A Travellerspoint blog

China

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)

See ya Hong Kong

sunny

Yesterday I packed up and checked of a hostel for the final time in Hong Kong. This hostel was difficult to leave. It was by far the most comfortable hostel I have stayed in, with large, airy, modern rooms and bathrooms, and giant common areas. One had plenty of chairs and sofas, and had wrap-around windows on the 2nd floor. You could sit there all day. The hostel was more like a business hotel. Plus it was in a different neighborhood than the other hostels, so the temptation was to stay.

In less than 2 weeks in Hong Kong, I (1) Bought a new camera lens (2) got my computer fixed (3) Met a girl and changed my relationship status on Facebook(4) Bought new sandals and (6) Saw the biggest Buddha in the world. (There's more than that).

Hong Kong was quite amazing. It is truly a city of contrasts-There are frenetic Chinese markets, gleaming office towers, beaches, mountains, and plenty of 7-11's.

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Anyway, I had a flight scheduled and a new hostel in Shanghai scheduled as well. Plus, I don't like to get too comfortable anywhere-so It was time to move on.

I made it to the airport on time for the 3 hour flight. I was nervous because the system wouldn't let me log in online, but when I got to the airport-no problem-I was there approximately 2 1/2 hours before the 1:00 pm flight.

The flight was on Spring Airlines-a low cost carrier-the seats didn't recline and the food and drinks all cost $-but it was fine. The crew's English was well-developing. The flight attendant wanted us to "Have a nice fright".

The flight landed at 4:20 pm-but had to deal with

(A) A long ride from the plane to the terminal in a shuttle bus, passed about 30 other planes (it seems), up a hill over a highway, past another 30 planes (it seems) and to the terminal.
(B) Long lines in passport-control, with about 60 people ahead of me (At least-in a snaking-slow moving line)
(C) A 15 minute walk to the Metro downtown
(D) Roughly 2 hour ride on the Metro to the airport. The first train was crowded and went passed 10 stations it seems. with my bags in front of me. I started to daydream, and at the next station it seems, everyone started rushing out and new people started rushing into the train. I was fine because that would mean I was going to get a seat-but no-that train was going back to the airport, and I had to cross the platform and get on another train. Another 15 stations, and I got on off and on another train upstairs, to one station.
(E) I found the hostel-a decent one with a rooftop bar. I arrived a bit after 7:00 pm, almost three hours later.

I had some dinner of some weird noodles and tofu, and than went back to read the Lonely Planet guide on China-it was akin to reading an encyclopedia-just overwhelming. Everything was 12-40 hours from anything else. And btw, no Facebook while I am here-I can't use Facebook in China.

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

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