China’s High-Speed Trains. Which Class?

High Speed Train

All aboard! Photo credit: Sina

China’s train network really is a thing of wonder: the country boasts more high-speed rail than the rest of the world combined. And if zipping between megacities at 300 kilometers per hour wasn’t impressive enough, the fact they almost always arrive bang on time makes them an invaluable option for those that find themselves stressed out by seemingly endless delays on the country’s domestic flight routes. In fact, before you sit back and relax, you have just one decision to make. Which class? To help kick off your journey in the best possible way Bespoke presents a primer to picking the seat that is best for you!

Second Class

China Train Second Class

Your bog stndard second class seats. Photo credit: Lv Xing Wang

The lowest pricing option, second class offers up your bog standard, garden variety train seat. Nothing to get excited about here, but then again it’s probably better than you expected. Whilst it’s comfortable enough, these carriages can feel a bit cramped when trains are full to capacity, especially for those that end up in the dreaded middle seat (exact positions cannot be chosen). Those that enjoy their personal space and/or are traveling with more luggage might want to consider bumping themselves up a grade or two.  (Sample price: Beijing to Shanghai approximately 555 RMB)

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The Great World

The Great World

The Great World of the past. Pic credit: Chinese Posters.

Turning one hundred years old is no mean feat, so Bespoke’s hearty congratulations go out to the lovely Great World building near People’s Square that was built in 1917. Now, whilst you’ve no doubt whizzed past this grand old dame countless times (and seen the bright white spire that looms over the elevated highway) you might not know that back in her youth she was a bit of a goer.

Opened as the city’s premier ‘entertainment complex’ and later taken over by corrupt-policeman-turned-mob boss ‘Pockmarked Huang’, the Great World was said to be teeming with life of every kind – contemporary accounts tell of everything from opera performances and tightrope walkers to fortune tellers, pickpockets and pimps!

As decadent as it sounds, the building has known hard times too, most notably when a bomb was accidentally dropped on it in 1937 at the start of the conflict with the Japanese with huge loss of life. While the building was repaired, it never really got its mojo back and lean years lay ahead.

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Xixi Bistro and the Xintiandi Renaissance

Xixi Xintiandi

The original Xixi Bistro was a real Bespoke fave when it opened back in 2015 and its closing left us somewhat bereft – just where were we supposed to get our Shanghai Italian fusion food now? The good news is that Xixi is back and she’s on as fine form as ever, having relocated from scruffy-but-charming Wuyuan Road to some seriously swanky new digs in none other than Xintiandi.

Xixi Bistro Xintiandi

The basic concept remains the same: a sexy space where old Shanghai meets retro Italy, and a selection of dishes which combine local flavors with Mediterranean touches. It could be dismissed as gimmicky, but these guys know their stuff, and the flavor combos are interesting and tasty.

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3 Old School Shanghai Hotels

Taiyuan Villa, Ruijin Hotel Shanghai

Nice lawn, Taiyuan Villa

Shanghai’s stock of fabulous old buildings sometimes seems to dwindle by the day. As the city marches relentlessly toward its prosperous and harmonious future, one of two fates seems to befall our historical gems:

  • They are razed to the ground by teams of bulldozers and replaced by office blocks.
  • They are ‘restored to their original to condition’ (i.e. the architectural equivalent of a lobotomy is performed – we’re looking at you, Ruijin Intercontinental Hotel!).

There are still a handful of historic Shanghai hotels that, whilst bearing the brutal scars of decades of government management, retain just enough charm for lovers of creaky floorboards and original plasterwork for ‘Old Shanghai’ geeks like Bespoke to enjoy sneaking around. Here are a few of our heritage favorites with a big caveat: do not expect five star service at these joints (The Peninsula is full for a reason, right?). In fact, the lower you set your expectations, the better you’ll fare.

The Astor House Hotel

Old School Astor House

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