A Travellerspoint blog

April 2018

Taking the Fast Train to Xi'an-Low Prices and Living Better

Yesterday, I checked out of the hostel in Shanghai. Shanghai was ok, but nothing special. The temples we're similar to what I had seen in Hong Kong. The European buildings we're nice, but similar to what I saw in Europe. The market selling crickets and squirrels was interesting, though. As we're the stalls selling Chinese street food.

So yesterday I left to take the 6 hour rail journey to Xi'An-home to the Terracotta warriors. The price for flying and taking the high speed train was fairly comparable, but I wanted to see the country, and I was tired of going to the airport, through security, and getting on airplanes.

So I made it to the station about 7:00 yesterday, 1 1/2 hours before the train left. The station was the main station for the bullet train from Shanghai. The station was gigantic, was mobbed, and dwarfs Grand Central Terminal. All of Shanghai dwarfs New York. Shanghai has 3 times the population, and the metro is the largest in the world. 90_IMG_2771.jpg

The 6 hour rail trip was pretty relaxing. The train sped past quite a few cities, with high rise housing under construction. The train made a few stops. One stop was in a town called Zhengzou. I don't think I have heard of it previously-but upon looking it up it has a population of close to 10 million. The city had a modern bullet train station.

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The train also passed by country fields, pagodas, farms, before reaching Xi'an about 3:30 pm. At Xi'an, I was able to take the metro a few stops, and find the hostel. (Yes Xi'an has a metro)

The cheap sandals I bought in Hong Kong already broke, I lost a sneaker my sweatshirt-so I wasn't in a good position, particularly since it was cold and rainy out. It was already close to 4:00, and rather then go sightseeing, I decided to go shopping. The guy at the front desk said H&M wasn't too far away, so I walked, past building and a beautiful bell tower, towards that area, which featured lots of shops. I felt like having pizza for a change, so I had an early dinner at Pizza Hut-a durian flavored pizza which was ok. I looked at a map provided by the hostel-a lot of stores and points of interest we're outlined. One I had to look twice, and see if I read it right. It said "Wal Mart". I thought this can't be the Wal Mart I was familiar with-of country western songs, emails poking fun at their customers, and always low prices, but I walked to the point on the map-and sure enough-it was Wal Mart. Even compared to Wal Mart's I was familiar with-it was pretty dingy, but I was able to get some toothpaste, detergent, mandarins, and other stuff. Like Wal Mart, check-out was pretty slow.

Across from Wal-Mart was a giant shoe store, selling cheap shoes at prices with a guy with a megaphone out front attracting people to great deals-(I was able to pick up cheap slippers for around 50 cents). I got some new sandals, sneakers and the new slippers all for around $10.00.

On the way back, I did find H&M, and bought a new sweater for around $10.00. it was still cold and dark, so I found the way back to the hostel.

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:30 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghaing Around with Magic Squrrels and a Male Masseuse

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Today was my last day in Shanghai. I didn't have any specific plans, except to "Fill in the blanks", with stuff I haven't done before.

- First of all, I went to the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, which wasn't particularly interesting. There was a scale model of Shanghai today, which was actually pretty cool. Otherwise, the museum showed some future plans, and also some pictures of old Shanghai, and old buildings, but it wasn't that great. There was a whole bunch of uniformed officers in the museum looking at the exhibits, and that was distracting.IMG_2638.jpgIMG_2635.jpg

- I took a walk around the French Concession, which was a part of Shanghai that was signed over to the French, after China lost the opium wars. I did a self-guided walking tour from Lonely Planet, which was ok. It showcased an old church, different houses, and a nice hotel. It was a nice tour down shaded streets. The highlight was some old mansions which we're turned into shops-I had a coffee and croissant at a Costa Coffee.
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- I then followed some other recommendations in the Lonely Planet. One was for a bird and cricket market. The crickets we're kept in tiny containers-and they we're unable to move-but you can hear them chirp. Their we're many little birds as well, and lots of animals of other types, all in cages. I saw tiny turtles, the tiniest i have ever seen. i guess they we're used for racing or something, because their shells we're painted. I saw dozens/or hundreds of little rodents in fishtank-like enclosures. I am not sure if they we're small rats/mice/gerbils or hamsters. There we're also animals I have never seen. I saw three small animals clawing and moving rapidly in a small cage. I had no idea if they we're baby rabbits, but thought they we're because of their ears. I learned later these we're magic squirrels, which I have never heard of. There we're three of them competing for space. There we're bunnies and worms. A large number of small animals competing for space in tiny cages-it was somewhat sad but also fascinating.
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- Then I walked a few blocks over for the Confucian Temple, which was pretty. I took a break here and sat down. The temple was similar to the Buddhist temple. I have heard that the Confucius predates the Buddhists in China. It was a relaxing place.
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Today, the weather which was already cooler than the previous days, turned colder and windy. I walked along towards the riverfront and to the pedestrian mall. Along the way, I grabbed a cheap dinner of noodles and steamed fish. Before returning to the hostel, I got a cheap foot massage from a male masseuse. I was hesitant about having a man massage my feet, but he had me put my feet in boiling hot water with apple peels (or something like that), and he rubbed them. It was pretty good.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 06:45 Archived in China Comments (0)

