Way back 4 years ago, when I first came to China, Hangzhou was beginning to build a subway. Very late to the party, Hangzhou is really the last major Chinese city without a subway. And due to China’s legendary building prowess, the subway was expected to be finished in a year or two. But marred but construction problems and good old fashioned corruption it took almost 4 years to finish.
Earlier this year the subway finally opened it’s one line, which is basically worthless to me as it doesn’t really go any of the places I frequent. I only took it once when my friend forced me. The construction delays were because of a low water table, and between that and the corruption I’m convinced it’s gonna fall apart and flood soon.
As I took my inaugural ride I kept sniffing the slightly stale air. “I smell the lake! I smell the lake! This place is gonna flood!!” Much to my friends
But on August 8th, (8/8–8 being a lucky number in China) the Subway did a very wonderful thing. It opened an air conditioned shopping street right where I walk everyday. The stretch of street between my home and work is like walking the Sahara. No shade, no break from the unrelenting sun for about 2 long city blocks. I walk that stretch four times a day and it gets longer and longer every time.
But now I have this amazing subway street. For the first few weeks I was here it hadn’t opened yet, but then in a flurry of activity they opened the entrances and the stores started filling their shelves. And they have perfect stores for someone like me. Milk tea, a convenience store (Lawson’s, one of the best brands of convenience stores), a chinese fast food place and a bakery. I have already visited 4 of the stores in just 2 days time. And I totally made out on opening day as I got a free drink at one place and a free reusable bag from another.
I’m not the only one who seems quite happy by this new underground shopping street. Since the temps are still way over 100 the corridors are packed with people taking a break from the heat. It’s not as crazy as Shanghai where it is reported that 400 people are taking refuge in the subway, but I saw probably close to a hundred sitting in the corridors.
And not just old people or migrant workers but businessmen, families that looked like they were vacationing, groups of young women. At this time of year everyone needs to escape this unrelenting heat. Sitting on paper or bamboo mats they chat, play, eat lunch all in the air conditioned subway. And the government supports it, which is nice. Guards are around to keep the peace, but they allow anyone who wants to sit and hang out.
So yay for the new Hangzhou subway and yay for the new underground shopping street that makes my daily “commute” bearable. Now all I need is a train to Lin’an and I’ll be all set!