Speeding out of Shanghai at 187 mph on a spotless, incredibly fast smooth train, hurtling past apartment buildings, some old and ramshackle, some massive and undistinguished, and some with architectural details that make them intriguing, like little Chinese roofs perched on top of multi-story buildings. Some look almost Italianate, with yellow walls and terracotta tiles roofing them. The Yangtse River is broad and green, and I see rice paddies! Canals! Ponds! Greenhouses! Little patches of woodland! An elevated walking path right by the water! Everything speeds by so fast that I can hardly focus on it, but it really sort of reminds me of Italy. Continuing west we are suddenly almost in the country; some kinds of stunted-looking trees are cultivated, maybe for fruit? Every inch of land is used. I pass a canal; a blue-painted barge is rocking on the water. A few people are out in their small fields tending them.
Going so fast through a fascinating landscape is frustrating. I want to find the words to describe the older buildings–colonial-style with touches of a rococo elegance–and the newer ones–in Nanjing I see a modern building that looks like a collapsing wedding cake, its concrete ribbons falling around it like the ribbons on a bride’s dress as she takes it off. But the impressions go so fast that I cannot fix them in my mind. The bullet train is impressive, and it’s easy to ride, and I want to get on a slower train so I can see what I’m seeing.