Unlike my last train ride in China, this one was boring once I got on. The soft sleeper was air-conditioned, clean and smoke-free. My roommates on the train were all tech professionals whose companies had paid for their tickets. We had a pretty good conversation. They were pretty curious about my life in Taiwan, and they loved the kids book I showed them. They’d never seen zhuyin before, and one of them hadn’t even heard of it. “What’s this weird stuff next to the characters?” she asked. “It looks sort of like Japanese.”

Though the train was a bit more cramped in terms of sleeping space (you can’t hang your feet over the end of the beds), I slept well and was ready to go when I rolled into Shanghai at 8:00AM. Not knowing quite where to go, and having lost my cellphone earlier, I decided to look for the hostel Micah had recommended to me earlier.

He was right. Mingtown backpackers was a good hostel… a really good hostel. So good, in fact, that it was booked full and about 20 people were milling around in the lobby, waiting to see if a room would open up. I dropped off my bags, put my name on the list, and then headed out with a couple of Mexican guys and a Frenchman that I’d met on the way.

The two Mexican brothers were hard-core. Despite the fact that they currently live in my home-state in the US, and that this was a cheap vacation for them, they’d taking the hard seat train all the way from Xi’an to Shanghai. It was a trip of over 20 hours, the train was far my crowded than my 普快 hard sleeper had been, and they didn’t have a bed. It cost less than 100RMB.

We wandered around the city for a few hours, checking out various hostels, and bargaining aggressively. Eventually, we found one that seemed to be an ok deal, after a 40% price drop, and it didn’t look like it would fill up. We made a note of the location, had some lamian for lunch and then checked back on Mingtown.

It was really, really tight, but we managed to get rooms. I ended up paying 55RMB a night, and I had three roommates. When I walked in the room, I was shocked. There was a Chinese girl from Shenzhen was staying there. I couldn’t believe it! They put foreigners in the same rooms as the locals! After chatting with her for a while, I found out that they even charged us the same price. Right, on!

I shouldn’t publish it on my blog and drive even more travelers there, and in turn drive up the prices, but Mingtown is a nice hostel. The rooms are air conditioned, there’s a free washer and dryer for everyone to use, and the staff is super helpful. If I ever go back to Shanghai, I’ll definitely consider the place. The crowd was pretty different at Mingtown than it had been at Leo’s, in Beijing. Other than those two Mexican guys, I didn’t see any hard-core backpackers. There weren’t any groups of hard-drinking joie de vivre types, either. Instead, there were more English teachers, who lived in other parts of China. They could pretty much all speak at least some Chinese. One girl had done the CET Hangzhou program, and could speak and write far more Chinese than I could. There were also a fair number of Taiwanese tourists, too. It was a nice hostel, but the experience wasn’t all that bloggable.