If you want to make an 8am train on Sunday morning that leaves from a station on the other side of Shanghai, it helps to set the alarm on your phone properly.
Instead of setting the weekend time, I set the weekday time. As a result, the alarm on my phone didn’t go off at 5am. Instead I awoke to a room filled with far more light than what should be in the room at 5am, only to discover that it was 5:55am. I exclaimed, “no, no, no!” and shook my wife to wake her. The plan had been to leave our room by 6:15am so that we could be on the Metro by 6:30am.
After I explained what had happened, Stephanie and I rushed around frantically trying to get everyone and everything together to leave as soon as possible.
As I wolfed down a banana, put on some clothes, threw some more things into our big red travel bag, Stephanie woke the kids and got them ready. Meredith wouldn’t leave the bed, so Stephanie dressed her while the girl lay on the bed. Henry ate a donut that Stephanie had bought the day before, specifically so we could be up and out early.
Somehow we made it out of the hotel around 6:30am and walked quickly to the Chifeng Metro station. We got on and rode for 11 stops until Hongqiao Road, where we changed trains.
(BTW, in case you were wondering, there was not an open seat on the train. Even at 6:30am on Sunday, Shanghai Metro trains are at minimum half-full. I have discovered a new maxim on this trip: there are crowds and there are Chinese crowds. The former are small compared to the latter.)
At Hongqiao Road, just as we got to the platform for line 10, the Metro train was pulling out. The next train didn’t go to Hongqiao Railway station. Line 10 splits off into two different directions, one going to the airport and train station at Hongqiao, the other going elsewhere. So we had to wait until the next one.
It takes 18 minutes for the subway train to go from Honqiao road to Honqiao Railway station. I know this because we got on at 7:24am and arrived at the railway station at 7:42am.
We rushed out of the train, jammed onto the escalator like everyone else, then up and up to get to the second level for the departures.
The escalator leading up to the second level stopped halfway to the top. It’s the only time I’ve ever been witness to an escalator breaking down.
So the escalator breaks down and Stephanie has to carry Meredith and pull Henry up the steps, while I lug our stuffed big red bag up the steps and carry my loaded up laptop bag on my back.
When we got to the top, we looked up at the departure board, searching for our train to Beijing but could not see it listed. We started walking fast to where all the departures are lined up (there are 30 or 40 or so in the giant terminal that’s larger than many airport terminals). When we finally found it, it was at track number 1. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but we had come up on the complete opposite end of the terminal. So we ran to the other end of the terminal, put our tickets through the entry machines, and hurried down the escalator to the platform.
Stephanie and Meredith went in one direction and Henry and I went in the other, looking for our train car. We found our train car and Henry shouted to Stephanie, who turned and pulled Meredith to catch up with us.
We were seated on the train at 7:55am. (Believe it or not, several people got on after us. They were all Chinese women, and they all had one small suitcase.)
I did all this without coffee. Stephanie did this without any tea. The rest of the day was spent feeling tired with a headache that only worsened with time.
The kids did not sleep at all on the train. Oh no. Four-year-olds and seven-year-olds do not know how to manage their own sleep. Nor are they even willing to admit that they need to sleep.
It didn’t help that we had been out late the night before. We had gone to Din Tai Fun with some of the other professors with whom we had bonded so closely; Brett, Andrew, and Tony. Our wonderful tour guide from our Suzhou and Pearl Tower trips, Emma, joined us. We also had the great pleasure of meeting Tony’s fiance Doina. We enjoyed another fantastic meal, munching on Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) and many other kinds of dumplings.
The kids didn’t get to bed until 11:30pm. So in the morning they were extremely tired, like Stephanie and I.
The kids got fussy on the train, especially Meredith and it took a lot to keep her from having some kind of meltdown. Though her behavior, at times, made us want to throw her out the window during the five hour trip. (Little did we know it was only a warm-up for Monday.)
Once we arrived in Beijing we took the subway to our hotel (Hotel Kapok) which is much nicer than our hotel in Shangahi. Though it was a bit of a walk from the subway stop. A Chinese woman who said hello to us during our walk, asked us where we were from. Stephanie talked to her a little bit and then the woman told us how to get to our hotel. She didn’t even try to sell us anything (it looked like she was with her family). It was good that she told us, because the location on the map from Hotels.com was totally wrong.
We settled in at the hotel, hoping the kids might nap but they didn’t. More like refused, no matter how cranky and short-tempered they were.
So we took a walk from our hotel over to Wangfujing street. We found a restaurant in a mall. Meredith had fallen asleep on the way. I set her on the booth next to me and she didn’t even stir. We ordered some food and Henry insisted he was not tired, under no uncertain terms. Then he promptly fell asleep.
Do you think they were tired?
Meanwhile, the beef noodle dish we had ordered for Henry never arrived. It took some broken Mandarin and gesturing, but we had it removed from the bill.
No, we did not do street food. We were far too tired to stand and eat. Besides, our kids won’t eat meat on a stick. I know. They don’t know what they’re missing.