In the United States, trains are hardly a viable means of transportation. They tend to be expensive and slow, scattered sparingly throughout the country (and especially the West coast), a sharp contrast to trains here in China. With the National Holiday and a week free from work and school, I accompanied one of my classmates south to 扬州 (Yángzhōu) to spend the week visiting with her family. We hopped on a train late Monday night and in the soft comfort of our soft sleeper reservations, we slept as our train sped for ten hours across the countryside. We woke up to a bright Tuesday morning in Yángzhōu, and after a casual cup of coffee as our train pulled into the station, we spend the next several days loafing throughout the city.
Yángzhōu was beautiful, set alongside rivers and lakes that strolled casually through the city. While large compared to the average city back home, Yángzhōu was without the sprawling, endless metropolitan feeling of Beijing. The people to the south were very friendly, but foreigners were thin on the grounds, so the casual point and exclamation of “外国人!” (foreigner!) was not uncommon. Also, the people speak a different dialect of Chinese, which meant that there were times where I had absolutely no idea what was going on (opposed to my usual feeling of being only 75% in the dark).
Again, because of the holiday, everywhere we went for a glimpse of the sights was teaming with people. Generally, though, having spent the last several weeks familiarizing myself with masses and crowds in boarding the subway every morning during rush hour, I wasn’t much bothered. We toured around Yángzhōu, hopped a bus over to Nánjīng to see those sights, and then on our last day of holiday, we went about two hours outside the city to Zhōu zhuāng, which has been called the “Venice of China.” It was absolutely gorgeous, a little town with canals sweeping all throughout the town, boats casually meandering by, and seafood everywhere you looked.
We hopped back on the train home and arrived back in Beijing bright and early on Saturday morning, just in time to get to class. When you have seven days of rest in China, apparently it is customary that you have seven days of work to follow. Albeit, while school on a Saturday and Sunday are oddly foreign, it was worth the exciting holiday a hundred times over!