Shanghai and beyond

Trip Start Feb 11, 2009
Trip End Mar 04, 2009

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Flag of China  , Shanghai,
Sunday, February 15, 2009

we're actually in Xiamen.  Finally got wi-fi to work. 

Day 1 - BNE - HK - Shanghai
Never done this leave in the middle of the night thing. Booked cab for 9.45pm even though didn't really have to be a the airport till 10.50. Cab took less than 20mins to airport so there just after 10. No queues, no point in waiting upstairs so went down through immigration and waited and waited and bought grog to pick up on way back in and waited.

Boarded on time, took off maybe 10mins late. Don't know what I was expecting but plane was just another plane. Had dinner even though we said we wouldn't. At least service was better than Qantas but what service isn't? Glass of red each followed by sleeping tab and we were gone. Both slept about five hours. Descended down through the smog into Hong Kong. Huge airport. Free internet through entire airport. Connected and gave ma and pa a call through Skype. Mum loves being part of the adventure. While I was talking, Al was chatting via Skype messenger with Margot. Had great but hideously expensive cups of coffee. HKD100 for two cups!!! Something to look forward ro when we come back next week.

Sat at gate and approached by stewardess who asked if I would check in a carry on (Al was in loo). Said yes to Al's as mine had laptop and all our paperwork in it. When he got back Al asked if I'd got his half of the money out and I said "oops". Hoped it would be there when we opened it at the other end. As we went down airbridge they tried to take mine and I said no way and kept walking. Dragonair flight was good. Even better service. Nice lunch.

Arrived into Shanghai couple of minutes late. HUGE, humungous, gigantic airport, made HK look like a baby. Should have taken some photos. I must have looked a bit odd/suss/very handsome as immigration guy kept looking at me, then my passport, then up again. Eventually must have realised I wasn't someone famous ;) and waved us on. Found maglev signs and walked and walked and eventually found ticket window. Decided to pay twice normal fare to travel in VIP section. Already read about it. Waiting in queue and attendant saw yellow tickets and indicated we would go through different gate. Sure enough we were ushered through ropes and down different staircase, someone waiting at door and up to front/back with its nice yellow leather/ette seats. Curtains closed behind us. Eventually another couple joined us, amazingly, chinese and not crazy westerners! When we were buying tickets I noticed that speed of trains between 11 and 1 was limited to 300kmh and not 430kmh. Was disappointed but 300's still real fast. Needn't have worried as we hit high of 421. FANTASTIC!!!!

Followed signs to Metro, easy, we'd read it was a long walk. Maybe two or three minutes. Tried to buy tickets but couldn't get machine to accept note. Luckily ticket office so could buy. 4RMB for two so only 104RMB to city, maybe $20. Walked up and out onto Nanjing Road. Found hotel maybe 200 metres away down next road. Didn't realise it was hotel as is currently covered in bamboo scafold.

Dumped bags, sat on beds, discovered that what reviews had described as hard beds was being kind - imagine a sheet of ply with two inches of foam on top - and headed off down Nanjing Rd to the Bund. Heaps of people constantly accosting you offering watches/bags/shoes. Looking over Bund and three girls start talking to Al and then me. For those reading this who have been I know alarm bells are ringing. We had the alarm on silent. They were visiting Shanghai and were off to the old town to go do some cultural stuff and off we all went. Jenny, Sunny and Nanna. Yeh, shut-up everyone who has been to Shanghai before and knows the scams.

Somehow we ended up in a tea house. I can't plead ignorance, only stupidity. I was shown price list and read that it was 38RMB per person per type of tea. We will both tell you it was a great experience and we'd be sincere telling you that but we spent 890RMB drinking maybe 1 1/2 cups of tea (six types - ginseng, jasmine, fruit, chrysanthemum, lychee and something else, a couple of tiny cups of each). That is $200. Included in that is a quite spectacularly ordinary tea set that would cost maybe 50RMB in the markets. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!
I think the girls were hoping we were going to shout them dinner but we were skint and said we'd need to find an ATM so after wandering around a quite amazing lantern display outside Yuyuan Gardens, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Nanjing Rd.

Straight across the road from the hotel are a row of little restaurants so we chose one, had a great meal with a couple of Tsing Taos and headed to bed.

