Shanghai


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Asia » China » Shanghai
September 10th 2011
Published: October 8th 2011
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Day 1 - 10 September 2011
Getting from our hotel in Beijing to our hotel in Shanghai was very easy. We caught the subway in Beijing to Beijing South Railway station, jumped on the super express brand new train, hopped off 1300km and 5hrs later, caught the subway to the People’s Square and emerged out into hot and humid central Shanghai.

Our hotel in Shanghai was absolutely fantastic, it was centrally located on one of Shanghai’s best food streets, Yunnan Road, which is a 2 minute walk from Huai Hai Road, the People’s Square and Nanjing Road and a 10 minute walk from the Bund. After washing off the litres of sweat which had poured out of our bodies during the 5 minute walk from the train to the hotel, we set off to Nanjing Road in search of food.

Nanjing Road is one of the busiest shopping strips in Shanghai – it’s the one you see in photos with the neon lights and masses of people. Throughout our time in China I was reading ‘Wild Swans’ which is a great book that profiles three generations of Chinese women. Much of the book is set during The Long March and The Cultural Revolution when the government was particularly anti-Western/capitalism. It was a little weird to be surrounded by so many big name western brands in the middle of a Communist state less than 50 years later – how things change. Much to Scott’s disgust we failed to track down ‘Sumo Sushi’, one of his favourite restaurants from when he lived in China, so we settled for the good old point and guess picture menu type restaurant just off Nanjing Road.

Day 2 - 11 September 2011
The following day we set off towards the French Concession to find Scott’s old house. The area had changed quite a bit; a few new high rises had sprung up and a lot of smaller dwellings had been bulldozed, presumably to make way for yet another high rise. The whole area was a lot more upmarket than when he lived there, in fact we looked slightly out of place in our crinkled clothes as we walked past expats and locals sipping overpriced coffees in their designer gear and Harvard business school tracksuits (which are perfect for 30 degree weather). Scott was particularly sad to discover that their favourite restaurant, The Rolling Wok, no longer existed.

That afternoon, while I was lazy in the hotel room, Scott headed out to the People’s Square to people watch and take photos. At dinner time we ventured downstairs to the restaurant, and ate Chinese style – with food hanging out as we ate with our mouths open and discussed plans for the next day.. Mmm attractive.


Day 3 - 12 September 2011
The following morning we headed off towards the Bund and Pudong. Pudong used to be a swampy farmland, but has recently been transformed by covering it in skyscrapers. Instead of using the super expensive sightseeing tunnel, we took the cheap option and caught the 2 Yuan ferry across the Huangpu River. Once on/in Pudong, the best way to navigate is to look up and find the skyscraper you want to see and walk in the general direction until you’re standing underneath. Our first stop was the Shanghai World Financial centre, which I found particularly exciting to see as we had an entire lecture on it during my course. Construction began on the skyscraper in 1997, but was halted after the foundations were completed because of the Asian financial crisis. When there was finally enough money available to continue construction they decided to completely redesign the building on top to make it taller (small man syndrome..) but still had to utilise the foundations which had already been constructed. There are a number of viewing decks in the building, which are particularly overpriced at about 150RMB (24AUD) for all three. Instead we decided to try our luck at hiding our backpacker budget and walked into the lobby of the Park Hyatt and took the lift to their bar on the 87th floor. We intended on getting a drink at the bar, but with a minimum charge of 120RMB (20AUD) per head, we decided against it and took the lift to their lobby on the 79th floor instead. The view from that height was pretty spectacular though it was weird to be looking down on other building which, from the ground, had looked extremely tall. We then decided to make the most of what we assumed would be spotlessly clean toilets, but that turned out to be a huge mistake. It was one of the most disturbing experiences of my life, I walked into the cubicle and the lid of the toilet lifted so that I could sit down on the alarmingly warm toilet seat. I spent a while trying to figure out where the ‘flush’ was and contemplating trying one of the other 100 or so functions. My efforts to locate the flush button turned out to be pointless as the second I stood up it flushed – almost as if someone was watching.. The lid them promptly closed and I walked out quite traumatised..