Not at Every Railway Station

Yesterday, my plan was to pick up the rail ticket for Xi'an, and then visit the city of Hangzou, which has a lake worth seeing. The train to Xi'an doesn't leave until Friday, but I wanted to have the rail ticket, which I bought online, in my possession before checking out of the hostel and lugging my bags to the railway station. I didn't want to be stuck at the station with my bags and having an issue with the ticket-particularly in a place where English is not widely spoken. Either Lonely Planet or the site where I bought the ticket said it can be picked up at any railway station.

So I thought a great place to start would be Shanghai West Railway Station-I figured I could kill two birds with one stone, and pick up the ticket and also buy a new ticket to Hangzou. I walked 10 minutes from the hostel to the metro-walked another few minutes through the passageway to the correct line. I waited for the train with the crowds, got on the train, and got off a few stops later, walked through a maze to the platform for the next train,, and got off at the railway station. I had trouble finding the ticket office, but eventually I found it.

One woman was working. I showed her my page with the confirmation number and my passport to pick up the ticket. I told her I would like the ticket. She clearly didn't understand, and didn't seem to know a word of English. She used Google translate on her phone (or some other translate-as Google doesn't work in China), and told me she couldn't provide me with the ticket. I pointed to the sign that said "ticket office". She told me to go to another train station. We we're going in circles, and she was clearly embarrassed that she didn't speak English. So I left frustrated, got back on another subway train with the crowds, changed trains, got on another train, and found the main station in Shanghai. Here, I waited on a long line, (there we're lots of lines here), and the woman immediately printed out my ticket.

Hangzou was 2 hours away, and now it was close to 11:00, so I decided against it. Instead, I took the train to Qibao, which promised to be a nice town on canals with charming shops, and was an easy metro ride away. So I got back on the metro, changed lines,and got off at the Qibao station.

When I got off, it didn't appear quaint-a giant shopping mall loomed over the station, with all sorts of luxury stores. I walked in the exquisite mall, and asked someone directions to the village (I just showed her the page in the guidebook-I didn't assume she spoke English to understand). She used the maps on her phone, and showed me to walk through the mall and a few blocks, and it was there.

So I found the town-it was quaint. I walked up a bridge over the canal, and then to a small museum showing how cotton was grown and how clothes we're made in town. I saw another museum of an artist named Zhang Chongren, who studied in Belgium and made all sorts of sculptures. I wanted to find the Cricket house-I learned that the Chinese used to train crickets to fight, and I would have liked to see that. I couldn't find the house no matter how hard I looked.

I did find a nice Buddhist monastery with beautiful peaceful lawns, pagodas, and monks milling about. I also passed many stalls selling different things, including clothes. I also tried a lot of the food sold, including octopus, sticky tofu, and some small eggs which we're good (I believe they are quail eggs).
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I enjoyed walking around the markets, and was there until after dark. I went back to the mall to go to the bathroom,and I took the metro back downtown, where I saw a small display on street lift in Shanghai in the metro station.(part of the museum).

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:48 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai on the Other Side

Yesterday was a nice day-once again a glorious sunny, if hazy days, and temperatures in high 70's to 80's. I took the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel across the river-that is a small train that goes underneath the river. The tunnel lights up and has lights and images in the tunnel, like different colors for "Paradise" and "hell". The voice said things like "spring swirl", and magna lava". The ride is maybe 10 minutes, and real cheesy.

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The ride ended at the other side of the tunnel, which is in a section of town called Pudong, which is where all of the giant office towers are, including a couple that are over 100 stories tall. I walked around this section, running into many office towers, searching for the hop-on hop-off bus so I could gain some knowledge of the area. I saw the bus but had much difficulty finding where to get on the bus. In the meanwhile, I walked around. I found a great promenade on the river overlooking the Bund (where I walked the previous evening). I also found a system of elevated, landscaped walkways that went between the office buildings, shopping malls, and transit stations, and the landscaping on the group was immaculate as well.
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Closer to noon, I got hungry. I found a store at ground level that was comprised of vending machines-with all types of foods, from fresh fruits to dinner to wines. But the only way to access the vending machines was by scanning with a cell phone. The combination of all Chinese and all high tech boggled me, but I was hungry and I saw a package of mandarins that looked appetizing. I found a worker who I paid cash, and he got me the food.
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I then walked a little further along, and found a place for a more substantial dumpling soup, which was only about $4.00-$5.00 and was very good.

