up and David asked the driver if he could take us to the train station. He already had two other passengers, and they were Chinese, so I figured this venture to be relatively safe. They negotiated a price and we were off.
As we drove back through the main streets, it became obvious that Hangzhou is quite an affluent town. Modern buildings lined the streets filled with cafes and little shops. We passed a Maserati, Ferrari and several other high end car dealerships. I had fleeting moments when I felt like I was in some swanky American city with all the luxuries you could ever want at your fingertips to go nicely in your getaway lake house, complete with that tourist town vibe. Of course, the occasional rusty bike wagons filled with cardboard passing by provided a shot of reality. I’m still in
I think if we had gone to