Trip Start Jan 16, 2008
Trip End Jul 28, 2008

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U Home Inn

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Shanghai - what an unbelievable tale this is!

1. The Company:

Firstly, we were fortunate enough to be hosted by Fiona and her husband Yechen - very kindly some business contacts supplied by my aunt (Thanks Caroline!). They were ably supported by "Driver G" who was able to whip us around the City in our own chaffeur-driven people carrier - the classic flash-packer form of transport!?! Their hospitality and generosity were remarkale. We learnt so much more than a guidebook can ever tell you about modern Chinese culture. - and they had a very cute daughter too! (Kim)

2. The Food:

We will perhaps remember our stay in Shanghai most for the extraordinary cuisine:

Enjoying a cup of green tea in China's most famous teahouse (Huxinting Teahouse) next to Yuyuan Gardens in the Old City, we tucked into some hard-boiled eggs soaked in tea and soy sauce, along with some fried tofu and traditional Chinese sweets.

Sitting down in a traditional Sichuan restaurant we found ourselves with a bubbling spicy chilli hotpot in the centre of the table. All the food then arrived raw as you cooked up your own feast which included sea bass, seaweed and of course the obligatory ox stomach!

The finale perhaps came when we invited to join Yechen's family at their home on Chinese New Year. We enjoyed over 15 courses, including - duck's kidney, jellyfish, sweet and sour tiger prawns, octopus with green pepper, sea cucumber with bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage and mini omelettes filled with minced pork (these omelettes symbolised the desire for money in the upcoming year. Unfortunately Kim dropped her's from her chopsticks - perhaps an ominous sign for me!??!), river fish fried in soy sauce, mock beef made from bean curd and all finished off with a steaming bowl of sweet rice with red beans, dried fruits and nuts. It was an incredible feast that we will never forget! Just for reference, duck's kidney is very chewy and salty!?!

Half an hour before midnight and it all really kicked off. Having assured our hosts we both sleep like logs and would sleep straight through the fireworks, we could see why they were perhaps not so sure. We'd never heard anything like it. Anyone and everyone welcomes in the New Year by letting off as many fireworks as its possible to light! People were hanging out of 20 storey high appartment blocks and setting off firecrackers from the palm of their hands, lining up bangers in the middle of the street and shooting massive colourful explosions into the sky. A mass of colour surrounded everyone of the countless high-rises and appartment blocks and the scene looked like something out of a war-zone.The fireworks carried on early into the morning and apparently we can await a simular event in five days time! 
3. The Sites / Attractions:

The Old City - charming, traditional and full of life. Most importantly we learnt one extraordinary fact - the Buddhist temple at its heart is on the stock market and its original priests have made millions!!!!!

The Bund - an inspiring blend of old and new architecture creating a remarkable city skyline. The views from the Oriental Pearl Tower were breathtaking.

People's Square and the Shanghai Musuem - a fine collection, but perhaps starting to feel we have seen enough Ming and Qing relics for one trip!

Nanjing Road - the shopping heart off Shanghai but prices certainly aren't cheap. Instead we headed to the market selling less than genuine products...

Science and Technology Museum - A very impressive modern building. Loads of really interesting exhibitions, some probably particularly interesting if you can read and understand Chinese! Although there was a sufficient amount of buttons and flicky switches to keep me happy for an afternoon. A genuinely impressive Robot section (Robot's speak English) and a not so nice Spider section. I'm not even joking when I say I didn't even go into that half of the museum, and stayed a good few metres away from Rob when he came safely out the other side. (You never know do you!?) Felt a little ill after working out my proximity to so many pictures of spiders and creepy crawlies, and wondering if Rob might have to go to Oz alone!?

Zhouchang - A very pretty little town based all around a set of canals. Apparently 'The Venice of the East.' I'm not sure if its been that cold and snowy in Venice since the Ice Ages, but nonetheless a charming Chinese town which some very intresting traditional houses to wander around, enjoying a lovely lunch in a resturant overlooking one of the canals.

We will finish with the story of our karaoke debut! Karoke is absolutely massive out in China - people cannot get enough of it and are prepared to queue for hours. Unlike anything back home, each group has it's own room, including a variety of percussion instruments to bash about. It is truly priceless! We quickly realised that its actualy quite a seroius affair, and not the stupid comdey night out we expected. Our rendition of Westlife's Fool Again was recorded to DVD and we hope to get it onto the blog soon. We will then await a call from Simon Cowell...

Happy, happy days!
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