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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shanghai, China

 The Bund from our hotel window.

Travel Date 2nd - 5th April 2012.
Click on any picture to see a large version. 

Before leaving Hangzhou we had learned our lesson from the earlier taxi ride and took the cab to a hotel next to the station instead of the cavernous interior. We had a cheap but satisfying lunch at a dumpling shop then went back to the hotel for drinks in their air-conditioning before walking to the waiting room.

We took the G train after lunch from Hangzhou to Shanghai. It was our first experience of the Chinese high speed trains. Smooth as silk, plenty of room to relax and no real indication of the speed until you look at the screen at the end of the carriage and see 302 km/hr (~190mph). After travelling on several Chinese G trains, the Eurostar and the TGV Lyria in France I am rather sad that high speed rail is unlikely to be introduced to Australia until after I leave the planet.

Before visiting China I tried to learn some of the basic greetings and phrases I would need. I gave up trying to learn to read Chinese characters. That is far beyond my mediocre linguistic skills. I discovered a handy little tool on the web which let me create a tiny pocketbook of useful words and phrases.

The only words I can immediately recall now are nia hao (pr kneehow = hello) and xie xie (she she = thank you). I carried a netbook with me. On the desktop I saved a folder with addresses in Chinese, such as the sights I wanted to see and all my accommodation, copied and pasted from web-pages or using a web translation like Google Translate, Freetranslation or Babelfish. I used that quite often to show taxi drivers addresses.

I have become expert in using the many different hotel booking systems around the world. In China I mainly used cTrip and Agoda. I try to get the best standard within my budget, but usually that budget is very tight. Consequently we often stay in 3* hotels, sometimes in 4* and occasionally in hotels that could only wish for a star. A note on using cTrip. Unlike most Western booking sites the price you get may be flexible and change before you arrive. We had one case where the price was reduced before we arrived, and one where it increased. Neither was a significant change, but be aware it can happen. Also see my comment in the previous post about hotel deposits.

For Shanghai we got lucky. Les Suites Orient is possibly the best hotel experience I have had or may ever have. See my Tripadvisor review for details. Unfortunately recent reviews are not quite so glowing. Maybe they had a change of staff since my visit.

We took it easy in Shanghai, with no particular goals apart from relaxing, wandering around and seeing the sights. The first thing we discovered, unsurprisingly, was that Shanghai is crowded. Personal space is a concept yet to be discovered in China.

Shanghai has an interesting history. Like Hong Kong it would not exist as one of the world's largest metropolises if not for the arrival of the Foreign Devils - the Portuguese, British, Germans, Americans and others - on Chinese shores.

Until the middle ages it was a small fishing village on the swampy shores of the Huangpu River and the Suzhou Creek. Gradually from that time it expanded to be a modest textiles and handicraft centre, but the real population growth started with the arrival of the first Europeans, Portuguese Jesuits, in the early 17th century. Later the British arrived. They used very persuasive trading techniques including gunboats, marines and soldiers. The Chinese, who invented gunpowder, became like many before them: victims of their own invention. The Opium Wars eventually followed which resulted in Shanghai forcibly becoming one of the major Chinese ports open to foreign traders. That eventually resulted in a continuing population explosion. Despite being ravaged in the early 20th century in the Sino-Japanese war, continuing in WWII, the present population is conservatively estimated at 23 million.

The famous Bund was originally the section of the river where the wharves for all the foreign trading ships were located. This is a picture of the Bund as it used to be:

This is the view now: 

At night the river became spectacular, with many boats being illuminated:

Many of the buildings on the modern Pudong side of the river lit up brilliantly:

The bund was also impressive at night:

We spent the days in Shanghai walking a lot in the back streets. I liked the old markets such as the ones near Yuyuan Gardens.

We also visited the ultra-modern shopping district in Nanjing Road.

At the quieter northern end of the Bund where the river and the creek meet is this tranquil garden:

We learned early that green lights for pedestrians at crossings were totally meaningless. It didn't matter what colour the lights were, the cars roared through anyway and death-defying pedestrians crossed as though the cars were not there. We tended to wait until there were long gaps between cars or large groups of people crossing.

This man was manufacturing sugar-cane juice from cut cane on demand. Not quite the right drink for my diabetes, but he was doing well on a warm day.

One of the odd quirks about transport in China, as I discovered earlier in Hangzhou, is the autorickshaw prices. They are often double or triple the price of a cab for less comfortable journeys over a shorter distance. The only advantage I could find was that sometimes they were around when taxis were not.

Cheers, Alan

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