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April 25, 2011

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Riding the rails has never been easier

HIGH-SPEED rail lines radiate out from Shanghai and make it easier than ever to explore the pleasures of the Yangtze River Delta. Chen Ye hops aboard.

Ryan Liu appreciates the comfort and convenience of the high-speed rail (HSR) he took last week to Nanjing City in Shanghai's neighboring Jiangsu Province.

"It's only 73 minutes! Incredible!" says the 30-year-old marketing specialist. "If I took a normal train, it would be three times slower."

Although the relatively high prices (146 yuan /US$22.43 for second-class; 233 yuan for first-class) have caused some complaints, Liu says it is worthwhile, compared with longer time spent on the road.

HSR passenger transport operates much faster than normal rail, at top speeds in China of 300-350/km/h.

China has made a big commitment to HSR and now has five of them in operation: Huning Line (Shanghai-Nanjing); Huhang Line (Shanghai-Hangzhou); Wuguang Line (Wuhan-Guangzhou); Zhengxi Line (Zhengzhou-Xi'an); and Jingjin Line (Beijing-Tianjin) .

The Jinghu (Beijing-Shanghai) Line is under construction and scheduled to go into operation this June. It will shorten the travel time from 10 hours to less than five hours.

Of the current five routes, the Huning and Huhang lines that start from Shanghai are popular and stop in six tourist destinations - Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, Zhenjiang and Nanjing.

Therefore, along with the high-speed rail, the new travel concept "kuai xing man you" or "faster journey, slower travel," is becoming popular.

"It means tourists will spend less time on the journey but have more time enjoying the destination," says Liu. Or even several destinations.

High-speed rail beckons for the three-day May Day holiday over this weekend. Here Shanghai Daily provides a guide on travel by HSR.

Hunhang Line



Hangzhou, a somewhat cliched destination (but still with its charms), is among the most popular tourist choices. The capital city of Zhejiang Province, on the Huhang Line, takes shorter than an hour.

Take an early train and you will have plenty of time for several scenic spots that include the universally popular and densely crowded West Lake; the Six Harmonies Pagoda (Liu He Ta) by the Qiantang River, a 15-minute cab from the lake; the Lingyin Temple (also known as the Temple of the Soul's Retreat), one of the most visited temples, built in 328 by an Indian monk. The temple contains a large collection of Buddhist treasures and relics.

From Hangzhou, tourists can easily travel to Wuzhen, an ancient water town 76 km from the city, where waterways, cobblestone streets and alleyways all crisscross the area.

Tickets: 82 yuan for second class; 131 yuan for first class

Shortest travel time: 45 minutes

Huning Line



Suzhou is famous for its classical gardens and exquisite silk. The best-known gardens and courtyard parks include the Humble Administrator's Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan); the Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan), a World Heritage Site; the Garden of the Master of the Nets (Wang Shi Yuan); the Lion Forest Garden (Shi Zi Lin) with unusual rock formations; and the Surging Wave Pavilion (Cang Lang Ting), the oldest garden in Suzhou.

Old Pingjiang Road is a pleasant place for a walk; the ancient road is paved with hand-cut stones and along the way are appealing Western-style cafes and local shops.

The Suzhou Museum, the last design of I.M. Pei, is worth a long stroll to appreciate the classic and modern architecture. The Suzhou Silk Museum is an informative stop and fun for children.

Authentic Suzhou cuisine and snacks are available on Guanqian Street, where delicious food is available at reasonable price. There are pleasant restaurants and tea houses where visitors can listen to pingtan, or storytelling in Suzhou dialect, with music.

Tickets: 41 yuan for second class; 65 yuan for first class

Shortest travel time: 24 minutes


The industrial city between Suzhou and Nanjing dates back to the 16th-11th centuries BC. It is famous for its scenery and the magnificent Lingshan Grand Buddha.

The 88-meter-high bronze Sakyamuni Buddha statue draws tourists from around the world and pilgrims who believe their wishes will more likely come true if they pray to this Buddha.

The Mei Garden is famous for its plum blossoms and includes more than 40 different kinds. It was originally a private garden for a successful candidate who passed the Imperial Examination in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It contains pavilions, towers, a tea house, streams and a pool.

Local specialties include Wuxi-style xiaolongbao (steamed bun stuffed with pork) and Wuxi ribs.

Tickets: 61 yuan for second class; 98 yuan for first class

Shortest travel time: 31 minutes


One of the main attractions is the 1.4-hectare Dinosaur Park where kids can learn about the reptiles.

Tianning Temple was first built in 655 and covers 110 hectares. It is the largest ancient temple in Changzhou, with eight large halls, 25 smaller halls, 24 towers, three rooms and two pavilions. Each side of the temple is lined with 518 Arhats, which are considered master carvings.

Tickets: 80 yuan for second class; 128 yuan for first class

Shortest travel time: 42 minutes


There are historical parks including Jiaoshan, Jinshan and Beigushan, and the Nanshan National Forest Park. All are nice places to picnic.

One of the most famous products of Zhenjiang is its vinegar, especially for dipping dumplings.

Zhenjiang Station is a key transfer stop for Yangzhou, a city famous for its breakfast dishes and three knives (the kitchen knife, pedicure knife and barber's knife). A 40-minute shuttle bus will get you to Yangzhou.

Tickets: 115 yuan for second class; 184 yuan for first class

Shortest travel time: 59 minutes


The capital city of Jiangsu Province lies on the banks of the Yangtze River and is one of the most delightful destinations of China. The Qinhuai River, a branch of the Yangtze River, runs through the city.

People like to visit the City Wall of Nanjing because it was designed by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang after he founded the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and made Nanjing the capital. It took more than 200,000 laborers 21 years to build the wall.

The Gate of China (Zhong Hua Men) and the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall are also important stops in the city.

Tickets: 146 yuan for second class: 233 yuan for first class

Shortest travel time: 1 hour 13 minutes

For more train information, please check (Chinese only).


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