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May 18th, 2014:

Shenyang’s subway is pretty good

I mean the underground mass transport system, not the restaurant.

There are only two lines, one running east-west and the other running north-south. Typically for a (Mainland) Chinese public works project, the lines are called Line 1 and Line 2.

Side note: I can’t understand why the local governments don’t give their public works projects nice names. Roads, hospitals are given bland names like “Hospital #2.” Is it a lack of imagination, or is it intentionally bland?

The subway stations are clean and well-maintained. The system runs like some subways I’ve used: you buy a token based on the distance that you want to travel. When entering the platform, you swipe the token. When you arrive at your destination, you put return the token. The tokens are tagged, and if you need to pay extra, the system informs you.

Because I had never used the system before, I wanted to try it without a crowd of impatient people staring hate-holes into the back of my head while I read the instructions. I thought that Sunday morning would be a good time to avoid a rush of people.

Ha!

Here’s what my car looked like on the inside.

20140518-163502.jpg

This, as it turned out, was the less crowded of the trips. On my return trip, there were about twice this number of people.

The trains run smoothly, but they seem to go a bit more slowly than the Washington DC Metro and Taipei’s MRT.

The cost can’t be beat, though. My destination was a place 8 stops away, and the fare was ¥2 each way, about 32¢. I think that wins the prize for the cheapest subway I’ve ever taken.

One funny little story about my return trip. A man was on the train with his little girl, about three years old. They were standing right next to me, and then she wanted to be picked up. So her father picked her up, and suddenly she was face-to-face with a hairy-faced foreigner. It was probably her first close encounter with a foreigner. She stared and stared at me. I smiled and tried to avoid awkwardness. Her dad thought it was funny, so did I and so did other people on the train. He tried to get her to say “Hello” to me. She didn’t say a word, and didn’t take her eyes off me. Her father whispered something to her, probably something like “That’s a foreigner.”

They got off before me, and as they were exiting the train, the man ran a little commentary to her: “we’re getting off the train now, going home,” something like that. The last thing that I heard was the little girl asking her father very loudly: “but what about the foreigner?”

What about him, indeed?

Whip Tops

I went to a city park this morning. As soon as I entered, I heard cracking sounds and a high-pitched hum. At first I thought that the sound came from some kind of machinery. Then I saw a group of old people playing a type of top that I had never seen before.

The top is made of metal, and is shaped like a big bullet. Holes in the side make the whistling sound as the top spins. The whipping action keeps spinning the top.

One of the many reasons that Shenyang was my first choice of posts was that I wanted to see more of the traditional China, before modernization erases it. I think that I saw a little piece of the old China today.