When you see it there's a feeling of being overwhelmed each time. Well, it's overwhelming for me. The masses of people in the train station are like nothing else I've ever experienced.
So many people packed into one enormous space. Its the busiest time of the week after work on a Friday. It's sort of like being at an NFL football game. Great masses of people all in one space. There's 30 platforms here in Hangzhou. Counting a smaller area I estimate there are around 500 people per platform. That puts about 15,000 in this large room with me. I've had some near panic attacks being in severely crowded areas before. Not sure why this is so different, but I feel mostly comfortable here. Mix that in with standing out and being noticeably different than everyone else... I don't know. My obvious foreigner count today is zero so far. Well. Me. Do I count as one? When I got in the line to board my train I ended up seeing another pair of dudes with bright white hair. Definitely northern European.
I had another interesting interaction with a Chinese man just before I was about to scan my passport to board the train. I waited in line a long time to finally get to the scanner. He attempted to come out of nowhere and push ahead of me. The guy was wearing a backpack. I grabbed his backpack and pulled him backwards. The look I got was priceless. I gave him a raised eyebrow with the "you sure you want to do this?" He cowered and disappeared. Doing my part to further international relations one comrade at a time.
I'm discovering that not all bullet trains here are the same. My first class seat headed to Shanghai today was more of a pod than a seat. Full lay-flat if I wanted. Spacious. Not bad.
My train arrived at nearly the same time as Aiyun's. We met up and embraced in a "haven't seen you in two weeks" hug. For the record, a public kiss isn't acceptable here. It's just not how they roll.
Checked into one of the many Shanghai Marriott hotels. This one was called Parkview because Daning Park is just across the street. Nice. Looks like it has a large lake in the middle of it. Only a couple of miles from the riverside Bund area. Sweet.
The view from our room didn't disappoint. The big round thingy is a large fountain.
We got up and had breakfast in the main dining area. Fairly typical buffet breakfast for China. I sampled taro root and a Chinese yam this morning. Not bad. The yam was sort of blah, but the taro root had a pleasing flavor. Aiyun tells me they use this a lot in cooking with meat. Just as we were finishing up I got a text from my buddy Tony letting me know that it was cribbage night back in Bellingham.
I was able to respond in kind.
Headed to meet Aiyun's mom this morning. Tune in tomorrow for an update on how that went.