Published: March 2nd 2012December 6th 2011
Monday 6th December– Friday 9th December
We arrived to a cold Shanghai with immediate problems – our taxi driver didn’t understand the English address of the hostel we had written down, so dropped us off where I guess he thought it might be near! We then tried asking several people for directions but it was clearly obvious that the language barrier was going to be a big problem in China! A tip we were given too late, was to always ask someone working at your arrival airport to translate any addresses into Chinese. We still hadn’t got used to carrying our backpacks and other luggage and were completely out of ideas, stuck in the middle of this very foreign City when a woman speaking a little English eventually managed to point us in the right direction.
We didn’t have to wait long before we experienced more problems in Shanghai. Whilst our exploring the City we heard a ‘hello?’. It was the first English word we had heard out on the streets and we were taken by surprise by a group of 5 young people trying to talk to us in English. They said that they were all English students
from Northern China holidaying in Shanghai and had been excited to hear our English voices. Very soon we were chatting away to the group whilst continuing on our walk, before they invited us to go to a famous Shanghai tea show with them. It was something that all tourists should so whilst in Shanghai (apparently!) and they were excited to be going to a showing that afternoon. We accepted their invitation to join them and they continued to ask us 100 questions each about our lives in the UK. The tea show was good – it was in a typically Chinese dressed room, we sat on the floor and tried 6 different types of Chinese tea and were shown the traditional way of making and serving the tea. Our student friends even bought us a bag of our favourite flavoured tea each at the end….then we were hit with the price…£40 equivalent per person. We looked at each other in shock, China has cheap living costs so we didn’t even have that much cash on us. We were escorted to an ATM downstairs before handing over our £80 (which to us on a budget, was an awful lot of money
and could have bought a weeks worth of food for us each!). We learned only 2 days later from someone in our hostel that this is a massive scam in China, particularly Shanghai. We were told not to go to drink tea with any students…too late!! It was so frustrating to learn that we had handed over so much money to con artists and I was kicking myself for falling for it. But they were very impressive. They were young people around our age, they spoke very good English and kept us talking all the time so that we didn’t even have time to think. Looking back in hindsight it’s easy to say that we should have known better, but
I genuinely believe it was a very good act. I dread to think of the number of tourists falling for the same thing every day. A very big lesson had been learnt…when in China, do not drink tea with strangers!! I just wish we had known in advance!
Food also proved to be a major issue. At home, one of my favourite foods is Chinese, so naturally I was excited about the thought of endless amounts of Chinese food!
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work like that, as ‘real’ Chinese food, is nothing like we ‘Westerners’ are accustomed to at home. After a traumatic first day being conned at the tea show, I was looking forward to an enjoyable dinner. It took us a while to find a restaurant, as most of the restaurants are above shops, in shopping malls etc. We eventually picked one and just sat down at the table, as we had already learnt that the menus were not in English…it was essential to eat in restaurants that had pictures alongside their listings.It turned out that we had managed to find somewhere that did have an English translation however, and we were greeted with a large choice of interesting food, including: Boiled Jellyfish Head, Chicken Innards and Claws, Steamed Pigs Trotters and Ears, Shark Fin,Boiled Unfertilised Eggs…the list went on! I was actually disturbed at much of the food on offer and we hastily ordered the two things on the menu that we recognised as safe– noodles and sliced chicken in sauce. To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement. I love my food and after not being able to eat much in India, I
was now worried about the food on offer in China too – hopefully we had been unlucky in our restaurant choice!
We visited The Bund whilst in Shanghai, the City’s equivalent of London’s Canary Wharf, the riverside surrounding the financial building. They have built a shuttle system that runs under the river to take you to the area, the shuttle ride itself is worth a visit to the Bund as the dark tunnel proceeds to provide a visual display of light effects. Unfortunately there was thick fog and it was pouring with rain on our visit so we decided to turn straight back again, unable to see anything.
Nanjing Road is thee central street in Shanghai and we spent much of out time wandering down this pedestrian street, browsing the many malls and hundreds of shops on offer, and as it was so cold, often stopping in one of the many coffee shops, including Costa Coffee! Nanjing Road is very Westernised and is similar to a big shopping street in any major street, apart from the many locals who stand in the street asking if you require bags, shoes, or if you’re a man, whether you require a
sexy lady! We were unsure exactly what these people were doing, they tried gaining your interest and then took people into the shops. We know from speaking to people at the hostel that it is illegal and they would take you through to the back of shops where there would be a variety of dodgy goods awaiting you. Thankfully we always said no!
We got the metro to Yu Garden for an afternoon which was a good day out. The metro system in Shanghai is fairly new and incredibly easy to use, I would recommend it as the best way to get around the City, for 2 yuan (20p) you can travel any distance around the City. All bags need to be scanned by a security system as soon as you walk into the metro stations, which was initially an annoyance, however we soon got used to the process – it is the same all over China. Yu Garden was once the private gardens of Royal Dignitaries and is such is very typically Chinese, with lots of wood architecture and stone carvings everywhere, you have to ay 30 yuan to get in. The gardens were maze-like, with one interlinking
to the next, each holding their own theme and name. They hold some beautiful water features and old Chinese buildings, as well as holding a lot of history. Although it was very cold, the afternoon strolling round the gardens and surrounding market area was very enjoyable.
We had met a couple of people within our hostel room and we al decided to venture out to find Yang’s Dumpling House which had been recommended to us. I was looking forward to trying some traditional Chinese food, as so far we hadn’t been brave enough to venture far from noodles or rice! The dumplings were massive, we were served a bowl of 3 steaming dumplings in a bowl, it reminded me of having steaming stew on a cold day in England. Without thinking too much about what was in them, one of the guys from the hostel talked us through the art of eating the dumplings. Take an initial small bite through the dumpling, drink the ‘soup’ that is contained inside and then continue to eat the dumpling! They were very messy and hard to eat with chopsticks, the inside was indeed filled with a thin liquid but I found them
very enjoyable. The ‘soup’ is actually just the fat of the meat that has been cooked within the dumpling, but it tasted good and I was glad to have tried them!