Last Tuesday it was Qingming, the tomb sweeping festival. I asked my colleagues what I should do with the day but no one had any great ideas – public holidays are insanely busy in China, so a lot of ideas were centred around avoiding too many crowds.
After nearly a month in the city, I wanted to get out of town for the day. As I don’t have my passport back yet, I can’t take the train anywhere – so had a look on the (impressively extensive) metro map to see where I should go.
I settled on Sheshan, Shanghai’s only mountain and a national park – conveniently on line 9. I cycled from our flat to the nearest line 9 station (to avoid changing lines twice) and boarded the first train. It was pretty busy and I stood by the doors. This turned out to be quite fun as about half the journey was above ground and I could see out and into houses and over fields.
About half an hour later, we arrived in Sheshan. From the station I could see the east and west hills, and a rollercoaster between me and the hills. I rented a bike and set out towards the hills.
At first the route seemed very simple – pedal directly towards the hills – but after I passed the sculpture park the road turned around the base of the hills and I had to stop to check I was going the right way. Unlike a lot of people using the cycle lane, I pulled over whenever I needed to stop. It’s amazing how many people don’t!
About 25 minutes later, I arrived at Sheshan and picked up a ticket (free) from the entrance booth. I also picked up a bottle water and an overpriced ice cream, getting in the holiday vibe.
I followed the crowds up a flight of steps and soon came to a little clearing, where there was a 10 storey pagoda. Lots of people were taking photos and I got involved in that.
From there, I followed another flight of steps to the observatory. I didn’t go in, but admired the view from the lookout point instead before going up some more steps and into the cathedral.
Inside the cathedral a lady was singing ‘Amazing Grace’s in Chinese, which was quite lovely.
I would my way down the hill and crossed the main road to the other hill, which is famous for its bamboo plants. It’s amazing how a hill that’s visible for several miles can be created in a few strides. I guess it shows how flat it is around here!
There was a little pond with some fish, and a cart with candles that you could pray at. I think my favourite thing about all religions is the music and Buddhist chants are up there with my favourites, so I lingered here a while.
By this point it was about 5pm and I had to start thinking about getting back, as I had running club in the evening. I went to find a bike to ride back to the station but couldn’t see any. I opened the app and it told me where two were, but as I started walking towards them, two guys beat me to it. I tried another one but it was broken. I went to the bus stop but all the buses were insanely busy. I ended up walking a little way to find a bike that had been parked at the back of a carpark, next to a filthy creek.
The bike was standing next to some oil seed rape, which grows in and around the village I grew up in, and flowers in time for my birthday. It felt surreal to see it here but it made me very happy.
I pedalled back to the metro station and boarded a train towards the city, hungry but happy to have seen a slither of countryside.