If the only railway station waiting room you’re accustomed to in China is the grimy, smoky one with endless waves of humanity sitting on those red, white and blue striped bags of live produce, then you’re going to enjoy the South Shanghai Railway Station for a change. We were fortunate enough to pass through the gleaming, spotless and modern facility last night on our way back from Hangzhou (RMB 44 for soft seat; 1 hour 50 minutes). It’s everything that Pudong Airport is not.
Okay, so there is still the occasional piece of Chinglish (pictured, below) lurking on the walls. But that’s always a bit of fun, so no complaints from us. The station is in a round stadium-like building — in fact, it’s touted as the “world’s first circular railway station” which makes for a pleasant change from the great square monoliths you currently find in the middle of most Chinese cities. And if you’re anywhere near Line 1 of the subway, it’s a breeze to get to. Five stops from Changshu Lu station, as opposed to six for the Shanghai Railway Station in the north. The transfer from metro to train station is also seamless.
Plus, as far as we could see, the station was devoid of huge crowds of people. Shanghaiist earlier suggested that the place “wouldn’t be empty for long” — and this is no doubt true, since the new terminal is predicted to take over one-third of the city’s train traffic — yet it’s still blissfully quiet compared to the alternative north of Suzhou Creek. The metro had a steady stream of commuters, but you could hear a pin drop in world’s first circular railway station.
Finally, a word of advice for travelers to Hangzhou. Buy a hard seat ticket, rather than soft seat. Okay, so hard seat is cramped and full of guazi shells and cigarette butts. But in soft seat they have flat screen televisions showing Just For Laughs — that turgid gag show for which Shanghaiist is told we have Canada to blame. Gag is the word. The episode on the Hangzhou-Shanghai trip last night featured an elderly midget/vertically-challenged-person shoved inside a washing machine in a public laundry, so she could throw dirty clothes back at the unsuspecting customer who was trying to load up the machine.
Each person responsible for the making of that show should be strapped to a seat — or perhaps an Iron Maiden — with their eyes wrenched open (A Clockwork Orange style) and be forced to watch every reel, again and again and again.
More photos of the South Shanghai Railway Station, here.