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China November 2011 - From Shanghai to Beijing - Page 3

Day 7 - Monday, 7 November 2011

Yuyuan bazaar

As usual, I was up before 7am which is much too early to do anything.
The breakfast was particularly weird today, chicken nuggets, chicken congee, stir fried chicken, chicken omelette. Clearly chicken was on special. I had some fruit.

I intended to go to a huge tourist market called Yuyuan near the temple of god, basically an entire part of town set up to drain tourists of money from buying crap. However this didnt open until 10am so I continued under the river for one more stop and walked around staring at tall buildings for a while.

Not sure what this place is, but they decided to construct it with roman columns for no good reason.

I didnt even see this place the other night, I think its just called SWC. I had coffee in the basement, theres multiple floors of restaurants and some space age toilets.

Surprisingly, in downtown Pudong theres a very large park, which seems to have some possibly authentic old buildings in it like this one, which was a memorial to someone whos name I forgot.

One of the large parks. The streets around these very large buildings are very quiet, but inside theres lots of people who prefer to walk under the road instead of outside.

Outside Yuyuan bizzarre, and theres a lot of tourist groups about. Lots seem to be russian or eastern european and wandering around looking mad.

Theres quite a few blocks that look just like this, lots of steamed bun shops with huge lines including the giant soup filled ones with a straw sticking out the top.
Theres also a few KFC's, and a Starbucks. I dont understand the KFC fascination.

Goldfish pond has impressively sized goldfish, tourist group overload had me needing to leave here now though. I dont mind tourists generally, but there seemed to be far too many here led by a flag bearer with everyone pulling all their luggage with them like they had come for a day in transit from the airport or something.

Whilst looking for somewhere to eat lunch, it started to rain, so I visited a bakery and fancy supermarket and bought some delicious cake things, pecan popcorn and some bizzarre coconut flavoured rock hard chinese sweets which I threw out.

Zhongshan

I felt very lethargic this evening, and it looked like it might rain at any moment, despite not having rained all day.
So I studied google maps for a while and decided to go to Zhongshan, most famous for having a giant park but also seemed to have lots of other things around it including many food icons on the map.

This turned out to be a great plan, it was a really nice area. The Cloud 9 mall on top of the subway station has a giant Carrefour but also (I counted) 62 restaurants.
These were proper sit down table service restaurants, not hole in the wall or fast food places, spread out over 9 levels. The place seemed to be a bit older and catering for regular Chinese folks, it was still nice, but there was no Gucci or Cartier to be seen.

I wandered around like a zombie here for a while, but once I had my dinner I felt like a million dollars and walked all the way home, at least 10km, and the weather was superb.

Tonights funny story, many of the restaurants in the cloud 9 mall had long waiting lines of people out the front (see pics below). Generally they give you chairs but not always. Depending on the availibility of a correct size table, a girl calls you by name to enter the restaurant.
Universally, this involves the worlds cheapest, loudest and most distorted battery powered personal microphone and speaker set of best ever Chinese quality, complete with feedback. So if you look at the photos below you can see how cavernous the place is, now imagine 60 odd of these loudspeaker systems feeding back at once as a Chinese girl screams your name.

Looking up in the cloud 9 mall, it was a triangle so there were 3 such 'wells' like this on the points of the triangle, connected by walkways of about 50 metres. The Carrefour is over 3 basement levels with the subway under it.

I tried to do a long exposure where I appeared 3 times in diiferent stupid poses. It didnt work out, instead I am a ghostly shadow of my current self.

Now I am at the top of the mall looking down. I was taking redundant photos cause I thought I might go straight home again due to rain and tired. Neither turned out to be true.

One of the above mentioned restaurant lines.

I couldnt eat in any of the big restaurants (and some had seating for at least 100 people). But I found this place that was part cafe, part dessert bar, part snack food but also had a big sign 'EXTRA spicy beef noddle soup'. I was sold instantly and it was indeed excellent.
Afterwards I felt like superman, and started taking much longer strides and running up escelators 3 steps at a time!
I thought I better head outside into the darkness before I transform into something.

