Trying to get to Shanghai from Beijing was supposed to be an inexpensive six hour train ride. However, when Caleb and I got to Beijing, the train tickets to Shanghai were $90 and up. I searched the online ticket system a couple more times and the only cheap option was a 20 hour slow train to Shanghai. Although the slow train had sleepers, the only available tickets were for standing room or hard seats. Standing room was the least expensive at $13 but one would have to stand for 20 hours. Supposedly, some seats become available and one does not have to stand the entire time, but it is not guaranteed though. The hard seat was $27. We considered standing room, but decided on a hard seat at the end.
The price of the slow train targeted locals and Caleb and I were the only foreigners in our car. Very few of the local passengers in our train were heading to Shanghai. Many were from small towns between Beijing and Shanghai and did not often see foreigners. As the only foreigners in the car, Caleb and I were a spectacle. I tried talking with the guy in front of me who spoke very little English and everyone in the car seemed to join the conversation. It seemed at one point like we were surrounded by people asking us questions. I ended up having a dollar bill and my driver’s license passed around the car. Passengers seemed enlightened to see foreign currency and identification. Caleb had his share of show and tell when he made origami and taught a passenger how to do it.
The train finally made it to Shanghai the next morning around 8 AM. Shanghai is China’s largest city with 22 million people living there. Caleb and I had a taste of Shanghai’s population density when we headed to the metro and encountered the largest crowd within a metro I have ever seen. There were so many people that security personnel had to direct people traffic. It seemed one could not escape the crowd when using the metro.
Once we got settled in a local hostel, we had lunch at a Buddhist temple that served vegetarian soup. Afterwards we spent most of the day at the hostel lobby. I tried to catch up on emails.
The next day we tried finding an English Adventist church but only found a Chinese-speaking church. So we spent most of the day walking around Shanghai and sitting in Starbucks (AC and free wifi). Later in the evening we met up with Betty who we had met at the hostel in Beijing. She lives in Shanghai and teaches English there. She showed us the Shanghai cityscape and helped us find local food.
The next day we met up with Betty again. She took us to a local Chinese restaurant which was tasty. We than said our goodbyes to Betty and headed to a temple. However, is started pouring and ended up going to H&M. (Yes, I bought extra clothes. One t-shirt was not enough for the trip).
Early the next morning we had a domestic flight to Nanning which is close to the border of Vietnam. I slept most of the three hour flight but did wake up for the special pre-landing exercises. The loudspeakers announced, “Are you tried? Join us for pre-landing exercises.” The flight attendants then took their positions in the middle of the aisle and began guiding us on these excesses which included rotating our heads and pinching our earlobes. It was quite amusing to see all the passengers taking part of the excerises. Once we landed, we headed to the bus station and caught a bus to Vietnam.