Day 2 - Shanghai
Both awake at 4:30am, but managed to get back to sleep again until 7:30. During the night remember screaming woman down on the road who was yelling at people all night - not so bad up on the 5th floor. The concrete beds were ok by sleeping on top of the doona and under the spare blanket.

Decided to try hotel restaurant for brekkie. First Chinese breakfast! As we finished our unusual assortment we noticed we could have scambled eggs or eggs benedict. Will give that a go tomorrow.
Mission today - Jade Buddha temple.

Al wanted to get the metro to west Nanjing Rd but I thought we'd miss too much underground. Mmmm......

Total walking today 5 hrs +.

ATM's were easy to use. Shoe shine lady squirted stuff on Al's shoe, so had to get a clean - didn't want to pay 20, so almost left with only 1 shoe cleaned, but got the job done for 10 - she polished off all of the nugget that I'd put on 2 days before.

First stop the Jade Buddha - trouble finding it (that means walked straight past) as it was not on the corner indicated on the map, but down the side street. 20RMB in + 10RMB later to see the Jade Buddha. Was actually very interesting. Blue spikey haired Buddha was Al's fav. Used weird open trough to have a pee, anyone could watch as they walked past.

Walked and walked and walked to French Concession. Both hungry, both of us had sore feet - so needed to find a beer and a meal. First restaurant had run out of rice - only spag and meatballs avail. so left. Next was quite expensive so took the metro back to People's Sq. then walked to one beside our hotel. Stock pot with chicken, but most importantly Tsing Tao. Later coffee - both a hot and cold Hazelnut Latte - yum.

A number of people tried to talk to us, but we were so used to the hawkers that we scurried away before we realised that they probably just wanted to try their English.

Toilets everywhere - no charge for men.

French Concession seemed to have many more westerners (workers - not tourists). Area wasn't quite what we were expecting - lots of bars and some huge old homes with ornate gates but it really could have been anywhere.
Day was WAY hot - both sweating all day. Just as well we'd read forecast and knew it would be warm so we'd left jackets behind.

Needed a bath to calm my aching feet.

Then thought about a nanna-nap but Al knew I wouldn't want to go anywhere so made me stay awake. Got dressed and walked up to Radisson New World to meet some of the cruise critters at Sky Dome bar. No idea what anyone looked like but sat down and hoped someone would ask us. Were approached by a lady and we'd found the two Aussies - christine57gdogs - Chris and her husband Ron from outside of Melbourne. Eventually Sandra and Barry from South Africa and then Maggie and Norm from Long Island turned up. Had a couple of beers, Maggie and Norm headed off and then the rest of us went down Nanjing Rd in search of a meal. Got an intersting offer - hashish pr marihuana!!! Ended up at same place we'd eaten the night before.

Gray Line had called to confirm tomorrow's tour just before we'd headed out. Pick up would be at 7.40 for our day tour tomorrow.

Day 3 - Suzhou / ?? water village
Had scrambled eggs this morning. It was like half of an egg each. Hilarious. Had a couple more bits of stuff that we didn't know what it was. Sandra and Barry already on bus. Six more joining us. Old Transit 15 seater. Cramped, pretty uncomfortable to be honest. Not what I was expecting and I couldn't recommend tour or company in retrospect. Al enjoyed the day more than me.

Thought we might leave pollution behind but actually got worse. Two and a half hours to Suzhou. We both imagined some picturesque green town with dozens of beautiful walled gardens but it was a polluted city of 5million. Apparently there were 200 gardens. We saw one. It's late winter/early spring so everything is dry and hardly a green leaf in sight. Some buds were desperately trying to open. Hannah did her best to make it interesting.

Garden done so off to silk factory - first one was weaving on hand looms. Gorgeous work. One of the large framed pieces was RMB580000 - over $100k. We bought a tiddler for RMB180. Off to silk factory number two. Lunch first. Great!! In to factory (restaurant is on site) - this one started with silk cocoons and then a series of computerised looms. Was interesting, but purpose (as it is everywhere in China) was to sell you stuff. No joy from us.