After the Shanghai World Financial centre, we walked past the Jinmao Tower and the construction site for a new, better, taller building towards the Oriental Pearl and then onto the Super Brand Mall. We boycotted oily Chinese food and had lunch at a sushi train restaurant which was a refreshing change, before heading back towards the river and catching the ferry back across to the Bund.

On our way back to the hotel we made a slight detour to buy train tickets to Hangzhou. We handed over our piece of paper with dates and ‘Hangzhou’ written in Chinese. Even though our written Chinese looks like it was written by a three year old the lady behind the counter understood what we were asking for and told us the price and then asked for our passport – damnit, passports... Yep, we forgot them again!

That evening we set off in search of the last known location of Sumo Sushi in Shanghai. After walking for almost an hour Scott, close to tears, finally conceded that perhaps all Sumo Sushi’s had gone to restaurant heaven. We settled for another Japanese chain store and had a decent (relatively oil-free meal), before heading back home to bed.


Day 4 - 13 September 2011
The following morning Scott was kind enough to volunteer to go back to the train booking office (this time with our passports) while I stayed in bed and read my book. By the time he got back it was close to 11am so I decided it was probably about time I got up..

The rest of the day turned into a bit of a shopping expedition. We got distracted by the electronics mall on the way to our first destination, where Scott picked up a new tripod for our camera. Tripods aren’t exactly the most convenient things to lug around the city, so we went back to our hotel and dropped it off before heading back out the door.

After a short walk we reached the Dongtai Road antiques market. Though most ‘antiques’ are most certainly copies, it seems there are a few items are the real thing. I wanted to buy some gorgeous impossibly tiny bound feet slippers, but almost fell over when the shop keeper told me they were 8000RMB (1300AUD). I was just as surprised by the fact that they were real as the price; despite reading a fair few books set in China which discuss the toddler sized bound feet, it didn’t really sink in just how small they were until I was there staring at some slippers I assumed to be fakes due to their minute size. Needless to say I didn’t end up buying them... Although we didn’t haggle as hard as we could have, we still managed to pick up a few bargains including some Communist propaganda posters, tea mugs, a Little Red Book, a decorative gate latch and a neck watch. The Communist posters were even more inconvenient to lug around than the tripod so we headed back to the hotel, via the post office (try explaining that you want a tube to store posters in but you don’t want to send them, without speaking the same language!) and a stationary shop (much more successful place to try and find a tube) to drop them off.

Much to Scott’s disappointment we decided to wait skip our shopping trip to Huai Hai Road as it was now quite late in the afternoon. Instead we headed out for an early dinner before walking to the Bund. The Bund and Pudong areas must require their own power station to power all the lights at night. They are spectacularly lit and make for quite good night time photography. After photographing the Bund we slowly made our way up Nanjing Road, stopping briefly to take some photos (while avoiding pick pockets) before heading back to our hotel and crawling into bed.


Day 5 - 14 September 2011
Our last day in Shanghai was quite lazy. We had a leisurely morning reading books in bed before heading to Huai Hai road and the French Concession. The French Concession Area is very very posh with tree lined boulevards and cute old buildings. There are lots of ‘boutique’ designers in the area, but after checking a few price tags in the shops, we realised that we wouldn’t be able to afford a single item (including the plastic bag they put your purchases in!). Instead we decided to splurge and have a late lunch at a fancy Vietnamese restaurant.

Before we left Australia we had booked tickets to the circus for our last night in China. But, due to the change of plans because we couldn’t book the trains in advance, we would now be in Hangzhou that evening so wouldn’t be able to make the show. We tried booking tickets to the same show for our last night in Shanghai, but they were completely booked up so we ended up buying tickets for ‘Part 2’. We think Part 2 was in the final stages of rehearsal before being moved to the main arena. Fortunately for us, they were holding the rehearsals in a theatre a 30 second walk from our hotel – literally. There were only about 20 people in the audience which was a little odd, but the show was very impressive. The average age of performers was apparently 20 years, so there were a lot of very young children performing. Their ages made the show seem even more remarkable – kids that young shouldn’t be able to do things like that with their bodies! It was a highly entertaining and very very impressive and enjoyable evening and a great way to finish up our time in Shanghai.

We had a good time in Shanghai, Scott really enjoyed being back there 10 years later checking out all the changes. It was a massive contrast from Beijing which seems much more communist – almost like the difference between Hanoi and Saigon.



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