Blog 11 - Shanghai
Arriving in Shangahi, the western influence was immediately apparent. The airport felt European in comparison to what we had experienced in the rest of China where you felt that The Government Was Watching You. What was quite surprising was just how modern and developed teh city was - far more than most cities in the UK.
Feeling slightly more confident, we decided to try and make our own way to the hotel, rather than use a taxi as we had elsewehere. Shanghai's Maglev train runs from the airport to an interchange with the Underground system. Without a doubt, travelling on this was a must-do and an experience I'd recommend to anyone visiting Shanghai.
Reaching speeds of 430kph (approx 280mph) we got from the airport to the city proper in about 8 minutes compared with the advised 40 minute taxi ride. In virtual silence and with no vibration, the ride really has to be experienced to be trully understood.
According to the hotel website, it was located close to the People's Square which was on the Underground network. Unfortunately, when we got off at this stop, we were told that by tourist information that we had another 20 minute walk. In blistering heat with a 20 kilo rucksack on your back plus hand luggage, that didn't seem very appealing. Having had teh address written out for us in Chinese, we decided a taxi was in order but the first two we approached simply said no and drove away.
With tempers fraying, we continued to wander around the city centre trying to get our bearings until we eventually found a taxi driver who agreed to take us to the 'Lakeside Holiday Inn'. On arrival, we discovered a scene resembling the usual backdrop to a flak-jacketed war correspondent's news report with piles of rubble, dust and barricades surrounding a rather worn looking concrete faced building. Apparently we had arrived in yet another city undergoing major construction works - in this case in preparation for Expo 2010.
On entering the hotel however, we were met with a clean, air conditioned lobby and a clean, tidy and comfortable room.
That night we met up with our new found Oz / NZ friends and headed to the Chinese Acrobat show in Shanghai. I had a fairly low expectation for this but it has got to be the most impressive show I have ever seen with skill and showmanship to exceed (according to Vicki - I've never actually seen it) Cirque de Soleil.
The following day we took the chance to check out the main shopping area - impressive not only for the range of shops but also for the sheer drama of the architectural skyline. Off the main streets however, the lower end shopping complexes and street stands have without doubt the most pushy 'touts' we have come across yet with couples working in 'tag teams' to try and drag you in to the shops.
Having said that, the street market area around the Yuyuan Garden area is something not to be missed with everything from the ubiquitous t-shirts and jade carvings to on-the-spot personalised clay scupltures.
After the hassle of the arrival, we decided to bite the bullet and return to the airport by taxi. Having discovered that there are only 'dead-slow' or 'grand-prix wannabee' taxi drivers, we discovered we had booked teh second for thsi trip so arrived in plenty of time.
Our flight to Hong Kong was by Hong Kong Express - not very impressed! Firstly we were told that there was a problem with our passports and had to come back in an hour then were kept waiting at the check-in desk for another twenty minutes with no explanation when their computer system apparently went down,
After finally getting onto the plane (by this time on the final boarding call) we had to wait another 45 mintes on the tarmac after they discovered that Vicki's seat number had already been allocated on another boarding card and that the total number of passengers didn't tally with the number of boarding card stubs collected at the gate - all round a bit of a farce so I wouldn't recommend HK Airlines!
Anyway, arrived safely in HK so more to follow.