Last known location: London, England

Shanghai Skyscrapers

We arrived in Shanghai on Saturday afternoon and decided that the best way to get our bearings would be to take in the view from one of the city’s many skyscrapers. After checking into our hostel, which was again more like a hotel but at hostel prices, we headed off on the metro to the Jin Mao Tower, which has an observation deck on

the 88th floor. There were amazing views of rest of the city across the river and of the neighbouring skyscrapers in the Pudong district. The one slightly alarming thing up there, which made even Gem feel slightly queasy, was the view down inside the tower itself; a hotel occupies from the 54th floor upwards, and you can see 34 floors down all the way to the lobby from the observation floor!

We headed back across the river through the bund sightseeing tunnel, which was odd experience to say the least. You went through in little pods with a light and sound show which was supposed to make you feel as if you were going to the centre of the earth. The translation for the voiceover wasn’t that great though so it didn’t make that much sense, but was quite fun anyway!

Close to our hostel were several seafood restaurants, with all kinds of weird fish, crabs, sea snails and anything else you can imagine, some of which were still alive in tanks. People were taking it in turns to go up and pick their dinner from the selection, with plenty of bartering going on at the same time! I have to admit  however that we chickened out slightly and had chilli chicken and deep fried beef!

The following morning we went on a short river cruise down the Huangpu river, which was a great way to see the the colonial buildings of The Bund as well as the skyscrapers of Pudong. We also saw our ferry to Japan which we’re catching later today arrive at the docks – didn’t exactly look like the QE2, but did seemed to be staying afloat so not too concerned!

After exploring the The Bund and Huangpu Park, where during colonial times there was once a sign that read “No dogs or Chinese” (this is apparently a myth!), we had a look around the French Concession, which was once famed for its lawlessness. Now though it just seems to be lots of designer shops and department stores. We did pay a visit to a cafe/restaurant called Whisk, where we indulged in chocolate overload, with some of the richest puddings imaginable! We both felt a bit sick afterwards and thought we might have overdone it!

It had been quite a warm day, shorts and t-shirt for me, so we thought a few drinks on the roof terrace at the hostel were in order. Great views of the sun setting across the city and cheap beer, although we did have to help the staff write a poster in English so it wasn’t all fun!  We went for a late dinner (8.30ish, which is very late for China; restaurants are busiest between 5 and 6) and grabbed some rice, dumplings, meat skewers and sesame bread from a small cafe.  It was a delicious meal and pretty cheap.  We’ve found that our favourite meals in China have been in backstreet restaurants costing less than a couple of pounds.  Turns out cheap doesn’t always mean nasty!

On Monday we had to pick up our Japanese rail passes from a local travel agent.  I’d spoken to the agency (Gullivers Travels!) to organise it and we had to stop by the office to collect and pay for the passes.  We found them easily enough and the transaction went very smoothly –  a relatively unusual occurrence for us in China!  We also picked up some Japanese Yen at the Bank of China; again, very easy and no hitches!

After finishing our chores we caught the metro to the Old City, one of the few areas of Shanghai that is without skyscrapers and hasn’t undergone too much modernisation.  We strolled through the narrow streets and picked up a few dumplings from street vendors.

There’s a big tourist bazaar area within the old city and we ended up spending a very pleasant hour in a tea shop sampling different types of teas and learning about Chinese tea in particular.  The experience started off quite badly, though.  We were invited to sit at a tiny table and I misjudged the height of the stool.  Suffice to say there was a small accident and I ended up on the floor having narrowly missed knocking over a row of tea and china tea ware!  Once Gem and the saleswoman had stopped guffawing we got down to tasting.  We ended up walking away with about £20 worth of tea, but felt we couldn’t leave with nothing after the woman had spent so long with us!

We headed back to the hostel, picking up supplies for our ferry trip, and then grabbed another cheap and cheerful dinner down a local side street.  Shanghai’s been more fun than we expected.  This could be down to the good weather (and Western toilets, in Gem’s case!) but we’ve really enjoyed it.  The skyline is spectacular but the older parts of the city impressed us a lot, too. We are currently heading to Osaka, Japan, on the ferry which will take about 48 hours.  We’ve heard you either love China and hate Japan or vice versa.  Let’s hope that’s not the case, because China’s definitely been a great experience for us!

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