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Mean: 10°c Max: 12°c Min: 8°c


Shanghai, China
Saturday, February 16, 2013

Wow! We have had over 500 hits on our blog and just fewer than 1,500 hits on our website since we left the UK.

It's the 16th of February and New Year Eve was almost a week ago. But the fireworks are still going off! The nice colourful ones are now few and far between but the firecrackers just keep going off. They even set them off during the day and at night it is like living in a war zone. Some of the explosions are so loud they leave ringing in your ears; we can't work out when the Chinese sleep during the spring festival as the fireworks can go off all night. If we never see or hear one again we would both be happy. We understand (hope) that the New Year lasts for 15 days so only another week of this madness!

After nearly 4 weeks of snow and sub-zero conditions we arrived in Shanghai to a rather barmy 8c! It's true that you get used to the cold as we are stripping off after leaving the freezer of Siberia. We have seen other Western people here who are wrapped up and bracing themselves for the worst.

Day 1

Ross has always said that he wanted to see Shanghai. Sonya thought it would just be a bigger version of Beijing but boy was she wrong!

The whole city has an ultra-modern feel to it and 'big' doesn't even begin to describe its size. We love the downtown area with its iconic skyscrapers and we find it difficult to believe that they hadn't even built any of them twenty years ago! It's all so modern we can see why China is starting to lead the way in today's financial world.

We had a long list of things that we wanted to see and do in Shanghai but our first job was to try and book our tickets from Shanghai to X'ian and X'ian to Chengdu. As we mentioned before everything on the web and the sales assistant in Beijing said that the trains were completely sold out and were standing room only. Something that wouldn't normally faze us except both trips are overnighters and we didn't fancy standing for 15+ hours! So we were getting a bit worried about the possibility of having to change our plans and forfeiting our hotel reservations later in China :-(

We arrived at the station and headed straight for the English speaking desk. To our annoyance there was no one working on it! After some confusion a very efficient and helpful sales girl turned up and spoke perfect English. After a few anxious minutes we managed to bag ourselves a soft sleeper from Shanghai to X'ian and a hard seat from X'ian to Chengdu! Woo Hoo! Although 14 hours in a seat is going to be a tough at least we're not standing!

The first sightseeing place on our list was the Shanghai City Planning Hall which doesn't sound like a tourist destination but it was amazing. The first 2 floors gave you a brief insight into the history of Shanghai and The Bund, the river bank which overlooks the financial district which was once an inland port. There were great displays showing the changing landscape over the last 200 years or so and then floors 3 to 5 showed you the future landscape of Shanghai.

There's a huge scale model of the entire downtown area and it showed exactly what Shanghai will look like right up to 2020 including all approved buildings. They also had lots of interactive areas that could keep you entertained for hours. The Chinese never miss an opportunity to sell you stuff and more often than not Ross would be seen prying Sonya away from a stand full of stuff he would end up carrying.

After this we decided to take a stroll through People's Park which is bang in the centre of the city, but this proved to be harder than it sounds due to the sheer amount of Chinese people all on their hols at the same time!

Next stop was a walk down Nainjing Road a famous shopping street to The Bund. Now we thought that the park was busy until we arrived at the shopping street, crazy isn't the word! It was so busy that the pedestrians couldn't fit onto the pavement and had to walk down the main road. Even the little Chinese men puffing out their chests and blowing hard into little whistles couldn't control the crowds, but it was really funny to watch.

We finally escaped the ridiculous crowds or so we thought until we got to The Bund to take the predictable shots of us with the skyscrapers. The whole area was packed with thousands upon thousands of Chinese tourists. With many strange looks we noticed several people trying to take pictures of us as we walked along The Bund. Strange but the celebrity feeling was nice... shame it couldn't last a few more seconds.

Our next stop was the Jing Mao Tower to get a bird's eye view of the city from the 88th floor. The views were amazing even with a cloudy sky so we can only imagine how good it would be on a clear day. After lots of photos we decided our poor feet had done enough for one day. Especially Ross as his trainers have well and truly given up the ghost and he's practically walking on concrete. He doesn't even mind the thought of going shopping so his feet must be hurting badly!

