Japan, South Korea and China have all suffered quite serious typhoons in the last few weeks, but up until now we have managed to avoid them. Last night there was quite a storm in Shanghai, but by morning it had cleared somewhat and as we headed to the airport we were hopeful that our flight back to Tokyo would not have been cancelled. The journey there was quite fun. As part of their long term transport strategy, Shanghai has built a Maglev (magnetic levitation) train from the edge of the city to the airport as a trial for a wider network. We sat in a taxi in chaotic traffic for half a hour to reach the station, but once there, all was swish and shiny. The trains are very impressive, and they go very fast indeed. They have just about enough time to accelerate to 430kph before slowing down again during the 8 minute journey to the airport. That feels very fast when you are so close to the ground, and especially so when a train passes in the other direction!
The airport itself is quite a sight too, and is in the process of expanding to be one of the biggest in the world. We checked in and were relieved to find that our flight was not cancelled like many others, just delayed by a couple hours. The only other inconvenience from the typhoon was a very turbulent take-off, but once we were above the clouds the view was lovely.
Strangely, returning to Tokyo felt a bit like coming home - we knew how everything worked and where to go from last time. The contrast with China was stark too - it is a bit like arriving in Switzerland - everything is clean, efficient and very expensive. After a couple of train trips we arrived back at the Andon Ryokan where we stayed earlier, and folded ourselves into our tiny room.
Monday, September 12, 2005