Shanghai Nights

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
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Flag of China  , Shanghai,
Thursday, November 1, 2012

Before I start The Shanghai Blog and the end of our journey through China, I think that it is safe to say that 30 days is definitely long enough in China and in fact may be a little too long. The reason I say this is because I have started to compile a list of things in China that are doing my head in….

The first I may have mentioned once or twice before, but the spitting is just too much for my nerves to take, it always starts with a cough and before you know it the culprit is putting every ounce of energy they have into hocking up any trace of phlegm within their body.  Someone needs to explain that disposing of any bodily fluids in the pavements is just outright inappropriate.  The sound is bad enough and makes me want to rip off my ears, but the thought of what is lurking on the pavements makes me want to burn my shoes.  Enough China, please sort this out, it is neither socially acceptable or necessary and it makes me want to smack you in the head. Stop it.

Next up has to be the toilet, who in their right mind thinks that a squat toilet with seemingly no sewer system is the way to go.  China can make the iPhone and can rip off any handbag before Mulberry have even finished updating their website but if you could smell the stench in the streets surrounding the local toilets you would question whether you were in a third world country.  I would suggest that no one ever buy second hand ladies shoes in China as I refuse to believe that anyone can squat without peeing on their shoes.  I am almost glad it is cold here as I would not want to be wearing flip flops!  Then to add insult to injury, you never get tissue in Chinese toilets so have to go everywhere armed with a packet of Kleenex.  So when you are squatting over the entrance to hell holding on for dear life to ensure you don't go down you have a packet of tissues in your mouth thereby leaving you with the choice of going without oxygen or breathing through your nose, it is a tough choice!  Then the final layer of the toilet experience, even in the nice shiny western toilets in shopping centres and hotel is the 'bin’.  No sewer system means no flushing toilet paper so you get a festering bin of poo lurking in the corner.  I don’t think that I need to say, I will not miss the toilets in China!

Given that in normal everyday life a Chinese on a Saturday night is a lovely treat you may be surprised that I am complaining about the food in China.  Well let me put you straight.  Everything you see on a menu in your local Chinese is a big fake dish that has never seen or heard of China.  The closest that I could get to my favourite Egg Fried Rice, Curry sauce, Chips and Prawn Crackers, is Bull Frog Fried Rice, Turtle Curry, Fried Potatoes coated in Ants and a dozen prawns on sticks.  How is it possible that no one in China has heard of Prawn Crackers? I am pretty sure that if someone opened a western style Chinese it would make a fortune!

Getting around in China is pretty easy, the metro is 20p and taxis are only £1 or £2, but occasionally you need to revert to good old walking.  This brings me onto my next rant.  Pavement etiquette is a real bug bear of mine, people need to walk at an appropriate speed with purpose.  In China everyone dawdles, walking at an annoyingly slow speed and when you try to overtake they have a habit of walking sideways like crabs making me want to punch them in the back of the head.  You are also always in danger when over taking of being hit with a projectile spit ball, eugh.  Just to make matters worse despite having a perfectly good bike lane at the side of the roads the bikes and mopeds just use the pavement and have the cheek to beep when you are in the way, seriously!  You get to a zebra crossing with a set of traffic lights and wait for the green man.  You would think that with a green man and a zebra you would be safe to assume that you can cross the road.  No.  they mean nothing in China, they just mean that you have slightly less chance of being run over, buses, cars, taxi’s, mopeds and bikes just all keep going and it is up to you to make it to the other side of the road in one piece.

My last complaint for now is the total lack of volume control that the Chinese have when speaking, everything sounds like a row.  It doesn’t matter if you are at a temple or a toilet; everyone is shouting and making a scene.  Shhhhh, some of us are on holiday trying to relax.

So anyway, rant over, back to the blog.  Our arrival in Shanghai was pretty normal and before we know it we are in a taxi headed to our hotel.  We quickly learnt to have a copy of the address written in Chinese ready to hand over, even armed with this the taxi driver would look at us bemused and would point at the only thing written in Chinese on the page as if to question whether that is where we wanted to go, very odd.  So we made it into the city and the taxi driver pulled over and pointed down a street, so we jumped out and set off to find our hotel assuming it was nearby.  Seemingly this taxi driver was having a bit of a joke with us.  Little did we know there is a one way system around the centre of Shanghai and apparently our driver didn’t want to go around the block for us, so he dropped us on the road that our hotel is on at number 700.  Our hotel was number 200.  That is a 7 block walk with our bags and slow walking crabs in front of us, oh the rage.  Not to worry, once we got to our hotel we were sure to have a nice welcome.  Oh no I forgot customer service is not a training course in China, we had our room key thrown at us and were pointed towards the stairs as the lift was broken. Awesome.

Compared to many of the other cities we have been to, central Shanghai is quite small and easy to get around.  We set out exploring our first evening and found The Bund with views of Pudong (the business district) across the Huangpu Creek, so played camera club here for a while.  Then we found East Nanjing Road which is the main shopping street lined with malls and huge LED Screens.  East Nanjing Road was pretty funny as everyone was chasing after you with little sheets of paper to try and sell you watches, handbags, and anything else faked for the tourists, we also had one man offer us hashish and Tim got lucky and two women approached him and offered him a massage with a happy ending.  Seems you can get anything in Shanghai!

