I recently took the high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai and was surprised by how comfortable and enjoyable this trip of only five hours was.
Though traveling at 186 miles per hour, it's a bit like floating. You can barely feel the train moving, though the rapidly changing scenery outside the window is one sign that the train is speeding ahead.
Travelers to China -- both tourists and business executives -- often go to both of these cities, which are about the same distance apart as Chicago and New York City. That's about twice as long as the much-debated Los Angeles-San Francisco corridor.
For anyone making a China trek soon, be sure you try out China's newest high-speed train. It surely beats flying, and takes about the same amount of time once you factor in security checks and getting to/from the airport.
I bought a first-class ticket for RMB 950 ($150). A second-class ticket costs about half what I paid ($87). The second-class seats look pretty comfortable though the compartment is a bit more crowded.
The ticket was easy to buy and without much advance. I bought mine at the Shanghai Pudong airport two days before my trip without a problem. No need to ask the hotel coincierge to handle this for you; they tack on a service fee anyhow.
I boarded at the Hongqiao station in Shanghai, right next to the city's Hongiao airport, where train tickets can also be purchased. The station was immaculate, and there were no long lines at the ticket booth or in the boarding lanes. (Sure beats NJ Transit!)
In first class, I ended up having two seats by myself in a front compartment of only five seats. There was an electrical outlet at my seat so I plugged in my laptop and caught up on work. Unfortunately, I couldn't pick up any Wi-Fi signal, though I've been told it's been known to work in business class (which costs RMB 1750 or $275).
I had been warned not to try to food in the dining car and brought a sandwich and drink on board instead. We were treated to a snack and drink -- and were even given slippers to wear during the trip.
I was in my zone, relazing and taking in the sights as we whizzed by one city and station after the next, alternately passing large agricultural fields, where you could see workers tilling the land. The one constant was the pollution. No sun to see here!
The one jolt of the trip is when I was awakened from a quick nap by a lady boarding the train and taking the business-class seat ahead of me. She was arguing loudly with the conductor in Chinese. When I motioned to her to calm down and shush'ed her, she shot back in plain English, "It's none of your business." When I again objected to the loud commotion, she retaliated one last time, "This is China!"
I wasn't really all that offended, and we continued on pleasantly enough for the last hour of the ride to Beijing. I'm heading back to China this September for Silicon Dragon Shanghai and can't wait to be there again.