the Bund, the Oriental Pearl, Yuyuan Gardens, River Cruise
21.09.2015 - 25.09.2015 29 °C
Shanghai Pudong Airport - Hello China!! We arrived 22 Sept 2015 at 4 pm.
Since I woke up at 430 am in Calgary on Monday morning, Sept 21, and went to bed at 1030 pm in Shanghai on Tuesday 22 Sept, it seems like the longest day even when you factor in the fourteen hour time difference.
Other than losing my reading glasses on the Hainon Airlines leg of the trip it was an ok flight. I watched "Still Alice" not the perkiest movie but it passed the time.
Note - you need to fill in an arrival and departure card for China and the stewardesses pass them out. At customs you will show your passport , turn in your arrival card. Keep your departure card safe until you depart. At both arrival and departure your picture will be taken so if the guard says , "look over there," they mean look at the camera we are going to take your picture.
It took almost two hours to disembark and move through Pudong airport processing to where my couchsurfing contact Peng, was waiting. Since it was now rush hour we decided to take the train. Tickets were seven yuan each. We had to make a transfer, it was very hot and humid and by six thirty pm it was pouring rain.
There are two Fish Inns in Shanghai centre, Peng first escorted us to the wrong one , an honest mistake, the one we were registered at was about eight blocks away.
After we checked in we walked to the Bund and viewed the incredible skyline through the rain.
We went to the Coral restaurant in a shopping centre and Peng ordered a huge meal. It is now about 830 pm, my hair is so wet I can actually ring it out, and we are not especially hungry as we were well fed on the plane. We were enthusiastic about going to the restaurant as it gave us a chance to sit down. I eat a number of chicken feet, noodles, fish soup, green beans, two other chicken dishes, sliced, bone in, one hot, one cold, I just asked for a fork and dived in but I do not think we were up for this meal or the visit, too tired and disoriented.
It was great being met by a local, it relieved stress.
Couchsurfing is an organization that connects locals with tourists.
Fish Inn Bund is close to the Bund, Shanghai Museum, People's Square, Yuyuan Park and associated Market. This is a great budget hotel, we paid about sixty Canadian per night and booked it through HRS which we found on Hotels Combined, a good site.
The Bund is a famous area across the river from the financial centre skyscrapers. It is the area where the British, American, and various other countries had concessions back at the turn of the twentieth century. It has a European feel. However, people go to the Bund to admire Shanghai's amazing skyline, The Oriental Pearl is a show piece and they have recently constructed the second tallest building in the world.
We didn't get going til noon on our first and only full day in Shanghai. 23 September.
30 yuan each for the hop on and off bus which we caught by the huge Forever 21 sign. Starbucks was nearby also. 24 hours of unlimited riding, earphones are provided for an English explanation.
We rode around twice and then got off at People's Square. Shanghai Museum is here and it is free. All backpacks and purses go through a security machine at the entrance. We did a quick tour, the major bronze pieces are on the first floor and after visiting the tea room on the second floor (croissants three in package for eight yuan) spent the most time in the ethnic minority costume section.
Shanghai Museum is designed to look like a bronze three legged cooking vessel.. The round top and square base mirror the ancient Chinese perception of a round heaven and a square earth. Very cool.
A large fountain dancing to music is in the square so we watched awhile before hopping back on the bus.
Our next stop was the cruise terminal and our timing was good, we only had to wait 20 minutes and during our hour long cruise it would get dark so we would see the skyline with and without lights.
Picture this: on one side of the river, European, old school style buildings complete with a Big Ben replica.
On the other side the pulse of Shanghai's financial centre, futuristic skyscrapers, dazzling, stunning, diverse. This is not Chinatown. The river itself is teeming with boats and barges, a real happening place.
We could have saved 20 yuan apiece had we bought our tickets from City Sightseeing, however we neglected to do this and paid 120 yuan or about 30 dollars each and it was worth it!! There were non stop breathtaking views.
We know from our walk with Peng last night that we are a fifteen minutes walk from our hotel but we choose to get there on the hop on and off bus which takes 1.5 hours. We road the bus around its complete circuit three times today.
Thus ended our first full day in Shanghai, 23 Sept, 2015. We have crossed many streets since our arrival, watch behind you as turning cars and scooters may be on the move, don't expect drivers to stop for pedestrians:
On 24 Sept we got up early and made it to the bus at nine but had to wait due to some kind of hold up. We arrived at the old town about twenty to ten and had to see Yuyuan Gardens and be back on that bus by noon. (24 hour ticket).
