Can someone tell me why I have to be woken up at 4.30am to get on a plane? OH that’s right, we’re heading to Shanghai today. No time for breakfast as we have to be down in the lobby by 5.15 to leave by 5.30. We grab a breakfast box on the way out which consists of one cold boiled egg, one dinner roll, one banana, one bottle of water, one tub of thin, runny yoghurt and a piece of banana cake. It wasn’t what we were used to but it was fine. We got to Beijing airport and then the madness began. The Chinese tour group next to us had all their luggage taken back off the conveyor belt with lots of yelling and carrying on. Next we see someone waving guns around. They were replica guns and could be seen through the x-ray machines so they were being spoken severely to. We were happy when they walked away elsewhere to sort it all out.
We stood in line waiting for them to organise our tickets. The thing I really dislike here is that the tour guide takes your passport and gives them all to the woman at the counter. It doesn’t feel good to know it’s not on you especially in a foreign country at an airport. A few people baulked at it but it did them no good. That’s how things work here. Anyway, we finally got our tickets and passports back again and headed down to the gate to board for Shanghai. While we were down there we had some free time so went to a cafe. Oh my goodness. How happy am i? They did iced chocolate. Up until now, my staple drink has been coke as they serve coffee for the foreigners but nothing else and though they do have tea, it’s either green tea which I hate or it’s milky tea with cheese balls, so I stick to Coke, though my travel partner Cecile would love me to try the milky tea lol. I didn’t hold much hope for my iced chocolate as one of the Canadian girls had just ordered an iced coffee and got a latte.. When they called my number I was thrilled.. thrilled I tell you… to see, not an iced chocolate but a MILKSHAKE… oh I was thrilled. I’m so missing milk over here. They don’t even give milk to you in the rooms as I guess they figure tea should be drunk black and coffee with creamer. Anyway, I savored every drop while I waited for the plane.
After some quick phone calls home to see how things were going with the fires, we headed up towards the plane and boarded, this time China Eastern. Being here with only the sensationalised reporting of CNN is really scarey. I’m loving being here but I wish it was any other week than this one. The fires are terrifying me. Once again, the flight was fantastic. They came around with breakfast and while it was a really weird combination, it was okay. I didn’t eat the porridge but the people from the tour next to me did. It was pink porridge and it still didn’t sway me. You were, (I assume), supposed to put the pickled cucumber and asparagus in with it but I stuck with the orange juice, fruit, yoghurt and toffee filled pastry. Much safer all round. On the flights, the coffee they serve, is the condensed milk coffee, so if you want black, you’re out of luck. I laughed again remembering the first time they served it to Cecile on the earlier flight, they poured it straight into her glass that had just had lemonade in it lol. She still drank it.. She’s missing coffee.
Landing in Shanghai, we once again had a reasonably uneventful passage through the gates. I have to say I expected the whole experience of flying around in China to be a much scarier process than it has been. Nearly everyone has some knowledge of English and are really helpful. security hasn’t been much of an issue either as they just x-ray everything and give you lots of body searches. So we head through the airport, this time all following each other and we head out to meet our new tour guide Bruce.. Yes they call me Bruce.. and guess what his surname is?? that’s right.. it’s Lee.. Bruce Lee. Sigh!
By this time it was nearly 11am and since we couldn’t get into the hotel till about 2 we headed for lunch. We headed to the Bund which is the waterfront of Shanghai. It really is an amazing place to see. There were cruise liners docked on one side, the most amazing architecture reflecting in the water and old barges spewing diesel fumes heading down the centre of the river. Once again, the architecture here is stunning. Actually, stunning doesn’t begin to describe it. I felt like I was in a real life Jetson’s episode, even more here than in Beijing. Shanghai is much newer and cleaner than Beijing and more Vegas than Vegas.
We had a walk around the Bund which was beautiful. Saw a few brides and grooms having their photos taken. By all accounts, they have their wedding photos taken a month before the wedding. They looked like they were totally over it all lol. Then we went for lunch at another Chinese restaurant. Yes I know that’s surprising considering we’re in China lol. Another nice banquet meal and then off for a longer walk around the Bund. We wandered along and found a shop selling soft serve ice cream but it seriously tasted like crap. Then back on the bus for a tour of the area before heading to the Shanghai Museum.
