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A Tale of Two Travels


I went to bed at 1:30am. Seriously, there was just that much to be done before Schäfer and I began a day of traveling.

All too soon, I woke up at 5:30am to finish the last minute packing and cleaning. When I woke Schäfer at 6am, he was delighted – simply delighted – to be going on the big bus. He knew that after we rode the bus then we would ride the train.

With a groggy smile, Schäfer said, ” OK! Let’s go to the bus!” as he pushed the covers off.

Who am I to give birth to such a morning person?

It was still dark at 6:30am when I lugged the suitcase, shoulder bag and toddler down five flights of stairs. We found a taxi without much waiting and made it to the bus station with 10 minutes to spare. Before we knew it, we were on our way.

Once we were on the open road, I remembered that I forgot to turn off the heater in Schäfer’s room. I sent a text to the friend who had my house key. She immediately went over and turned off the heater.  Thank goodness for friends!

About two hours outside of Yichang, the bus broke down. Hummm… for the first time that morning, I wiped the steam off the windows to see this sight:

Snow! On November 17th! Wow.

Another bus pulled over and offered to take us to Wuchang, but we were going to Hankou.  Nobody got off. Then, I started to ask around to see if the other passengers thought they would send another bus or fix this bus.

I causally mentioned that I had tickets for the 12pm train to Shanghai. It turns out that there were 5 of us who had already purchased tickets for the 6 hour speed train to Shanghai. (When I traveled from Yichang to Shanghai, in 2005, the only train option was the 23 hour overnight train.)

Meanwhile, a man in the bus spoke to the driver on our behalf. He had such a “class monitor” air about him. I decided it would be better to stick with these people and let Class Monitor seal our fate than try to get on another bus by myself. I love The Collective.

Eventually, a bus did come and we were all forced to get on. It was going to Wuchang (yes, the same place as the previous bus), but there was no other choice. Wuchang can be up to an hour away from Hankou depending on traffic.

Our second bus trip remained uneventful – until the iPod ran out of power and I had to invent crazy games to keep Schäfer from looking at the violent movie on the bus tv’s. Yes, multiple screens.

When we arrived in Han Yang, I was told by the other travelers also going to Shanghai to get off the bus. As I neared the front of the bus, the driver stopped me and asked where I was going. I replied, “Hankou Train Station.” The driver said that I didn’t want to get off in Han Yang. He explained that I could stay on the bus and get off at a different stop. Class Monitor interrupted the conversation and told me to get off the bus. I got off.

From Han Yang five of us rented a private car to take us to the train station in Hankou. After we were all settled, Class Monitor got back on the bus and continued on to his final destination.

We paid 10rmb each ($1.50) for the ride over to the train station. Schäfer and I sat in the front seat. The other four adults squeezed in the back. Thank goodness we all packed light.

We rushed to the train station only to learn that the train was delayed because of snow.

I took these winter wonderland photos out of the train window. The snow lasted from Hubei as far as Nanjing.

Reminder: this is November 17th in northern Hubei.

Schäfer usually sleeps great on the train, but this train was packed so there was no place for him to stretch out. I spent the next 7.5 hours (delayed and extra 1.5 hours because of snow) with Schäfer on my lap or standing in front of me. We played more silly games, ate raisins and seaweed snacks, played with toys, and Schäfer, overall, did his best to not kick the seat in front of him or the passenger beside him.

Unfortunately, Schäfer was completely unwilling to take a nap. The travelers next to us were convinced that Schäfer wasn’t napping because he was hungry so they bought him spicy, fried peanuts, spicy, fried corn nuts and a bottle of water. Before I could politely decline, the snacks were opened and presented to him for munching.

Thank goodness they provided a bottle of water with so many spicy snacks! Schäfer drank the entire bottle of water which meant that for the last 2 hours of our journey we made several trips to the bathroom. So many, in fact, we decided to stop crawling over the other two people in our row and stay outside and roamed the train.

When we landed, Schäfer was wired and tired of being in transportation. During our taxi ride to the hotel, we played “I spy a Hai Bao”. The Hai Bao is the mascot of the 2010 World Expo hosted in Shanghai.

Meanwhile, my very busy Hubs took his own fascinating journey to Shanghai.

Hubs:  I had the choice of taking the poky bus from the airport…OR TAKING ONE OF THE WORLD’S FASTEST TRAINS!!!!!! Can you guess what I chose? Note the red splotch on the nose of the train?



Hubs: The acceleration to 301km/h or 187mph was notable. Even more notable is the fact that we were just poking along. This train has a top recorded speed of 500km/h or 311mph. Great fun!

Her’s the video I took during the ride. That white flash that passes by is another speed train.

187MPH from on Vimeo.

1 comment to A Tale of Two Travels

  • Beth

    I find it so interesting to read your blog. It is so different from my life here outside Boston with 3 “big kids” (9, 12 and 14). I love the glimpse I get into your life in China!! And how cool to see Annies Mac and Cheese, which is from the town next to mine, in China! Happy Thanksgiving!

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