Friday, 14 May 2010

Shanghai - Day 2 - Shanghai Railway Station

P.C. Lee isn't Chinese Robert E. Lee Nor Colonel Sanders

24 °C
                      
"Go fetch some Expo tickets", Atta barked the order.
"Woof, woof!", I panted.

The Shanghai local TV news (CCTV-3) warned that the ticket queue at the Expo site can be up to 2 hours long, so we better find an alternative outlet to buy. according to the Shanghai Expo website, tickets are also available at Alldays, Lawson, Hualian supermarket chain, and Lianhua supermarket chain. So I decided to try my luck at the Lianhua Supermarket in Xinzha Road. In order to get there from my hotel, I have to get on to Langao Metro station on Line 7, then switch to Line 3/4 on Zhenping Road Station, then switch again on Shanghai Railway Station to Line 1. It was only 6 stations apart, but there're 2 interchanges. Despite of this, I prefer to get there by Metro instead of taxi for 2 reasons:
1. Although taxi is cheap, but the street I'm heading isn't a main street, and I don't want to be taken for a ride. It could end up a frustration experience. Actually, Shanghai cabbie is quite knowledgeable about Shanghai (considering the size), although few can speak English. Compare to Dubai cabbie, they're about 5 times better. The traffic is bad.
2. I need to learn the Metro, and look forward to it.

Shanghai Station, China
Shanghai Railway Station with a huge LED screen showing HK film idol Carina Lau

Shanghai Metro is the largest in the world with 420 kms of tracks and counting (fast). Most of the stations are names of roads because a Shanghai district covers a large area and have many stations in it. The station where my hotel is called Langao Road on Line 7 (岚皋路 地铁7号线). To use it, you can either buy a ticket at a machine, but the best way is to buy a Shanghai Public Transportation Card at a service counter. The card is similar to the HK's Octopus Card (except you can't use it to do grocery shopping in some supermarket). In this sense, it's essentially identical to the Singapore Ezilink Cad. You pay a deposit of 20 yuans, and get it back when you return the card.

Shanghai Expo mascot Haibao (海宝 Jewel of the Sea)
Your bag will be put through the X-ray scanner before entering the metro platform. I don't know if these security system is in place because of the Expo, or it's a permanent feature in Shanghai metro. I suspect the former. So don't carry anything suspicious looking (like a lighter that looks like a handgun. My friend owns one). I don't know if they confiscate water bottle. I suspect they do. Also for the old-fashioned photographers, God bless them,who still cling to film camera, and are afraid how all these frequent X-ray exposures might fog your film, simply take the camera out of your bag, and wear it. Visibility is the key. If the security can see the camera, it doesn't need to be put through the X-ray machine. They don't want to slow down the queue by make life difficult for you. I slung my camera over my shoulder and had never had to put it through the scanner.

The metro was surprisingly not too squeezy. The memory of being shoved into a train by a railway staff in white gloves in Tokyo subway still remains vivid. People's faces are being squished onto the window panes like pickled dills in a glass jar. Japanese are too polite (the most polite in the world) and reserved to shove each other deep into the train, so helping hands (in white gloves) are needed from the metro company. You wouldn't need the helping hands in China if the train was busy. Everyone helps themselves. Shanghai Metro is still busy, but no more busy than, say, the MTR in Singapore. I would imagine it would be relatively quieter when the Expo is over. But I haven't rode the Shanghai metro during morning rush hours. Entering the Shanghai metro during the morning rush hours is a piece of cake; the hard part is trying not to. Julie was once caught in the mid-stream of a morning rush in Shanghai metro, and was carried off into the train by the crowd. She was pretty much floated into the train with only one of her feet managed to touch the ground - in short, she ballet danced into the train with the en pointe technique. Now that's what I call a rush.

Shanghai Railway Station, China
Shanghai Railway Station 
Chinese aren't shy like Japanese (or Singaporean for that matter), none of that civility applies in the Wild Wild East of China. If there was railway staff with white gloves, they probably would be carried off into the train, whether they like it or not. No point to wear gloves, wear pointe shoes, instead.

After got off the train at Shanghai Railway Station, as I walked to make my connection to Line 1, I thought to myself that maybe I should try my luck at the Shanghai Railway station's ticketing office to see if they sell Expo Tickets.

I got out at the southern exit and got to the large front entrance of Shanghai Railway Station. I didn't see any ticketing office, but spotted an Information Centre at the right side of the front entrance. I decided to ask them where the ticketing office was, but found out that they sell Expo Tickets. Single day tickets cost 150 yuans. Well, mission accomplished, and spared myself another interchange. This interchange from Line 3 to Line 1, just like that from Line 7 to Line 3, can result in a bit of walking because the interchange involves a change from subway train (地铁) to light rail (轻轨) system.

Apart from the hassles of interchanges of Lines, I find the station signage, instructions, and overall design quite easy to follow (in both Chinese and English). The PA system in the train is also spoken in both Chinese and English, and the lady sounds like Dang Bing in CCTV-9. In fact, the info is best I have come across. It's quite dummy proof; even this dummy hadn't put a foot wrong, yet. Touch wood.

J.C. Lee fastfood restaurant, Shanghai, China
J.C. Lee fast-food restaurant
The signs says, "Mr. Lee King of California beef noodle"
Opposite the Shanghai Railway Station's large square is another (smaller) square. A fast food restaurant caught my eye because it reminds me of KFC. I wouldn't say it's shameless straight knock-off of KFC, but share some similar elements. Let's say it's 'inspired' by KFC design with its lavished red colour scheme, the mug drawing of Mr. P.C. Lee (instead of Colonel Sanders in his outfit of a Southern gentlemen of Leisure), and the typical fast-food furniture, order counter, and menu design. But there's where the similarities ends. In the West, fast-food restaurant is down market compare to restaurants proper, but in Asia, this fast-food restaurant setup is upping its standard.

Portrait of founder P.C. Lee, a fast food restaurant, Shanghai, China
Portrait of founder P.C. Lee
I decided to check out its food. It has a rich menu (richer than KFC anyway), and specialises in beef noodle soup. I ordered its signature California Beef noodle soup (presumably the cows are raised on the California's prairie next to the Little House by Michael Landon. I know, I know, that house is in Minnesota). Best ¥18 I have spent. The soup reminds of the beef noodle soup in Beijing Station in Burwood, Sydney, Australia. I believe they're called bone soup. Yum yum. Mind you, I was quite hungry, and it tasted a little too salty for me. As I soon found out, food is a more salty in general than what I got used to.

After lunner (between lunch and dinner), I decided to take a stroll around to walk off my lunner. Arrived at the far end of the square I met with a very large intersection surrounded with a long skywalks. My attention was drawn to a tall statue of a Caucasian in 18th century costume and hairdo stood on the opposite corner. On close up, he turned out to be the Baron of Baroque, Sebastian Bach. What on earth is he doing here (besides standing up there looking pretty with his lovely locks)? Well, this is what Shanghai is all about...Classic meets modern (you're thinking I'm going to say 'East meets West'? No? Be honest!).

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