Sunday, April 25, 2010

Train from Kowloon to Shanghai

This posting is intended for future travelers following same route. Blogger (like Facebook and all forms of online social networking) is blocked in China, so this is being posted via email.

We thought the prudent thing to do would be to arrive early at the train station in Kowloon. Besides, we had walked enough during the past 2 days and had seen enough of the local street life.

We arrived at the Hung Hom MTR station in about 12:15, which allowed plenty of time for a leisurely lunch and visiting the various shops. We tried to obtain yuan currency from an ATM that claimed to dispense RMB but the machine instead gave us more Hong Kong dollars. Oh well, we can use HKD when we get to Macau. But that meant we would be entering China without any local currency.

We should have obtained the Chinese currency at the first ATM we had used at the airport. The
airport ATM gave the option of either HKD or CNY, which is the same as RMB – Chinese yuan. None of the other ATMs in the city offered that option. And the ATM in the Hung Hom station which claimed to dispense yuan only dispensed HKD. Note to future travelers: if you are
continuing onward to mainland China, get currency from an airport ATM. This is always cheaper than using a money exchange company.

The instructions given to us when we picked up our train tickets were that we should be at the train station at least 45 minutes before scheduled departure. That meant we should have been there by 14:30. We were taking the T100 train departing at 15:15, arriving in Shanghai
central station at 10:00 Sunday morning. This is called a 'through train' which we thought meant that it didn't stop along the route.

We noticed a long line of people clustering at the departure entrance for the Shanghai train by 13:00 and we joined them. Seemed awfully early, but thought they might know something that we didn't. We opted not to consign (check) our luggage because we had been warned that
consigned luggage on the trains very often does not reach the same destination as the owners. The only luggage we had were one large rolling duffel bag and one rolling computer bag which is like a weekend size piece of luggage. The luggage size limit per train passenger is 20kg weight and 160 cm total dimensions. I'm sure the fully-stuffed rolling bag exceeded the dimension limit, but we rolled it through the security check-in with no questions asked. BTW, using the two rolling bags has worked very well for us. It is so much easier to roll a bag than to carry weight in a backpack. Our heavily-packed rolling duffel for this trip weighs exactly 20 kg. We know this because Tiger Airways weighed the bag when we checked in at Singapore. Their weight limit is only 15 kg. That wasn't a problem because we had another bag inside the rolling duffel. We removed the extra bag and one of the folding packers that we use for traveling. This put the duffel at the 15 kg limit. And the extra bag was Bill's carry-on for the flight. After arriving in Hong Kong everything went back into the rolling duffel, so we only have to deal with two rolling
bags during our travels. And this provides us with an extra bag on our return flight to hold any purchases that might be acquired during the trip.

By 13:30 we had cleared out of Hong Kong and were waiting in the crowded departure area. The Chinese don't queue; standing in a line is alien to their culture. Instead, they crowd into a group and sort of push their way forward. This gets a bit awkward when so many people have rolling luggage but no one gets upset. They are quite pushy and we westerners would consider their behavior to be very rude, but that is just the way they do it. About 14:50 the announcement
was made to move to the boarding platform. Very glad we arrived so early and got near the head of the large group to board this train.

Our assigned car was number 10, room 4, berths 7 and 8. As mentioned earlier, we were traveling in Deluxe Soft Sleeper accommodation, which meant we had a small room to ourselves. This little room was nicer than we expected. It had bunk beds and the top bed folded up against the wall when not in use. There was one club chair with a table, as well as a private toilet and sink. The bathroom was larger than most boat heads. Plenty of room for us and our luggage. Each berth had its own small monitor, but we never figured out how to make those work. They would turn on and display a logo but we couldn't change channels. There was piped music and that was pleasant. Our car was the last passenger car on the train; the final car behind us was the dining car. Nothing I had read had indicated that there would be a dining car on this train.

The train departed exactly on schedule and soon a woman came to check our tickets and our passports to confirm we had the correct visas. She also delivered immigration arrival forms. Another woman walked down the corridor selling fruit. That is when we learned there was a dining car behind us. Bill walked back there to see what was available and learned they would not accept HKD. We had no yuan, so wouldn't be making any purchases on this train. I brought a jar of peanut butter and a very small loaf of bread. That would be our dinner. We also had bought a small loaf of walnut raisin bread and instant cocoa for breakfast. Our room was supplied with a large thermos of hot water for making tea or hot chocolate mixes. We also brought granola bars, cereal bars and fruit & nut snack bars. So there was no danger of us going hungry for the night, but there would be no hot dinner because we did not have the right currency. Some people bring containers of noodle mixes that can be eaten after adding hot water from the thermos, but Bill said he was happier with a typical American peanut butter sandwich.

At 17:20 the train stopped and sat there for almost one hour. I have no idea where we were because all the signs were written in Chinese characters. Never did figure out why we were stopped. (Note: I found out later during our train trip from Beijing to Kowloon that the reason the trains stop every so often is to have the toilet holding tanks pumped out. Maybe they also take on more potable water, but I never saw a water truck, just the pump out trucks.)

Wish we had brought books or cards or something to alleviate the boredom. The train ride was surprisingly smooth and I amused myself with the laptop and with watching the scenery. But Bill quickly became bored. He could not get the air-conditioning adjusted correctly and soon crawled under the blankets.

Around 0100 the train stopped briefly at Zhouzou. I know this because it was written in English. It was the only thing I saw written in English. Around 0700 the train stopped briefly, but we didn't see any signs at that station. Never did figure out why the train stopped at any of those 3 places because no one got on or off the train while it was stopped. One does not clear into Immigration and Customs until the train arrives in Shanghai.

We arrived at the Shanghai Railway Station Central about 25 minutes behind schedule. If I thought the local people were pushy in the Kowloon station, then I hadn't seen anything yet. Only thing to do is hold your own space and not let anyone push you aside. The luggage
scanner was a joke --- I don't think anyone was even looking at the monitor of the luggage supposedly being screened. Soon our passports were stamped under the watchful eyes of at least a dozen security officials, and we emerged into more crowds. We found a bank across the
street and obtained local currency; found a McDonald's on the same block for an early lunch; then hailed a taxi to our hotel. None of the people we encountered thus far spoke any English. However, the clerk at the front desk of the hotel did speak English.

We are staying at a tiny hotel well outside the busy downtown area ---the Hotel Carolina located at 643 Xinhau Road in the Changning District. This is a step down from the previous hotels, but it is adequate. And the tree-lined streets of this neighborhood are quaint. The hotel itself is located in an alley off Xinhau Road. The photo is Xinhau Road outside our hotel. Looks like a nice neighborhood for walking to see how the local people really live. Back to doing what we enjoy most on trips like this: walking the streets and people watching and absorbing the culture and location.


  1. Very useful stuff in here.Thanks!

  2. thanks for all the detailed info - priceless!


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