October 28, 2010

NI HAO MA: Transit and Sleeping in Suzhou, China

"We will be stopping on the next station in a few minutes. Next station Suzhou. Next station Suzhou. Be careful not to forget your luggage behind or pick up other passengers luggage by mistake." Word for word transcript of the the recorded voice that drones on the overhead speaker with a subtle warning for TOURONS (tourist morons) and notorious bag thieves that prowls the trains.

When we travel outside of our Lupang Sinilangan and Bayang Magiliw, we also like to check out the scenes in the neighboring province, so for our China trip we decided to venture some 120 kilometers out of Shanghai to see the “Venice of the East - Suzhou”

Booked our train tickets with some level of stress because of the absence of an English speaking ticket attendant but after an hour or so of charade and pantomime, we were able to secure a round trip ticket for 2 in a first class bullet GTrain.

GTrain

The carriage leaves at 8am and as advised we were at the train station two hours before departure. The Shanghai Railway Station is huge with several terminals and looked so much like an airport that my i third world kayumanggi ass was suitably impressed.

Shanghai Railway Station

waiting area

WARNING: The train works like a dream so expect the station to be always full of passengers and locals who have a terrible habit of spitting anywhere and anytime. Go with an open mind, avoid sitting on the floor and carry a face mask with you.

We were even more impressed upon boarding. The train was way bigger and better than the plane that took us to China and boasts of reclining seats, extendable seat cushions and extra leg room. With that said, I still love Cebu Pacific more with their really dirt cheap flights that enables my wanderlust.

inside the bullet train

assigned seat numbers

instructions on how to recline the seats and extend the cushions

Zooming smoothly at past 300 kmph and 25 minutes later, we were gracefully deposited at a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its beautiful gardens and traditional waterside architecture.

From the train we took a short walk to the taxi stand. The queue was long but it was moving steadily with no local jumping the line (they have a notorious habit of nudging their way in) and soon enough we were on the air-conditioned Volkswagen cab and headed to our hotel.

Yes we maybe in an ancient city but we stayed where modern creature comforts can be found.  Booked ourselves a room at the Shangri-la through agoda and got an upgrade with all the fancy trimmings plus an admission to the Horizon Club (read: free flowing booze, food and great views) because upon producing our passports, the kind guy at the front office saw that it was Mj's birthday on that day. Happy happy birthday indeed!

 Shangri-la Lobby

our room

king sized bed with welcome apples

view from our room on the 43rd floor

complimentary toiletries


Merienda Buffet at the Horizon Club Lounge
assorted cheese board  
 
assorted cold cuts 

pork kebabs


Breakfast Buffet at the Horizon Club Lounge

(muffins, bread, croissants)

waffles and pancakes 

hash browns with baked tomato and cheese

TIP: Flying is not the only the option when traveling to another city in China, everyday more than 70 trains run between Shanghai and other cities including Beijing, Xian, Qingdao, Harbin, Chengdu, Hong kong etc. You can book tickets at the station or at the ticket office located at the Bund, or you can ask your hotel to get them for you. Sleeper trains usually sell tickets 10 days before departure date.

written by KIM & MJ

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