10 months late, but I made it
19.10.2012 - 24.10.2012 20 °C
With excitement I caught the Maglev train into Shanghai. It costs considerably more than the metro but I get to go at 300km an hour. It doesn't take you all the way into shanghai, instead I then had to change onto the metro for a bit.
I arrived at my hostel and there was no light in my room, then I found out they would not supply toilet paper to the dorm because no hostel in Shanghai does and that I can buy it down the road and then I found out that the mattress was like a piece of concrete. I have been doing so well with my hostel picks and although in a great location, I did not pick a great last hostel
Travelling days were you do nothing seem to be some of the most exhausting but I perservered and headed up to the rooftop balcony to check out the view. I met two young aussie guy's that were a little too cool for school but headed out to on our street, which is a big food street get some Kung Pow chicken with them anyway.
Shanghai, the city I was supposed to live in, and the last city of my travels is enormous. There is mass building everywhere you look, even the people's park, the central square is filled with buildings. I headed for the most famous sight first - The Bund - a waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River that was traditionally the banking and trading heart of Shanghai. It is lined with beautiful buildings built in the 30's. Opposite is the new Shanghai, the crazy heights of Pudong with it's enormous skyskrapers that each try to outdo each other.
Strolling south along the bund, I headed back into the city through a park to the Yuyuan bazaar and gardens. This was a large and very beautiful shopping plaza bordering a beautiful garden (that I didn't want to pay to go into), but it was as almost everywhere in China is, absolutely packed! I just couldn't appreciate it and all the shops were selling the same stuff and it had Starbucks and Dairy Queen and Dunkin Donuts at every corner. Really traditional. I headed on foot further east into the city, enjoying seeing the sights all around me as I walked and came to Xintiandi, a renovated collection of alleys and buildings that had been turned into a midly successful upmarket shopping area. The architecture had been preserved well, the shops were of no interest to me or my wallet. And I contined and found an area exactly like Xintiandi that had not been renovated and was still lived in today, it was really fascinating, with clothes hanging from electrical wires and people moving all around. I am envious, there feels a much bigger sense of community here and in many of the villages over china I have seen than anything the suburbs of Sydney can produce. I kept walking and came upon Tianzifang, another small community area, although the renovation on this one was minimal, and now it is full of cool shops and cafes and lots of tourists. It was fun getting lost in the alleyways and being tempted by lots of lovely art and objects. I had lunch, possibly one of my favourite meals in China, in a locals restaurant where everyone is jammed in and full of noise, I had a huge bowl of pork noodle soup that cost $2. Nice to take the leap and walk into a restaurant where there is no english and no understanding but get an amazing meal! I continued my exploring, seeing more of the Tianzifang area and then continuing into the french concession area. This neighbourhood is beautiful with tree lined streets and a huge variety of shops and cafes. If I had come to live, this is where I'd like to live. I was beyond exhausted a few hours later and so headed back to the hostel, with an awesome quick dinner in the restaurant below the hostel.
Exploring the nanjing road and pudong was the aim of my next day and so a chinese fastfood breakfast I set off along Nanjing Rd, basically Pitt St on steriods. The shopping complex's are massive and there are so many of them and then there are people everywhere. The chinese really love to shop. I am over shopping! I walked fast down the road and towards the bund. Yesterday I had seen the south end of it, today I walked the north area with the picture perfect views of Pudong. It was pretty nice! I then tried to walk through the underground tunnel but they want 50 yuan to go through it.... No way... so it was a backtrack to the metro to cross to other side. When you look at the view of the Pudong you see all these massive buildings and it looks amazing. It doesn't really give a great representation of depth. When you are in it, it takes ages to walk one block. The blocks are massive and there are roads everywhere. I went to the Shanghai World Financial centre, one of the largest buildings in the world that looks like a giant bottle opener, with the highest public observatory in the world, 100 floors up! It cost bucket load but it was worth it. I've never been up so high before and it was pretty cool. Shanghai just goes on and on forever. From up above you see some crazy urban planning, with massive highways and roads and huge skyscrapers next to small apartment blocks. I spent ages up there taking in the view, looking down on ant sized people! I'm not sure what the rest of the building is like, although the shopping floors seemed boring but I was glad to have come up and seen it. The structure is truely impressive.