The next day we were so excited to find one of our favourite activities which we have not done for a long time… An audio bus tour, yay!  Only £3 each, amazing.  So we were transported around the city to the main sights and having done a full loop decided to stay on and go to Shanghai Old Street, which is one of the quaint streets filled with tourists and shops full of tat.  But we tracked down the £1 shop and even the 20p shop and had a great time playing with the masks and trinkets.  Back on the bus and we made it back to our hotel.  I think we must have spent about 3 hours going in circles on the bus, that is pretty good value if you ask me!

The next day we set off exploring on our own and we found Jinjang Road, this is another tiny maze of little shops and cafes in an old Hutong type series of streets.  These were definitely a little bit more upmarket than some of the other cities we had been to as the cat café was £4.50 for a coffee so I wasn’t allowed in :o(

That evening we decided to venture over to Pudong to go up the World Financial Centre to get a good view of the city.  I had been reliably informed by my friend Lulu that the Tourist Tunnel was a must do to get across the Creek.  Really Lulu??!!  The tourist tunnel is £5 per person which for China is quite expensive and it is a bit like being transported into a bad 80’s sci-fi film.  We get into a little miniature tram carriage and stand looking out of a big window, the tram chugs along and we get to see an array of flashing lights, crinkled tin foil glued to the wall and a commentary trying to convince us that we are in a volcano?! Surreal does not even begin to explain it.  I can only assume that Lulu went on it twice just to make sure it really was as bad as she though it was :o)

So after our out of this world trip across the creek, we head to the World Financial Centre which looks a bit like a giant bottle opener.  This is the tallest building in Shanghai with a viewing platform on the 100th floor.  The views were amazing over the city and the sky was clear. The only problem was that the glass was so covered in sticky finger prints it was pretty hard to get a good photo.  I was a little disappointed that the glass floor looked down on the building below rather than the street but hey ho, you can’t have it all.  We played camera club on each of the viewing platforms, but I actually got my favourite photo just as we were about to leave.  The toilet with the best view in the city, too cool!

We discovered that Shanghai had the fastest passenger train in the world, the Maglev.  This runs from the city to the airport. So there was no question we were going for a day trip to the airport. The train doesn’t have normal rails it runs on opposing magnets so it levitates so can go faster and has a top speed of 431kmh.  For just £8 for a round trip (8 minutes each way) we were excited.  The first journey seemed pretty quick to us, the train reached 300kmh and we were happy, but on the way back it reached top speed of 431kmh, amazing.  We decided to have a look around the Maglev museum and were amazed that the train has special ‘deceleration glass’ in the windows so it looks like you are going more slowly than you are.  It seems that Japan is buildings a faster and longer maglev so it won’t be long until this one loses its title.

We did the bus tour so it is only right that we do a boat tour as well, the Huangpu Creek is so pretty with the Bund on one side and Pudong on the other and the brightly lit cruise boats were just irresistible and so much plusher than our usual boat trips.  The only problem is that we booked the cheapo seats which meant standing on deck for 90 minutes which was great to start with until the bitter wind cooled us to the core.  The little snack plate we got with half a Satsuma, 10 peanuts, a cherry tomato and a mini cake roll did entertain us for about 5 minutes, then we spent a good 30 minutes willing the boat to shore so we could warm up.  Funnily enough along the route we passed the ferry terminal and unbelievably our boat to Japan was parked up ready and waiting for us.  It looks a little smaller than we expected, yikes.

Our final day in China and we set about getting some provisions for the boat, having become experts after all our overnight trains we knew what we wanted but do you think we could find anything resembling a supermarket in Shanghai.  First we head to a Tesco and it is a Tesco express with nothing in it, then we track down an M&S and the food hall is closed for renovations.  Eventually after going into every mini mart in Shanghai we managed to get enough to last us 2 days on a boat in the East China Sea, that is if we feel well enough to eat!

We have been putting off seeing any acrobatic shows across China in favour of Shanghai Circus World.  The ERA show is meant to be amazing so with our cheap seats reserved we set off.  Amazingly the theatre was circular so we had as good a view from our £9 seats as the people sat in the front that paid £50, mugs.  The show was definitely worth the wait, it had girls dressed as power rangers doing amazing acrobatics riding bikes, young guys jumping through hoops 15 feet in the air, girls with spines made of jelly folding themselves in half, a man catching a Ming vase on his head, acrobatics on trampolines, people swinging from the ceiling on trapezes and going up from the floor on giant ribbons.  There were two acts which really blew our minds.  The first was when a giant hamster wheel was brought onto the stage, which had 3 wheels within it, three young guys jumped into each of the three wheels and set it spinning, next three other guys got on top of the wheels and were running backwards and going over the top of the big wheel as it spun, then they sent them out blind folded, so hard to explain, but edge of your seat stuff.  Then the grand finale was the cage of death.  A giant metal ball is placed on the stage and in goes a motorbike, then another and then another 5!  Round and round, and up and down, it is just unbelievable that they don’t hit each other.  Needless to say we had an amazing time.

Back home to pack ready to leave China and set off on the high seas to Japan.

It has been an amazing trip, we have seen so much and done so much but think we can pretty much say we have done China, I think the only thing that might get us back would be a trip to volunteer with the pandas to be sure that they are real and are not men in suits!
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