The Shanghai Museum is pretty spectacular and I wish I had more photos of it but my camera started to play up badly. I’m not getting the photos that I want and although I am getting some, anything that needs more light isn’t coming out right at all. Our first stop in the Museum was the coffee shop. We were so tired we really didn’t feel like moving from there. We thought we might be the only ones who were being so lazy but when we got up there, half the tour was in there, all saying the same thing lol. We finally felt culturally guilty so got up and had a whirlwind tour of the museum. One of the first rooms we walked into was a French Impressionist exhibition. Wow, I’ve come all the way from Australia to see the French Master’s artwork in China. I was pretty excited to see Renoirs and Du Gasse and many other famous painter’s art on display. We ended up walking through all the rooms but did some a lot quicker than others. I’m going to sound like a heathen here but seriously after a while, all the artifacts and relics start to blend into the same thing. The ceramic display was pretty impressive especially knowing how old they were. It never ceases to amaze me when I see such old pieces of art at how unflawed they are. We have so much modern equipment yet their work is just perfect. There was also old paintings on silk, coins and lots of other stuff. I wish we weren’t so tired when we got there as we were just too tired to take it all in. Still, it was enjoyable.
Facing the crazy traffic again, we went to book into our hotel. We have spent more time on the bus all over China, than we have doing stuff.. It can’t be helped. The traffic here is a nightmare. What would be a ten minute trip in Australia even in peak hour becomes an hour drive in Beijing and Shanghai.
We booked into the Radisson hotel and we were lucky enough to get the 18th floor and a corner room so we had views right across two sides of the city. The hotel is modern and beautiful with huge glass chandeliers in the lobby. There are 3 restaurants in the hotel and convenience stores all around. After checking in and settling down for a blissful half hour, we got changed and headed back out the door to go on the Huang Pu River Cruise. I was looking forward to it but was a bit over sightseeing by that time. The long trip and the long queues (another thing to deal with in China) was worth it. We got onto the cruise just on dark and the buildings were all just lighting up. wow.. They love bling over here. The buildings are works of art. I didn’t take my camera on this cruise as I know it’s not doing night time shots and I’m so disappointed. The lights of Shanghai are a sight to behold. The Vivid Festival in Sydney pales in comparison to this and that is a specific festival. This is every night. The brightest colors you can possibly imagine light up all the buildings along the waterfront and beyond. Beautiful.
Back at the hotel, a few of us headed off to find a wine. So far I haven’t been able to find a SINGLE WINE!! How rude!!! We headed up to the 27th floor and ordered some snacks, club sandwiches, pizza and hamburger.. Absolutely scrummy. I had a few wines as well. Just a perfect way to end the night. Heading up to bed, I slept like a log. I think I’m going to like Shanghai.
Next morning, it’s another huge day so we have to be in the lobby again at 8am. A quick breakfast at the huge buffet and we’re out the door. I so miss my cup of tea.. Did I tell you that?? Anyway, this morning we’re on our way to the Water Town. They call it the Venice of China. I was looking forward to it as it looked really pretty in the photos I’d seen. It was over an hours drive out there but we’re getting used to sitting in traffic for long periods of time. On the way out there we were looking at parts of Shanghai that they’d probably prefer we didn’t see.. This was the older poorer part of Shanghai. We drove past huge blocks of land that were covered in trash but they were actually recycling centres. We also drove past another accident.. They do have them but they don’t seem all that serious. Of course I’m sure there are those as well but we haven’t seen them.
When we got out there, I was amazed by the beauty of this place. Yes the water’s not clean. This is the water these people use every day. I’m not sure if it’s their drinking water as the place has all the mod cons. But this place is gorgeous. It has such an old fashioned charm about it. We walked to where there were about 10 gondolas ready to take us for a ride. We got on with our two lovely young Canadian girls and our friends from Los Angeles. It’s his birthday so I told him I organised this just for him. I don’t know that he believed me. As we were floating through this lovely quaint little village, I could sit back and imagine a time gone by when life was simpler…….. till the gondola driver’s mobile phone rang and he answered it lol.. Ahh technology!
