It was still very dark at 5am when we stumbled down the stairs of the hostel. Our driver was waiting for us so we jumped straight in his van for a hairy ride to the airport. Instead of wating at red lights he either drove straight through them or swerved to the opposite side of the road to go through (we guessed it was in case of traffic light cameras). The flight wasn't too bad at 3hrs and we were soon out in the sunshine in Shanghai. Our hostel had sent directions so We caught the airport bus into town and walked a few blocks to find them. The Blue Mountain Hostel turned out to be pretty nice, and convieniently right next to a metro station. We had showers and then caught a metro to People's Square right in the heart of the city. From here we joined the Sunday crowds wandering down East Naning Road (the main shopping street) towards the Bund
. It was amazing how many touts kept coming up to us with cards showing fake watches, shoes and bags etc - in Beijing there had been none. We reached the end of E.Naning Rd and admired the old buildings of the Bund. This is the riverside road where all the trading used to take place - the buildings are built from stone and are a very grand Edwardian or Victorian in style. Shanghai is hosting the World Expo in 2010 so most of the city is being knocked apart or renovated - this was the case here on the Bund with the famous walking promenade closed to the public. We returned to the hostel hoping to eat dinner with them but were disappointed with the menu, instead we found somewhere up the road.
Monday 14th September - Shanghai
After stopping for a banana from a market stall near our hostel we jumped on the metro to Huaihai Road (another shopping district). This are is unofficially called the French Concession - and forms part of the city that was controlled by the french in colonial times. It was much quieter and nicer here than in the centre of the city - the roads were wider and lined with trees and the buildings grander and set back from the road. We found a great breafast place that had a cheap early morning deal on for hot drinks and donuts. After browsing in a few of the cute little shops we made our way to the site of the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party
. This was the building where Mao Tse Tsung and his buddies met to design the manifesto and plotted to overthrow first the colonists out of Shanghai and then democracy out of China. It was a pretty interesting building even if the mock up meeting room was a bit over the top. Deciding to go take a look at the flashy Pudong area of town we caught a metro under the river. We came out of the station and were immediately dwarfed by all the big skyscrapers in this part of town. There was the Pearl TV tower (that looks very much like the TV tower in Berlin), the Jinghao building that that crazy French guy 'Spiderman' climbed and the Shanghai World Trade Centre that looks like a giant bottle opener. For dinnner we found a giant mall nearby and had some Thai in a restaurant before heading back to the hostel for some internet admin.
Tuesday 15th September - Shanghai
This morning after seeing our normal banana lady we caught the subway back to People's Square. Right in the middle of the park next door was the Shanghai Museum which is supposed to be the best museum in China. Once we found the correct dooor to enter we headed straight to the top floor so that we could work our way down. There were some both nice and weird pieces of Ming and Qing dynasty furniture in the first room
. For example some had really ornate patterns all over them that must have taken forever to hand paint but made you almost physically sick to look at! The next floor down had a money collection including coins and notes. The interesting thing about some of these were how thin some of the old coins were (they looked paper thin) and how big the old paper notes were (about B5 size thesedays). The penultimate floor held the most interesting things; the pottery, jade, bronze and art. We spent ages looking at the intricately patterned Ming vases, the bronze animal statues and the jade tools. Some of the axes, swords and spears could have been displayed in Te Papa museum in Wellington that is how similar they looked in terms of development but of course these here in China were much older. From the museum we caught the metro back under the river to the Pudong skyscraper area. Here after a bit of difficulty finding the ticket booth (it looked like a tourist trinket/snack shop) we bought a cruise down the river. We had been hoping for a bright and sunny day but unfortunately it wasn't to be even though the weather forecast said otherwise. Even so we enjoyed checking out the skyscrapers, the old buildings of the Bund and the commercial boats on the river doing there thing from the comfort of our cruiser. Back on dry land we finnished the day with some food before heading back to pack our bags for another flight tomorrow.
Wednesday 16th September - Shanghai to Guilin
After checking out of the hostel we left our bags with them as our flight was not until 3pm. Because we enjoyed our breakfast so much the other day we headed back to the donut place in the French Concession for an exact replica - it was great again. Afterwards we walked 20mins down the road to an area that had been recommended to us the internet to look for cheap electronics
. The area turned out to be 4 floors of a mall taken up by little stalls where you could buy pretty much any electrical item you could think of for bargain prices. We got into discussions with one stall owner for an Iphone but he wouldn't meet us with the price we wanted to pay. Disappointed we vowed to look again at phones in Hong Kong. We returned to the hostel, picked our bags up and caught the bus to the airport. Again a taxi driver tried to steal our business from the bus queue but again he wanted silly money and got quite upset when we kept saying we wanted to go on the bus. He kept slamming his fist into his hand which to start with we wondered if he wanted to punch me but later worked out he was saying the bus was stop/start and very full! Our plane was delayed for an hour due to a late incoming flight so we watched some Greys on the laptop whilst the chinese passengers harranged the poor gound staff. The flight turned out to be ok as the food was good even though we were in the very back row and got stared at as we were the 'only whities in the village'. Arriving at Guilin we caught the airport bus and a taxi to our hostel for the night. We are only staying in Guilin because we arrived so late - tomorrow we will get up and catch an early bus to Yangshou.