The walk home was through some of the nicest parts of Shanghai I have seen. All the streets are treelined, and they all have lights hanging in them (you cant really see it in the photo but theres multi colored LED lighting all over the place).

This seemed to be an English language school using disney movies as a teaching method.

Oh Hi!

The walk home took me past the unline Jin'an temple. The massive advertising neon wall behind me made it impossible to get a photo even with a long exposure.

Tonights amazing hotel photo is the Shanghai JC Mandarin.

Back on Nanjing Road west and it is very nice this evening. Not so busy. There really is a lot to see along here, at first glance it seems to just be high end fashion boutiques but look down side streets and below and above street level and theres lots to see.
Theres also street vendors set up on rugs with boomboxes trying to sell pirate cd's. To demonstrate the quality of the cd, they use the same distorted speaker setup as the restaurants, as best I can tell they play the theme from Titanic or Whitney Houston doing the theme from bodyguard endlessly.
Slightly more interesting, in road underpasses theres dodgy looking guys with a little rug with an assortment of mobile phones on them, they are generally fiddling with them with jewellers screwdrivers, a cable and a netbook. I am guessing these were not acquired through legitimate means.

Rebecca on 2011-11-08 said:
Oh hi!

hipster mother on 2011-11-07 said:
I had three fixies when i lived in Hiroshima. So was the bazaar really bizarre or are you just enjoying some creative spelling?

Day 8 - Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Science museum

I am fully aware that people think its strange that I like museums, because to most people, going to a museum is the most boring thing imaginable.
I guess I should be getting drunk at the KTV or sitting on the Bund having some sort of $50 cocktail, like normal people do.
I dont care though, I like museums, all of them.

The science museum was fantastic, but most people would not have been able to handle it, it was deafening.
There are a ridiculous amount of Chinese school students in here, and their volume is on 11, they are super excited and sprinting through the whole place.
A lot of the exhibits are interactive, you can ride a bike, fire a bow an arrow, kick a football, travel through a large intestine, etc. The kids literally attacked all these things. I saw kung fu moves everywhere.

Interesting to me was recess. The kids all brought a clear plastic sheet, they sat in groups and all put their food in the middle and shared it. Generally this wasnt really food, but chips, chocolates, cakes etc.

If you read about the science museum, you will find lots of western woment talking about skipping it and going to the large 'fake mall' underneath it to stock up on gucci bags for $5.
This was indeed full of women with more shopping than they could carry, and much like the Chinese school children above, they were sprinting from store to store and screaming with excitement. I left.

Right now, I am waiting to see if I get my laundry back. This was a very confusing experience, you go to the laundry room, and theres signs about buying a token from reception for the machines, and never to leave your laundry unattended etc.
I did all this, took my mp3 player and a drink down with me. I try to start putting my clothes in the machine, and a lady comes running in and shoves me out the way! She starts checking all my pockets and turning every item of clothing inside out including my underwear, and putting it in the machine.
So I stand and watch, and I am pretty sure shes abusing me!
After the machine is on, she just glares at me, I have no idea who she is. I sit down and put my mp3 player on, and she starts yelling at me!

She then grabs me by the arm and drags me to reception, where she yells at the reception girl, who speaks basic english and tells me to write down my room, and go to my room and wait for my washing, do not go back in laundry!
So I am doing as I am told, but whats the deal with having a 'self service guest laundry' with machines that take tokens that I have to purchase myself and put in the machine, and signs saying not to leave it unattended.

...update: its been 2.5 hours and I dont have my washing back yet!

The outside of the museum, its a very large building, my lense wasnt nearly wide enough.

Me being electrocuted.

Some of the interactive exhibits.