Hour drive to water village. Went past some lakes on the way that you could barely see due to the fog. Water village was a weird 'Epcot' experience. It was a real working fishing village and still is but it has now been turned in to this weird fish bowl where gazillions of tourists traipse up and down narrow paths and along the canal banks and then go for a twenty minute boat ride on a boat that's a cross between a punt and a gondola. The lady 'punter' sings you four songs, luckily ours was quite nice to listen , others sounded like cats being strangled. Maybe it was cats being strangled? Nothing would surprise me here.

Was glad to get back on to the uncomfortable bus. At least we'd be out of the pea soup smog. You could just about taste it. Everyone had itchy eyes and dry throats. Traffic in to Shanghai was horrific. Traffic jams like I could never have imagined. Asked Hannah to write request for cab for next day as staff at hotel reception understood little English.

Decided to have dinner at the 'hot pot' restaurant next door to hotel. Pointed to picture on wall. Thought it looked like some kind of hot plate thing. Lady kept saying 'fishu?' and we just shrugged our shoulders and nodded. Then she pointed to writing on the sign with the pictures that must have been the different kinds of 'fishu' and we just shrugged and nodded again. Next minute she was at front door with a net and scooping dinner out of a big plastic bin. What ever it was it was big and very alive. She weighed it (4lbs) and then showed us price - RMB109, about $20. Ten minutes later a huge bloody tray with burners under it was plonked on the table. Smell of cardoman was overpowering. Looked like fish was still alive as it was boiling madly. Had no idea what kind of fish it was but it was sweet and delicious and yum yum yum. As we walked out the door I looked in the plastic bin and it was full of huge catfish. Eek!!!!!!!!!!!!! Actually some movies in English on CCTV tonight but stuffed so just went to sleep.

Day 4 Shanghai and out to sea
Got up early. Went outside and bloody cold. Tai Chi out on Nanjing Rd just around from hotel. Wanted to walk down to Bund to see if ship was at terminal. Great relief to see Legend docked. Bloody huge. We'd both been thinking it was more Rotterdam size but is much closer to Infinity. More tai chi down on bund and lots of kites being flown.

Decided to head to Old Town. On way bought fantastic omelette thing for breakfast. Just cracked eggs on a flat plate, stirred it around a bit, added some green veges, schallots maybe, then brown sauce and fresh chili paste. Then it's wrapped around this churro thing, folded in half and put in a bag. RMB3 each, maybe 70cents.
Old Town markets were fabulous. I hope it doesn't ever get bulldozed like most of the rest of old Shanghai. Wonderful fresh veges ands fruit and open air butchers, and cooked ducks and live ducks and chickens and frogs and every kind of seafood - eels, fish, crabs, shrimp (river food? lakefood?) narrow little alleyways, buildings that look liked they'd fall down if you kicked them but were probably couple of hundred years old. Thought I was filming it all on two little movies but hadn't pressed the bloody button so it's all in our heads instead.

Decided we'd see what queue was like at Yuyuan gardens. None, so in we went. Needn't have gone to Suzhou. Yuyuan was beautiful. Like a little oasis of peace in the middle of chaos. Some of garden was coming in to bloom. Fantastic buildings. Reminded me of the Kasbah in Marrakech. Running out of time cos we had to check out at 12 so raced back to hotel, washed and packed. Handed paper that Hannah had written on plus name and address of cruise terminal in Chinese characters that we'd got off internet. Blue cab arrived five minutes later (never get the red ones we'd been told). RMB12 and less than 10 mins drive to terminal.

Terminal was absolute chaos. No-one to take bags, you wheeled them yourself. No probs for us but some of the oldies struggled terribly. Took two hours to get on to ship and we never stopped moving. Just shuffled from check-in to bag drop off to immigration and finally on to ship. Would imagine people will be complaining about it for days but it was similar experience to our other two cruises so was no biggy for us.

We knew cabin would be much smaller than last one but it was fine. All we need is a comfy bed and a useable bathroom and it has both of them. Had a quick wander around. Nice showroom, Great covered pool with slightly tacky 'roman bath' theme. Went across to Windjammer to grab a late lunch. Bought wine package on way in.

Fantastic selection of really great, fresh food. Left tired HAL buffet for dead. Lots of stations with different kinds of food. Asian food galore. Was really good and who cares if all of the crockery is melamine. Sat with Chris and Ron. They are hilarious. Happy hour between 2 and 6 (I think, maybe it's 4). 20% off all beverages, every day, so we bought two more bottles of wine for under USD20 each. We are such alchos.