Afterwards I headed to the China Art Muesum. This building, a massive modern interpretation of traditional chinese architecture had been the centrepiece of Expo 2010, and now has become the art musuem, only opened 2 weeks ago. Somehow I got in for free and enjoyed walking around. Chinese art is not really my thing but it was nice to see some and experience the building. I had all these grand plans to explore some more but it was getting late into the afternoon and I was exhausted. I chilled out at the hostel before meeting my friend, Robin, whom I had met in Beijing. Robin and another girl Esther are from the netherlands but are doing a university placement at a hotel in Shanghai for 6 months. Robin took me to an Italian restaurant, as I was really wanting some western food and we had a great few hours eating normally and chatting.
Monday in Shanghai and it was pouring with rain. My plans to go to Hangzhou just seemed pointless in all the rain so instead I slept in and then headed to an area 30km out of Shanghai called Zhujiaojiao. It was an hour long bus ride to get there, on massive crowded elevated freeways and into the outskirts. When we got to the bus station I had no idea which way to go. It felt like I had been dropped in the middle of nowhere, but if travelling has taught me anything, particularly in China it is to follow the tourist buses and so I headed to where they were and came upon Zhujiaojiao, a small traditional town upon some little canals with some lovely gardens and temples. I spent a couple of hours wandering around the cute laneways looking at all the goods on sale (for tourists) and walking up and down the canals. I really like getting out of the city proper and seeing these areas. I didn't stop for lunch instead got the bus back into Shanghai but unfortunetely jumped on the local bus, not the express and my journey into Shanghai took me 2 hours. 2 hours through Shanghai traffic feels like an eternity, I was almost banging my head on the wall by the end. So what better way to relieve all that pain that with shopping therapy. I went to the Hancity markets, Shanghai's premier fake markets and indulged myself with some more purchuses. I really don't know how my bag will fit all together. Perhaps I will have to wear it all at once on my flight to Canada?
I had a lovely dinner of peking duck (I love this so much) with many chinese people starring at me. Yes I am white!
I got up early the next day, having an awesome breakfast of dumplings, and then to go to Suzhou but my plans all fell apart as at the train station they wouldn't let me buy a train ticket without a passport so I had to head back on the metro to pick up my passport from the hostel and start again. 1 hour later I was on the amazingly efficient express train to Suzhou, a chinese city of 1.6 million people that is famous for being the Venice of China. It only took 25 minutes to get here, seriously why can't australia have high speed rail? but when I did I was totally disorientated. As with the day before, there was no indication of where the hell I was and the lonely planet map was once again proving itself useless. I hired a cyclo and was riden a temple in town for next to nothing, I actually felt really guilty that this old guy was riding me around and wanted to get out and help! In the town I headed first for the Suzhou musuem. This musuem which houses a lovely collection of ancient chinese artifacts and artworks was designed by I.M.Pei, possibly the greatest Chinese architect to have ever lived. His work includes the glass pyrimad to the Lourve in Paris. Anyway I took great joy in walking around this musuem, a modern interpretation of classic chinese architecture, and seeing some lovely artworks. I had no idea this was here so that was a pleasant surprise. It was also adjoined to a traditional chinese complex, which finally, for once was relatively empty and I was actually able to appreciate the beautiful and intricate design and enjoy the peace that you are meant to experience in these places.
I then headed next door to the Garden's of the Humble ambassador, a huge garden complex (with a pricey entry fee) that I spent an hour or so wandering around. Traditional chinese design really is very clever, with beautiful use of height, materials and framing of vista's. Even with people around and the asian tour groups with their horrible microphones, you can't help but be in good mood walking around such a beautiful place.
Afterwards I ambled around the town, enjoying the small alleys streets and the dumplings I had for lunch, but really not enjoying the normal streets of Suzhou, it's not really an appealing city. I visited another pagoda temple before heading back to the railway station via a motorised tuk tuk.
It was a smooth train ride back into Shanghai and then I headed out to the french concession area again. I spent a few hours walking through the streets, popping into some lovely boutique's and dreaming of buying everything. I had dinner back on my hostel street, then I had to spend ages packing my bag. I had managed to get so much stuff and it was a bit of a struggle to pack it all but eventually the bag was shut!
I finally leave and head to Canada today. After all these months to have it finally here was a bit surreal. After a great breakfast of dumpling, I spent the morning walking around Shanghai, taking in all the sights and sounds for the last time, and doing everything in my power to avoid any shops. I had a quick lunch and then it was off to the airport. It was fun taking the maglev train again, going at 300km/h and then after an effortless check-in, immigration and security and wasting a whole bunch of time sitting around I was off.
Canada here I come! Hope I don't get too cold!