Published: September 17th 2006September 14th 2006
…or so the guide book claims!
So here we are, China. After an eleven hour flight (short because of a strong tailwind apparently) we arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday morning. First things first, we need to get from the airport into the city, find a hotel and stash our stuff so we can get exploring. Luckily for us, the fastest train on earth does just that… or not!
The Maglev train only takes you halfway to the city but does terminate at a Metro station which will take you the rest of the way… handy that! It’s only an 8 minute ride but it does top out at 430 km/h (our speedo said 431 km/h; our driver must have been late for his breakfast). It’s modern, clean, efficient (German designed and built) and very very cool!
We found our hotel; it’s a small place on Tianjin Lu, just behind Nanjing Donglu, a pedestrian only (supposedly) shopping road filled with department stores, bright neon lights and hordes of Chinese checking out the latest fashion bargains. After a short (long) nap we started out exploring our surroundings. We took a walk down Nanjing Road all the way
Our train topped out at 431 km/h
to the Bund.
The Bund means ‘muddy waterfront’, it’s pretty much a mile long walk down the side of the Huangpu River encompassing an assortment of neoclassical 1930s downtown New York style architecture (or so I’ve read). Although this all sounds very exciting, it’s actually very hard to tear your eyes away from looking at the Pudong New Area on the opposite side of the river. This is Shanghai’s financial area and has sprouted a load of skyscrapers with a hell of a lot more in the process of being built! It’s also home to the Oriental Pearl Tower, which looks a bit like a modern Eiffel tower skewering some big baubles. There was plenty of angles for taking pictures of the tower along the walk, you just had to beat a load of tourists out the way first. The good thing about being a western tourist (few and far between) is we’re bigger than the rest (even Faye) so we can push our way through!
While we were strolling along, Faye noticed a sign on a little jetty leading to a boat stating ‘Huangpu River Tour - 35 Yuan (£2.33), 1hr’. It was leaving in a few
minutes so we thought ‘why not’. We bought our tickets and then the lady pointed away from the jetty so off we trotted down some stairs and around a corner, luckily everyone is so friendly and we were shown the way to the boat by a man flogging fake Rolex’s, even though we said we didn’t want one!
The boat took us up river around Pudong new area, to a bridge then turned around again. We were left to our own devices and no-one was on board to tell us what we were looking at. We were the only western tourists on board though, so I suppose it may have been asking too much for an English guide just for the two of us, but then there wasn’t even anyone for the Chinese tourists. I suppose ‘if you pay cheap, you get cheap’. After we sailed round past Pudong (first five minutes) there wasn’t much else to see and I got a little bored but when we got back, Faye noticed it had only been 45 minutes… Scammers, bored or not, I paid for an hour!!!
Faye and I then stopped at floating restaurant for some dinner. It
looked quite a top end place but we thought it would be better to ease ourselves into the food rather than just stuff our faces with pigs ear, dog, snails etc… bought of the street straight away! In the end we had a very nice meal and it came to the princely sum of 7 pounds… Yay, if it can only get cheaper than this I’m going to eat myself unconscious!
After the meal we took in the Bund and Pudong all lit up at night, then headed off back to the hotel to sleep away some of the jet lag!
We had an early start this morning as breakfast is only served from 7 till 9. It took a while to find this out as the guy at the reception desk spoke no English and my Chinese stretches as far as hello and thank you! It’s amazing how far acting out silent clues will get you. I’ve got a feeling that this trip is going to be a three week long game of charades!
We were directed to a filthy little place just round the corner from the hotel, and were served what
Faye is convinced was gruel. I’m not so sure, I always imagined that gruel would have some kind of flavour, this was a bowl of what I’m sure consisted mainly of rice but tasted like water! It was served with some little meat dumplings, which were delicious, something that was pickled (?) which wasn’t nice and a boiled egg, that tasted like no egg I’ve ever eaten before. All in all, a terrible breakfast that we’ll make sure to miss tomorrow!
After breakfast we headed over to Pudong New Area, using the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. A futuristic, psychedelic experience, which consisted of nothing more than a tunnel, little trains and some lights. When we disembarked Faye and I were left a little confused as to what sights we saw on the ‘sightseeing tunnel’ exactly! We had a little stroll about and came across an insect world so we thought we’d go in and see some bugs… We saw some bugs alright but they were either all dead or mounted. There was a reptile section though, which was quite possibly the best reptile house I’ve ever been to… I think a re-branding should be in order!!!
After the reptiles
we went to the Oriental Pearl Tower as it’s possible to get a lift all the way up and get some fine views of the city!!
Luckily for us we bought return tickets for the sightseeing tunnel so we got to experience the wonder and magic of flashing lights on a train all over again! We then walked all the way to the Yuyuan Gardens & Bazaar.
Yuyuan Gardens & Bazaar consists of some gardens surrounded by huge shopping centre that I’m sure was built to make it seem authentic and old but really didn’t pull it off. It was jammed with souvenir and handicraft shops, all of which sold some really nice stuff but was hideously overpriced! Faye being Faye of course, did manage to find a shop where everything under its roof was 2 Yuan so she went on a little shopping spree and I’ve been told we’re going back on our return to Shanghai! The Bazaar was rammed with tour groups all playing follow the leader with the guy holding his clipboard up in the air, so we didn’t stick around very long as it had too much of a theme park feel to it! There was another market a little walk away which sold antiques so we thought we’d see what that was like!
On the way, we walked down some small back alleys and stumbled across a school at kicking out time. So we had to wade our way through hordes and hordes of the sweetest little primary school children all laughing running giggling and saying hello. Down some more back alleys we came across various shops selling ‘sea food’. I say ‘sea food’ as I’m really not sure what it was, but it looks like it comes from the sea and there were some prawns mixed in there! And in front of it all there was a small boy taking a whiz in the street, which can only make you smile. Faye and I much preferred all this to the ‘authentic’ China we just left behind!
The antique market wasn’t up to much unless you wanted a statuette of Chairman Mao in any size you can imagine but the walk was well worth it!
Tired and beat, we mustered up just enough energy to walk all the way back to the hotel for a quick nap, shower and change before we go out and find something to eat for the evening!