This was amazingly cool, the lights in this spin in a clockwise rotation, I had to close my eyes periodically to stop myself from feeling sick. I saw a school teacher who was unable to go through it at all, grabbing her chest and turning back.

Strata layer is the bible teaching about the earths history. I cant really improve on that.
Interestingly, the museum had lots of info on the benefits of cloning farm animals, and genetically modifying vegetables to grow in poor soil etc.

I am not going to the zoo, too many people say the cages are depressing, so these dead stuffed animals will have to do.

The indoor rainforest was pretty impressive, its a mix of fake trees and real plants.

Robot world. In here they have a robot theatre with robots in fancy dress dancing. It seems to be a show that goes for 30 minutes but they had a sign up saying all performances today were full.

Kids everywhere, enjoying their snacks.

I presume this is the journey through the digestive system, every science museum has one.
However, just off to the right, was 'human reproduction story'. No fig leafs here, everything shown in graphic detail, I couldnt bring myself to take a photo of a bunch of 5 year olds watching a Chinese couple have graphic sex, and then a time lapse of the pregnant woman, and then the birth in all its detail. The kids seemed to enjoy it.

The space travel part of the museum was surprisingly less busy than the rest. With the recent successes in Chinese space exploration I would have thought this would have been a focus for the kids.

OK, no more museum pictures, instead you get a shot of a mall. Just north of my hotel, is a river, on the other side of the river, it looked to me like there was nothing much, and the map showed nothing of interest, today I decided to walk across and see, turns out theres another restaurant mall, 9 floors of eating places with a cinema on the top.

Heres my lunch. Its a proper sit down restaurant, but my meal was $2. This was concerning, to be honest I would rather pay $5! However it was still quite good, its supposed to be sichuan style, the menu photo showed a hell of a lot of chilli, which I didnt get. I suspect I was the subject of racial profiling here.
When you read Chinese language guidebooks, the 2nd most popular thing people learn to say in chinese is 'no chilli please', the first thing is 'where is the bathroom'. I am a chilli lover so this is annoying.

The funny thing about this $2 meal, it came out and the waitress waited just away from my table. Then a large woman came out from the kitchen and yells at me 'YOU PAY NOW, THEN EAT!'. I guess they have had a few bad experience with westerners skipping out on the $2 bill?

Last night in Shanghai

Tomorrow I am off to Beijing.
Shanghai is a very modern, clean, western city.
I would say it is more modern than Hong Kong, certainly a lot cleaner.
There are a surprisingly high number of westerners here working (English, American and Australian) and as tourists (French, German and Russian).
Everyone seems pretty happy, theres perhaps not the same community spirit as you get in Hong Kong, where people seem to gather outside at all times, but theres things like the ballroom dancing craze and everyone seems to eat out every night.
Its hard to tell how polluted it is, it was genuinely cloudy most days, with always just a hint of rain apart from one day where it actually rained.

Beijing is much colder, getting below freezing at night, I struggled with this in the UK, I think I have a better coat this time, and if I need something even better its probably cheap.

Oh yeah, I got my laundry back after 4.5 hours, it remains to be seen if I get charged for the pleasure of not being allowed to use the guest self service laundry.

My dinner, beef something, had long shitake mushrooms in it, served on a hot plate. It is surprising just how much some skinny Chinese guys can eat, I certainly couldnt eat all of this where as some guys were eating all this, a serve of dumplings and then some sort of giant ice cream and fruit creation.

As I was approaching the waterfront, a fireworks display broke out, I think they have them every night. It was nothing special, similar to those 5 minute displays they seem to have on Darling Harbour once a week.

The most cliche photo of Pudong imaginable, with added ledge. Should have moved the camera closer to the edge. Despite dire warnings about crowds here, it really wasnt that crowded.

Every now and then a fake pirate ship hydroplanes past.

Finally, an example of China as a stereotype. If you had to dig up the road would you close it entirely? no. Put up some lights warning people? no. Close off the lane? no. This is an extremely large busy intersection, and this guy seems to be digging up the road on his own.