Headed down to Schooner Bar where we'd agreed to meet the cruise critters from Thursday night. Had a couple of beers, back to cabin to grab life jackets for life boat drill, dumped them back in cabin and up to top deck for sail away. BLOODY FREEZING!!!!! Stood with Ron and Chris who shared their bottle of wine with us. Pulled away about 45 mins late. Tugs boats bow and stern. Tugged backwards downstream for maybe 2km and then Legend spun herself around and headed out. Two hours to Yangtze and then and four till we hit the open sea. We stayed up on deck until just after 8.

Dinner time - no idea where table was. Entered on deck 4 and then lead up to 5. We were shown to table for two. Eegads. Much that we love each other no way we wanted to just have each other's company. We come on a cruise to meet people. Asked a passing waiter if the table was 135 and it wasn't, it was actually 153. Up we got and were shown to 135, about 10 feet away, right in entry to restaurant and right beside a waiter station. At least it's easy to get out to the loo if we need to. Really lovely people - Pat and Leighton from Honolulu and Joan and Douglas from Hexham, near Newcastle in Northumberland. P and L are retired and J and D have a working farm. J is the local mental health nurse, D runs the farm with his dad who is supposed to be retired - beef cattle, sheep and small cropping, mainly oats and barley. P and L had fallen victims to the tea scam as well. Too funny. They missed out on any gifts though.

Food was pretty good. Don't know how we'll cope though. Only three courses ;)
Five on X and four on HAL. Just kidding. I might actually not put weight on. That is a miracle I was never expecting. Good size portions, it was hot and tasty, but nothing outstanding. Donald our waiter is a little over-bearing, apologised a million times for how slow food was. None if us had even noticed. They are so (understandably) desperate to make sure they get good tips. Assistant (name?) is cuter and more unobtrusive, just like on HAL.

Headed up to Viking Crown lounge. One of the waitresses explained to us that it RCL policy for staff to be as friendly as possible to guests and not be distant/subservient. Everyone we met on our first night was really nice and we have a really good vibe about the cruise and the ship already. Ended up being last people in the bar, danced like crazy people and left just before 2. Decided to order room service for brekkie. Can put request out until 3.

Day 5 - sea day
For some reason I ordered room service for 7.30-8. Idiot. Had no idea what I'd ordered and when it arrived it appeared I'd ordered just about everything. Juice, coffee, four orders of milk (what the?), yoghurt, pastries, bacon eggs and tomato. Too funny. Both felt like crap so ate and went back to sleep. Still hadn't unpacked so eventually got up, did that while Al stayed in bed. Headed out to try and organise internet. Eventually found out how to do it.
Went to meet and mingle. Met most of the cruise critters who we'd been chatting with on the roll call. Cruise Director came as RCL rep. Nice guy from Scotland. Gift exchange - got couple of very funny books from Mathias and Marlies from Hamburg.

Another really nice lunch, sat with Chris and Ron again. Prize at bingo was upgrade to Royal Suite so off we went. Didn't get close. Pretty amazing prize for second night of cruise.

This bloody log was way behind so I've been catching up.

Formal night tonight, Captain's welcome 'cocktail' reception, then Bjorn Again is the show. Bloody brilliant.

Raced up to indoor pool and had a quick spa and swim. Pool attendant saw me in trackies and t-shirt and directed me to buffet for dinner!! Back to room, quick shower and into the glad rags. God I hate wearing suites but better than a bloody tux

We're both amazed by the number of men in tuxes. More than on HAL. Amazing. Women are REALLY dressed up. Free bubbles disgusting. Passion Pop is better. But free and alcoholic so who cares. Captain is Norwegian. Nice guy but typical captain who looks like talking to a crowd is the worst thing in his life. Introduced his officers - F&B manager is a Maori .Executive chef an Indian. Explains the number of Indian dishes on dinner menu and at the buffet and why they are so good.

Straight to dinner.  Another good meal

Bjorn Again were fantastic.  I am such na Abba tragic.  Knew the words to every single song.  Most of the crowd was up dancing.

Day 6 Xiamen. 
Woke up as we were slowly entering port.  Bit grey our there.
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