Later on, I decided to go in the Oriental Pearl Tower, which was a tall radio tower with an observation deck. Sort of freaky looking-I guess a communist style-this wasn't the tallest observation deck in the city, but it had a history museum at the bottom which I was interested in seeing. Plus, I was already in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, so every other building would be anticlimactic. I didn't have to wait long to go to the top, since it was Tuesday, perhaps. There we're very few white people there-I felt like the only tourist. When I got up to the top-(or near the top-I didn't pay to go to the very top), I looked out on the city. The skies we're hazy-so I couldn't see really far. While the city view was impressive-I couldn't get the impression that 24 million people lived here. It looked like a similar view one might see in a Boston or smaller city. I did learn a lot about the older buildings along the Bund, built during colonization.
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After the tower, I went to the museum-which showed various scenes-including the old occupations of the Chinese, including farming, and making milk from soy beans. I saw pictures of the city after colonization, and reenactments of the opium wars. It was a good 1/2 and hour, and it was interesting.

Then I walked along the promenade at sunset, and took the ferry back to the side of the river where the hostel is. I walked along the pedestrian street to the hostel-I got there around 10:00 pm.
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By the way, remember I don't have access to Facebook in China-so I don't know if this is being posted.

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:38 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai-Insulting or shafted and dealing with history

Yesterday was the first day in Shanghai. I left the hostel to explore the city, and went right to People's Square-the main square. Right away, I figured out I really didn't know where I was going-so I found the hop-on hop-off bus, which I got on. The bus took me to various sights, including where the communists members met, shopping streets, and finally the Bund, where I got off. The Bund is a large scenic street with lots of old buildings, and also a promenade which overlooks the majestic skyscrapers across the river. Being a beautiful warm, sunny day, I took pictures of flowers, and the skyline.
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While I was there, A woman came up to me and spoke to me in halting English, and she asked me where I was from, and what I was doing there-she introduced me to her friend (a man). They mentioned they came from a town 2 1/2 hours away, and they we're exploring the city. They love the skyscrapers, they also mentioned they we're going to a tea festival, which intrigued me.

So I walked with them across a bridge to some older parts of the city, past some old, wooden buildings, and down the stairs into a little room with a 50ish woman serving tea, with many teas laid out in front of her. So just the four of us we're there. The lady on one side serving the teas, and my two new friends on either side of me. They told me about teas, how the word ti-chi comes from tea, and the proper way to drink the teas, taking three sips of each. The teas we're really good-none of that sour teabag taste I was used to.

Of course, and as the teaing went on-I wondered, who was paying-so after our fifth tea-I think it was jasmine, I said I wanted to know how much it was, and I wanted to stop having tea. It ended up costing about $30-$40 for all those teas-yet the other two people paid as well. So I wondered we're they trying to be genuinely friendly, or just trying to lure in an unsuspecting tourist. The man made a comment like "Perhaps we have custom you do not like"-and I felt guilty.IMG_2308.jpgIMG_2322.jpg

I walked back on the Bund, and got on the hop-on hop-off bus once again. This time I got off at YuYuan garden, a big temple with many Buddhas, and people praying, and an attached mall selling antiques, food, and the like. Here I sat down and participated in some show with a peep hole, and a guy showing pictures in the peep hole of a dragon coming down on Shanghai, and a big Buddha coming down on Shanghai as well I think. He spoke while this was going on-(in Chinese-so I have no idea what he said). I also decided to look for a Lonely Planet book-so I got a better idea what was going on in Shanghai. People at the market kept asking me what I was looking for-I told them, and they couldn't help me. They got annoyed when I wouldn't buy their watches and Jewelry.
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They did direct me to a large bookstore several blocks away. So after taking the hop-on hop-off bus another time, I got off and tried to look for the bookstore. I did find it. The bookstore was 7 stories tall, and at the top-there was a section of Lonely Planet books-and I found one on Shanghai. As I flipped through the book-I found that a part of the book was waterlogged, and they pages we're soggy. There we're four other books, and and as I flipped through them-I found the same thing in each of the other books. I tried to ask the cashier if I can get some money off-because parts of the books we're waterlogged, and I couldn't turn the pages. i tried to separate the pages, and he haltingly said "that's not a good idea" It was only after a few moments that I realized it was the same 7 pages in each book that i couldn't read-and they we're glued together-it was the pages on the history of Shanghai-which i guess was censored by the government.

After that I went back to the Bund, and watched the sun setting on the waterfront. I walked around some woman said she wanted to talk to me because she never met foreigners in her hometown-2 hours away. I talked to her and she asked me if I wanted dinner and I said no. Then I walked around and went back to the hostel, because it was late.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 16:53 Archived in China Comments (0)

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