The temptation of taking off from Beijing to Shanghai for even a short trip was too great for me to ignore. With the new high-speed train in operation, it would be very easy to hop on a train, see a little bit of Shanghai, then head back to Beijing. It was already on my list of things I wanted to do in China, and when a friend of mine promised to show me a good time while I was there, I was sold.
First, I had to get a ticket.
I wasn’t staying in a particularly touristic area (I was at Suzhoujie), but my host directed me to where I could buy a ticket, warning me that they only take cash, and as far as he knew, they only spoke Chinese. I clutched my money as hard as I could as I nervously walked to the head of the line. I quickly asked the girl at the window, “Train? Shanghai? Ticket?” Poor thing looked confused. Luckily for both of us, there was someone inside the little ticketing kiosk who knew how to speak English, and he helped me out.
I wanted to leave Beijing on a Saturday morning, but I found out that this was the start of a public holiday weekend in China (Mid-Autumn Day). The morning trains were full, and the earliest available one would depart at 2pm, scheduled for arrival at 6:48pm. As I had planned to return to Beijing by lunchtime, this would effectively give me just Saturday night in Shanghai. Still, by this point I was intent on taking that fast train to and from Shanghai. I purchased my second class seater ticket as well as the return for RMB 555 each (approx. $87 one-way).
the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train
Beijing South Railway Station was a large and clean facility from what I saw, but as I was running late, I couldn’t really explore the place. I headed straight for the platform and my train. The train itself was sleek and modern. All seats on the train were facing forward, and I was surprised by how much leg room I had, especially considering that this was in Asia. I later found out that the seats on the train could be swivelled around depending on which direction the train was going, which accounted for the seats facing forward as well as the exceptional leg room. It was a generally comfortable ride, with some onboard entertainment in the form of video screens throughout the train. (Not that I could understand any of it, of course.)
Shanghai Hongqiao Station was also huge and clean. There were a lot of helpful signs in English for tourists to be able to get around. Even buying a ticket for the metro wasn’t difficult and didn’t take up a lot of time. The metro also passes through Hongqiao Airport before going into the city.
Shanghai Hongqiao Station
Just a little more than five hours after leaving Beijing, I was in Shanghai. I met up with my friend right in the city center and had dinner together, before he took me on a very short sightseeing tour followed by some major partying.
First step on the tourist trail was Nanjing Road, which is one of the world’s busiest (and supposedly the world’s longest) shopping streets. It was exactly what you would expect from a busy shopping district: Large malls and department stores, crowds of people shopping or just meandering about, and as it was night, bright shining lights.
Next was The Bund, located on the Western side of the Huangpu River. The Bund features a number of historical buildings, including the HSBC Building (though it now houses the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank). Many of the old buildings on The Bund are in the Art Deco style and look more Western than Chinese, as most of the old buildings were banks, trading houses, and consulates of Western countries.
Finally, across The Bund was the iconic skyline of Pudong. This is what many people think of when you say Shanghai, as the skyline (including the Orient Pearl Tower) is quite recognizable. It is definitely a dazzling display of light, and unsurprisingly The Bund was full of people snapping photos of Pudong. Unfortunately, it was a rather cloudy night, so the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center (the tallest building in China) was barely visible.
From there, my friend and I went to a bar on The Bund, which started a full night of partying. We met a few of my friend’s friends, then headed to another club in the city, where we had a good time. Alcohol was cheap and the music was quite good. (Don’t ask me for any more details; like I said, the alcohol was cheap.) When that club closed at about 4am, we headed off to The Beaver, an expat bar that was open until… well, it didn’t seem like it was going to close when I left. There was a nice big crowd inside, the bartenders were pretty cool, and the music selection was solid.
At about 6:30am, I grabbed a taxi and headed back to Shanghai Hongqiao Station, where I had breakfast at McDonald’s (I did warn you that this was one of my touristy guilty pleasures). Still drunk, I boarded the train and headed back for Beijing, arriving less than 24 hours after I left it.