We travelled down the canal a bit, through old stone bridges and past old shops and houses all perched on the edge of the canal and we got off near the Set Free bridge. This is where someone set a turtle and a fish free to please the Gods who wanted them to preserve more life. From there we had free time to go shopping. I didn’t even realise there was shopping available here. Wow.. Why weren’t we told this early on. I wouldn’t have bought the stuff I’d bought earlier. This was so cheap. For instance.. I bought myself a scarf here.. It was 10 yuan (about $1.70) In another shop I saw the exact same scarf for 480 yuan ($81.60). The real tourism places jack the prices right up for Western shoppers. So this place was an absolute delight. The best part about it was, while the shopkeepers were all happy to say hello and welcome you in, they didn’t grab you or invade your personal space. Their prices were marked and you could bargain and say, okay if I buy 10 of these, what will you give them to me for, which i was fine with. I just fell in love with it here and wished we had a full day to spend. Mind you, if we did, my luggage would be overweight for sure lol.
From Water Town, we headed out for lunch which was once again the banquet style food. I didn’t think this was as good as we’d had before but it was filling and well presented so I’m good with that. I know I keep saying it, but value for money on this tour has been remarkable. If you can get the same special again which I think they keep releasing… grab it. It’s brilliant and there is no way you could get this much for your money if you did it yourself. We’ve only had to buy a few meals.
After lunch is what I’d been waiting for.. The bullet train. We weren’t able to take the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai and I was really disappointed so I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. This is the fastest train in the world, so they tell us and it reaches speeds of 430 km per hour. Holy crap… This is going to be fun. When the train pulls up, we’re a bit concerned by the blood all over the front of it and the broken windscreen.. Obviously they’d hit a bird. The windows are all double layered for comfort and pressure control.. so I’m sure the windscreen has more layers than the sides. We sat down and there are no seatbelts.. The tour guide tells us there is no need as they’ve never had an accident lol. Okay, so we’re ready to go. They tell us if you drive from the station to the airport, it would take 2 hours but this train does it in just over 7 minutes. We brace ourselves for take off.
Within about 10 seconds of taking off we were doing over 100km per hour and it just quickly sped up until we finally reached our top speed of 430 km.. just for good measure we got up to 431kph so I was stoked. You wouldn’t believe how fantastic it felt yet it didn’t feel like we were taking off in an airoplane. It just felt like we were going fast. It was reasonably smooth too. I was able to walk up the aisle and take photos and trust me, I’m very uncoordinated usually. We got told that about 20 seconds into reaching our top speed, it would start to slow down again, then we would pass the other fast train going the other way.. It slows to about 330 kph as does the other train, so passing each other is at a combined speed of around 660 kph. OMG.. the train went past and even though we were expecting it, a chorus of “oh shit” went up. Before you knew it we’d reached our destination and we stayed on board for the return trip. I’m so pleased we decided to take the trip. It was the best fun and such a buzz to be going at that speed. Well worth the 150 yuan ($25.64) we spent on it.
We were all still abuzz about the bullet train when we got back on the bus.. The smiles were a mile wide on all our faces and the adrenalin was still pumping. We headed to the Pearl Tower which is the pink rocket ship looking building right in the Bund. I think they said that it goes to 263 metres in about 14 seconds so we all piled in to the elevator and sure enough, my ears popped halfway up. We got out at the top in record time and had a wander around the top viewing deck. Then heading down stairs (I’m really beginning to hate stairs) we head out to the glass observation deck. What a thrill that was. Standing on a glass platform looking down on the city of Shanghai at our feet. We did all the stupid stuff… you know.. pretending we were falling etc.. all the basic stuff every tourist does, then headed back down again.
From there we headed to the theatre to see Era Shanghai Acrobatics. It’s sort of like Cirque du Soleil with Chinese acrobats. We headed out for some dinner first then met back up and headed in to the theatre. The show was brilliant and what these people were doing was remarkable. I’m not sure if there is anything on YouTube about them, but have a look. They were great. Unfortunately, we were all so tired that we struggled keeping our eyes on them. Most of us had a quick power nap, not having meant to doze off. The show was much better than our tired eyes were up to appreciating. Worse still, Cecile and I have to be up at 4am for a 4.30 start to Xi’an so we just wanted to go home.
Back at the hotel, she went to bed and I went and had a farewell drink with some of the others. After a quiet wine and some chit chat, I headed off to bed as well. We’d been frantic all day as the warnings for fire hitting Katoomba and Leura were high. After finding out that the day had gone okay, we finally slept well. Well for about 4 hours anyway.. Another huge day tomorrow and we’re feeling every day of our age right now.. Ahh well.. That’s travel.. and it’s all fantastic..