Entrance to Yuyuan Gardens is forty yuan or about eight dollars, seems to me entrance to Butchart Gardens in Victoria is forty dollars. Yu Gardens has been ranked as one of the twelve most beautiful gardens in the world.
Lions frequently flank doorways in China. The male, with his paw on the globe is on the west side, the female, with her paw on a cub, on the east side. (Feng shui).
The old town is a pretty orderly place, merchants call out to you or come right up, come I will show you...
We rode the bus back to the Nanjing Road area thinking we would take the little train that runs up and down the walking street, just five yuan for one way. We didn't take it as it always seemed to be full.
Instead we watched the amazing parade of shoppers walking along Nanjing Road.
We returned to the Coral Restaurant for a late lunch: mushrooms and pea pods, noodles and coffee. We were back at the hotel by ten to two as today we fly to Zhangjiajie. The taxi to Pudong Airport was 175 yuan (four yuan went to the hotel for booking the cab for us). The ride took over an hour through miles of skyscrapers and super overpasses. There is not as much honking here as in Istanbul.
There are trucks, buses, cars, many German makes, motorbikes and bicycles, very few people wear helmets, two on a bike, they are free as the breeze in the busy traffic of the world's largest city. Lanes are flexible and signalling optional. Honking is mandatory.
Shanghai has a population of over 26 million. It is China's biggest city and in fact is the largest city in the world. It is also compact with a skyline full of highrises and streets full of traffic including cars, buses, bikes, scooters and pedestrians. Shanghai is the financial hub of the second largest economy in the world, in the most populous country of the world. An auspicious position.
The guidebooks tell you that trains in China are punctual and that air travel is not. Our flight cost just over a hundred dollars, train fare was almost as much and would have taken longer. However, if you factor in the long drive to the airport, getting there almost two hours early, a flight delay of almost one and a half hours, do the math.
We flew Shanghai Airlines (East China Airlines) out of Pudong Airport. The airport is clean shiny and modern, very cosmopolitan, signs are in English as well as Chinese. English signs abound in Shanghai and there are many western stores as well as high end stores such as Gucci. If we cannot speak Mandarin other than Nehow, hello, at least we speak the other most common language here. I don't know how travelers without Mandarin or English manage. They teach English now from the youngest grades and have an abc song, different than ours but we often heard children saying or practicing their ABCs and young kids frequently greeted us with an enthusiastic "Hallo" and were equally tickled when we responded, "Hallo." In another ten or twenty years China will be like northern Europe, all the young people will speak English fluently.
By the time we boarded the plane Rhea was sick and it was a bad two hours for her as she struggled to maintain her equilibrium. We thought later it was likely dehydration or a bit of heat stroke as it was so hot and humid in Shanghai.
We had arranged a transfer to our hotel in Wulingyuan at a cost of one hundred yuan (about twenty dollars Canadian). The ride took about forty minutes along a twisting country road in the dark, the driver chatted away on his cell phone and there were no seat belts. Pretty standard. April Hostel had really high review scores on Booking.com and I was looking forward to our garden view. We pulled into a muddy narrow lane, too narrow to drive all the way, we piled out and went with high hopes to our abode for the next five nights.
Sue at the desk spoke clear English and somebody helped us carry our packs up a flight of stairs. Rhea laid down immediately and I paid the hostel fee and set up our things, what a small room. There was a flimsy clothes rack that blocked my side of the bed so positioned it in front of the door. Well at least we have a garden view.
Although the Fish Inn accepted credit card payment most of China requires a cash payment. Our room and beds were bigger at Fish Inn, and the bathroom was more like what we are used to in that it had a shower curtain and the shower was contained. Here at April Hostel and many other places where we stayed the shower is just part of the bathroom but the water goes down the drain as the floor must be slightly sloped. Still everything gets wet unless you are careful. It is humid here too, the windows open, the night air is cooler and we can hear crickets chirping. Early, very early the roosters crow.
Everything seems a bit damp, smells a bit musty, I flat iron my hair in the morning and it immediately poufs out due to the moisture in the air.
Something here at April Hostel makes me itchy here, the allergy pills help. I have to save a few in case I get bit by a spider or bee. Did I mention the beds are very hard?
I have never been a very enthusiastic camper and this reminded me a bit of camping or at least of staying in one of those budget cabins in the mountains. I'll tell you what, nothing was as crumby as the motel I stayed in at Rockglen Saskatchewan this summer. So, maybe it is China, but this is no worse than a lot of places and we are at a famous mountain resort, walking distance to the park entrance and our room costs just over 35 dollars per night, breakfast is an additional three dollars. Rockglen was 88 including breakfast, just for comparison.