Saturday, November 7, 2009
Commuting to Change
Yesterday I took the new subway Line 4 to Haidian, the northwest side of town. The subway has been open since September 28 and it's managed by Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation.
I took subway Line 2 from Dongzhimen to Xizhimen and then transferring to Line 4 was easy -- just walking down the stairs to the next platform. However, transferring the other way is a drag -- you have to walk in a roundabout way just to get upstairs.
What's interesting is that as Line 4 is managed by the MTR, the company does not allow people to eat or drink on the subway. Most commuters in Beijing are not used to this new rule, which is already a given in Hong Kong. The train carriages are almost the same, except that they seem about a foot wider than the other lines and do not have hanging handles for people to hold onto.
What people in Beijing are not used to at all is the beep beep sound to announce that the doors will close. This again is typical in all Hong Kong MTR stations, but here many people find it alarming and have even complained about it to the subway authorities and in letters to the editor in newspapers. However, some older Beijing subway lines have an old school alarm bell ring which I find more disturbing. Each to their own.
In a commute to Haidian that usually takes almost an hour with a combination of subway and bus, taking Line 2 and then Line 4 only took just over 30 minutes. The Renmin University stop is very close to the university, which will probably result in more students living off campus. It's also close to a new mall called Modern Plaza.
While the outside of the mall isn't much to look at, inside it holds many impressive brand names like Tumi, Hermes (watches), Cerruti and Swarovski. On the top floor is a new branch of Din Tai Fung, which, as always, serves excellent xiaolongbao and other delicious dishes. Last night a few friends and I also had a dish made of seasonal hairy crab meat and roe placed over finely cubed tofu, and kiwi over shaved ice for dessert.
It was surprising to see this kind of a high-class mall in the university district, but my friend explained that the area is also a residential one, full of professionals who are either academics or in the hi-tech industry, as it's near Zhongguancun or the Silicon Valley of Beijing.
The city is developing so rapidly -- with subway lines come more lines and easier commutes, Beijing is becoming more accessible and efficient. If only they could do away with the security checks then the ride would be even more convenient...