Monday, February 12, 2007

Shanghai Train Station

In the run-up to Chinese New Year's, Shanghai's train station is complete mayhem! Truth be told, Shanghai's train station is complete mayhem any time of the year. It's just a little more extreme around now.

Chinese New Year's in Shanghai is a complete wash. It's the time everybody takes to leave the city and go back to their hometown in the countryside. There's still a little ways to go, and the week-long official vacation starts after New Year's. But a lot of people take personal vacation or have other arrangements to leave earlier, so there's already a stream out of town. On subway line #1, you see a workers streaming off to the train station. They're often carrying cheap plastic knapsacks with a palaka design:

The subway doesn't stop off right next to the train station, transferring in Shanghai always involves spectacularly long walks. The walk first takes you past a long underground hallway full of small shops. They're a little hard to describe - cut-rate boutique stores, perhaps, so you can get a quick gift for the people you're going to visit. I saw a Scorpions T-shirt for sale, underneath is a store selling toys, jade, and pocketbooks.

And even getting out is a challenge, it's crowded at the gateways, and slows down with everybody carrying heavy baggage. Oh, the covering here was of a turquoise plastic, I haven't seen it anywhere else in Shanghai.

I've gotten slightly lost, or at least disoriented, when I've been before. This time, it was possible just to follow the people with their luggage. Doesn't this lady realize her bag has wheels?

Once there, the bus and the train station are right next to each other. Most people have already gotten their tickets at this point, but it's a mass of people waiting for their trains, and wondering if the train is on time or not:

The crowds are so thick, they had traffic cops, to direct the purely pedestrian traffic! I've never seen that before. They blew whistles whenever people came to a complete stop right in the middle of where other people were walking. Come to mention it, I wish they had these policemen all around Shanghai, maybe I could get one as a personal escort?

In constrast to the hectic mad rush of people all about, there was also huge amounts of people just waiting around for the train to arrive:

Lots of people have given me scare stories about trains and train stations, especially around Chinese New Year's. It's the time for people to make the once-a-year trek back to their hometown, a lot of the train travelers are migrant workers from the countryside. They came to Shanghai to make big money, but they didn't earn as much as they thought. So around this time of the year there's extra motivation for them to steal, supposedly, and I've been warned away from taking the train at New Year's many times. This man looks angry, I don't know if he looks like a thief, though.

Another thing I've heard is just how unpleasant it can be to take the train at this time. Going to Western China can take two or three days. However, the trains are absolutely stuffed, in the seated portions of the train (as opposed to the trains with "beds" to sleep on). It's packed to the point of people having to stand in uncomfortable positions for days at a time. Even the bathrooms have people packed solid into them. People literally will take to wearing adult diapers for the journey! And, I don't want to diss on migrant workers, who slave away, thanklessly forming the backbone of China's modern economy. But a trainful of them would have a certain distinct and unpleasant smell. I actually think the migrant-worker type suits are way cool and fashionable, but I guarantee it hasn't been washed and pressed anytime recently:

Some more migrant workers:

This gentleman looks in pain, before the journey has even begun!

And finally, just in time for Valentine's Day, comes this cute little picture:

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