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Published: March 31st 2008
Since I was completely unable to secure a train ticket from Changsha to Shanghai, I made the decision to fly. The flight was quite pleasant on a brand-new China Southern airbus. After about 1.5 hours in the air, we arrived in a very rainy Shanghai. So, no improvement in the weather over Liuyang. I got my bag and found the public bus that took me all the way to People's Square for a mere 50 cents.
From People's Square, I made my way to the hostel, which was immediately adjacent to the huge Marriott tower. However, it was so foggy and overcast that I couldn't even see the top of the 60-story building. After checking in I walked over to the waterfront and took a couple photos of the buildings in Pudong that were almost completely shrouded in fog. I hung out for a bit, but it was getting pretty chilly so I headed back to the hostel.
The next morning I awoke to slightly better weather -- it wasn't foggy -- and I ventured outside. I set off for the US consulate to get some extra pages added to my passport. After clearing a rather thorough security check
I only had to wait about 15 minutes before I had 20 new pages taped into the back of the passport. It looks a bit dodgy, but I guess it's how they do it. I walked back to the hostel and grabbed a baguette and some bananas on the way back and then I made a peanut butter and banana sandwich for lunch. After eating I managed to track down an internet center (I've stopped calling them cafes because they are massive and full of people playing computer games) along one of the main shopping streets. I spent several hours there getting caught up on the travel blog (finally!) before heading off to find some more food.
The LP mentions that the City supermarket carries a lot of "obscure" western food, so I decided to go check it out. I was not disappointed. I managed to find Dr. Pepper, Nutella(!), and some bagels and cream cheese. They had tons of other American packaged foods, but I had neither the money nor the facilities to deal with them. The place was full of (I assume) ex-pats doing their shopping. I took the stuff back to the hostel and made a
Viewed from Pudong
great bagel and cream cheese dinner. I've decided that I'm going to take advantage of all of the western food available in Shanghai because (ironically), as I go west in the country it will become almost impossible to find.
The next day I decided to go and check out the Shanghai library. The weather was crap again and I just didn't feel like doing anything productive. First, however, I wanted to get a train ticket for Beijing. I took the subway to the train station and asked about a hard sleeper, but they told me it was completely full for both Sunday and Monday nights so I ended up getting a soft sleeper for a lot more than I wanted to pay. After securing my ticket I took the metro over to the library and spent a few hours reading foreign periodicals. They made me get a library card even though I had no intention of checking anything out, which cost me about 2 bucks and took a bunch of time. Oh well, buying any one of the newspapers I read would have cost more than 2 bucks so I guess it was worth it. I have no idea
After a trip to the supermarket
what I'm supposed to do with a Shanghai library card where my name is apparently "Andew Clark".
After leaving the library I found O'Malley's Irish pub just around the corner from the US consulate. I went inside and was ecstatic to discover they actually had Guinness. According to the menu, they wanted about $8 for a pint, but I decided to just go for it. Another splurge in Shanghai. The Guinness was great and I would have ordered a second but it would have broken the bank. It must have been happy hour or something because they "only" charged me 44 quai (5.50) for the pint, which was nice.
I headed back to the hostel and had another bagel for dinner. That evening I spent a couple of hours chatting with a Chinese woman in the dorm. She was down from Beijing on business, and I discovered (to my dismay) that they did actually have hard sleeper tickets, and they were less than half what I paid for soft sleeper. The trick, it seems (aside from being Chinese) is to take the train that leaves during the middle of the day. It's still an overnight and it takes
Worth Every Penny
First Guinness Draught in 3 months
about 6 hours longer than the one I got but you save a ton of money. Argh. Of course, the people who sold me the ticket didn't bother to mention this fact to me. I complain a lot about customer service at home, but in some ways I think it's light years ahead of the rest of the world. I read for a bit and then called it a night.
I woke up on St. Paddy's day to sunshine for the first time in nearly 2 weeks. Well, we had like 20 minutes of it in Liuyang, but that didn't really count. This was the first time I actually saw blue skies. I spent most of the morning wandering around enjoying the wonderful weather. I also took some Burger King coupons that the Chinese lady gave me over to the only BK in China (I think). I know, I know, I should just eat chinese food, but I can get chinese food anywhere and western food is going to evaporate once I get to Tibet so I want to take advantage of it now. On my BK mission I also found another large supermarket which happened to have some
Guinness. Of course I bought a couple bottles to celebrate the holiday with. I was considering going back to the irish pub, but at 65 (or even 44) a pint I don't think I could afford it.
I walked back to the hostel and grabbed another baguette along the way. The marco polo bakery makes some fantastic bread. Definitely the best baguettes I've had since Europe. I took the stuff back to the hostel and went to use the internet for a while. When I finished I had some dinner and then since the weather was still decent (not raining) I headed out to get some better photos of Pudong. That was about it for my evening. I walked back to People's Square along Nanjing st and got offered massages, hashish, DVD's, and watches at least 10 times. I got so sick of it that I finally told one persistent guy to "piss off". I like the reaction that provoked (he immediately left me alone) so I might start using that or something a bit sterner all the time.
My experience in Shanghai was a bit of a mixed bag. The weather continued to put a damper on
things since it was almost always sprinkling at least. On the positive side I loved seeing the modern city and enjoying a lot of comforts from home. They still need to work some stuff out, though. For example, almost all intersections have walk/stop signals, but the traffic often ignores it by cruising through crossing pedestrians with the horn blazing. If China wants to make a really good impression with the Olympics maybe they should consider giving (and enforcing) pedestrians the right of way. I know, it's a novel concept, but it would make the big Chinese cities a lot more pleasant to get around in. Oh, and I'm continuing to be frustrated by people yelling "hello" all the time. I thought it wouldn't happen in a place like Shanghai where you see tons of westerners, but it does albeit a little bit differently from elsewhere. In Changsha I complained about how teenagers would yell "Hellooooo" as you walk past and then break into laughter. Here, it is usually small groups of people in their late twenties and they say "Hello, how are you?" again as you pass, or after you've already walked by. Do these people say hello to Chinese strangers they see on the street? I think not. I'm sure there are a few people who are genuinely being nice, but most of them are being asses and it's annoying. End of rant.
Stay tuned for Beijing.
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