Day 2

We started off with a trip to the airport on the Maglev train. Sonya had no idea what a Maglev train was and the thought of going to an airport just for a trip on a train and not to catch a flight was an alien concept to her. However after a couple of minutes and travelling at an astonishing 430kph her smile was like a child in a sweet shop. Words can't explain how quick the Maglev was travelling, 30km in 7 minutes, cars disappeared into the distance in a blur and when we passed another Maglev going back into town it was just a flash and you heard it for longer than you saw it. If you plan a trip on the Maglev make sure you check out the timetable as it only runs at 430kph in peak times, in off peak times it only goes a pedestrian 300kph. As it serves an airport off peak isn't necessarily what you would expect peak time to be. In comparison the journey back into town by Metro took a leisurely 40 minutes!

After the Maglev we took the subway to Yuyuan Gardens, one noticeable difference from yesterday though was the rain, on our trip so far we have seen lots of snow but this is the first rain that we've seen.

One thing we have noticed is the Chinese's ability to jump from selling one thing to the next simply based on the weather, yesterday they were selling kites, today its umbrellas. Now us Brits are pretty hardened to a bit of rain so a little bit of drizzle and we pulled up our hoods and got on with it. Not the locals, a bit of rain and the opportunist vendors were rubbing their hands together in glee!

It seemed that everywhere you looked there was someone selling umbrellas and soon enough we were walking down the street dodging them like crazy. We have never seen so many people using umbrellas at the same time. It was funny until we'd been whacked in the head a few hundred times and then it was just plain annoying. Ross seemed to be the wrong height completely, often having to duck to miss an oncoming umbrella assault! Sonya was okay as she was underneath most of the umbrellas until the mad little grannies walked passed and then she was swearing too.

After walking down a road filled with an array of shops selling anything and everything, we saw signs for Yuyuan Gardens. We followed the signs which led us onto a long winding bridge. On either side of the bridge there seemed to be some sort of historical display. It would have been nice to stroll along and read the signs but we were pushed along by the hundreds of people all welding there newly bought umbrellas.

When we arrived the crowds calmed down considerably which was a relief for Sonya who was starting to think she actually does have claustrophobia when stuck in crowds. The gardens were a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the main streets.

In the evening we went to see a Shanghai Acrobatic Show which was fantastic. Forget these silly talent shows on the telly; these acrobats had more talent in there little finger than most of the contestants on the TV shows! We had the most amazing time and some parts of the show were truly stunning. But unfortunately we don't have any photos as cameras were banned :-(

Day 3

Billed as another must see sight we visited the French Concession referred to by the locals as the 'Paris of the East' Along with the British and American areas of Shanghai the French moved into Shanghai and between the mid-1800 and 1900's developed the area in a very European style. It is really quite strange to walk off a very Asian street into quaint tree lined street but we couldn't see the connection with Paris!

The rest of the day was pretty quiet as the New Year is still messing up our plans as most things are still closed. We don't understand how in the UK people complain when the shops just shut on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, in China things seems to shut down for up to 2 weeks. Worst still there is no saying what will be open on which day!

National Sport?

China doesn't have a national sport as such so we think they've come up with one of their own. It's called who can get a seat first on the metro! It's comical watching everyone scrambling around just for a seat! Our advice is to stand unless it's a quiet train as it's not worth getting into an argument as they seem to be sore losers if you get there before them. It's also comical to see the old Chinese ladies go from:

1. Frail - 'I need a seat please'
2. Get a seat mode - run, push and shove get a seat at any cost
3. Frail - When they fail 'I need a seat please'

Hotel Review

We stayed at the Shanghai City Central Youth Hostel. A good location just a few minutes' walk from the metro. It's a bit difficult to find at first not helped by the hostel directions which were very good apart from they missed out 2 vital words 'turn right' after leaving the metro! We opted for a double private, a nice room with fast free internet. The free breakfast was more than adequate and as well as saving a few pennies it's nice not to have to find something to eat each morning. The reception staff where incredibly helpful and organised our tickets for the Acrobatic show and were always willing to help with directions and suggestions for restaurants and the supermarket. The best big hostel we have stayed in so far.


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