The slow train to Shanghai
Trip Start Jun 30, 2010
58Trip End Jun 01, 2011
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It was great to see Beijing and China rolling past the window and watch people going about their lives, and inside the carriage the camaraderie and kindness, but it really was an endurance test and especially for those standing. It was almost impossible to get to the washroom for people, bags and boxes crowding the aisle, so people were practically fasting, including us. One young man, who refused our offer of food and drink with a cheery smile, stood the whole way and didn't eat or drink for 24 hours. Another survived on two cans of beer! My hat goes off to them.
Shanghai means 'by the sea' and, once we'd recovered from our 24 hour train journey from Beijing, it was to the waterfront that we first headed to take in the infamous Shanghai skyline, made up of the Pearl Tower, Shanghai World Financial Centre (462 m high) and the Jinmao Tower, and to walk along The Bund, China's equivalent of Wall Street. Obviously a popular spot and we thought it was busy at midday, but a visit to the same spot at midnight two days later and we were forced to a slow shuffle, shoulder to shoulder, sweat dripping, bags bumping legs all the way along East Nanjing Road to The Bund. You can judge for yourself whether the photo below was worth the struggle.
Shanghai is hosting the 2010 International Exhibition (the first was at Crystal Palace, London, 1919) and we wandered the 'Expo 2010' pavilions of all the countries that we have, and will be, visiting. The expansive site really came alive at dusk when we were treated to an extraordinary light show with the aerial walkways, the massive conical 'Axis', the bridges and features were glowing and pulsating every colour, with the neon glow of the Shanghai skyline as a backdrop. Questionably extravagant but undeniably beautiful.
To get a flavour of historic Shanghai we explored the Old Quarter, a maze of narrow lanes, tightly packed houses, laundry hanging from windows and even pavement railings. It was here we discovered the Huxinting Tea House (estab in 1784) where we sampled Dragonwell tea and pickled quails eggs, the compact and intricate Ming gardens of Yuyuan (estab in 1577) and the crazily busy Yuyuan Bazaar. In contrast the Confucian Temple offered complete peace and quiet. At this temple the stone-etched words of Confucius, the dictum-coining sage come social theorist, are used to resolve neighbourly disputes, comfort pilgrims and bring luck to school children in their exams.
Shanghai was a tiring city to explore as a pedestrian, especially in 30 degree heat, but the road, metro and tourist sight signs were provided in English, enabling us to move confidently about, and the Travellers Rest Hostel provided a good value base. After 4 days pounding the metro, dodging mopeds and bikes on the pavements and being queue jumped (although the concept of 'the queue' technically doesn't exist), we were definitely looking forward to some down-time during our three day/two night ferry journey to Japan.