There are not many supermarkets, instead they have food stores like this. You can get pretty much everything you would get in a supermarket, but you have to make about 20 transactions as each section is its own mini store. I guess thats no different to going to the central market in Adelaide.

David Newton on 2011-11-08 said:
tomorrow

mother on 2011-11-08 said:
when are you off to Beijing?

Day 9 - Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Shanghai to Beijing

Well, I made it to Beijing without incident, despite dire predictions the high speed rail was a deathtrap designed by 5 year olds and regularly exploded for no reason.
I really enjoyed the trip, I spent most of it standing up looking out a window between carriages.

The people on the train ate the entire way, I couldnt believe how much they ate.
Also, the train had a Jackie Chan movie showing, with the sound turned up (no headphones), most people found this hilarious.
However some people had already seen it, so as the seats had powerpoints, pulled out their laptops, cranked the volume to distorted levels out of their laptop speakers, and small crowds would gather to watch dubbed episodes of friends and two and a half men.

Getting from the Beijing South station to my hotel was no drama, despite having to change subway trains twice. The subway trains themselves are a fair bit smaller than Shanghai.

My hotel is a fairly regular sort of a hotel, the internet seems to work, and for some strange reason I get a fax machine, but not a single English tv channel.

Despite warnings that Beijing air quality is terrible, the further we got from Shanghai the clearer it got, until eventually it was bright blue sky, and right now its getting dark and not only can I see the moon but even a couple of stars. I didnt think that was possible in China.
Its also not as cold as I thought, but with the clear sky maybe it will cool down fast.

Me waiting for the train. A good thing I am not wearing a short skirt like yesterday.

My train.

The dining car, they had an assortment of microwave meals to heat up, and snack foods and noodles in a cup.

It was flat pretty much the entire way, with mainly farmlands.

Every couple of minutes you go past a sizeable town.

And every few seconds you go past a farmers village, seriously at least once every minute, you see a lot go by at 300kmph.

Then you see a lot of these brand new cities under construction. I presume they are being constructed to take advantage of the new rail line.

Starting to see blue sky.

Clear blue sky!

But then every now and then, pollution, due to massive power plants such as this.

For the last 200km or so, it was pretty much city, but they dont call it Beijing. Look how unpolluted the sky looks.

Beijing South station. I highly recommend the Shanghai to Beijing high speed rail.

Central Beijing

My hotel is very central, between Wangfujing pedestrain street and Tiananmen Square.
So I dont have to go far to see anything.
The centre part of town is very interesting, the streets are wiiiiide, theres not nearly as many people about as in Shanghai. Theres also a massive amount of construction and dust everywhere. There are no streetlights (this is sort of cool).
I am sure that after I have walked around in the daylight it will seem a bit more normal, but after arriving in the dark it seems very much like communist China. Perhaps this is only the case in the old part of the city where I am staying.

Only one group of girls tried to scam me this evening, I told them I was from Guatemala, no English. That did the trick immediately.

Unlike Shanghai, there are street food markets everywhere, just like Taiwan, in fact one of them is called 'Taiwan food street'.

Wangfujing street, it has a couple of mcdonalds and KFC's but it seems much more like the Ukraine than New York.

The tents are mostly selling fake bags etc.

More food streets.

Scorpions on sticks, alarmingly still moving!

The lack of street lighting makes for some interesting store lighting, in this case bright yellow, but generally flickering fluoro style that you assumed doesnt exist anymore.

Thats not to say new malls dont exist, heres one, its giant actually and seems to be a series of old buildings that have been gutted, joined, and malled. The amount of construction going on everywhere is amazing, I predict in another year it will be just like Nanjing Road in Shanghai.

I found the best dumpling restaurant ever, different dumplings, the Beijing style Jiaozi dumplings. The range they have is huge.

Also, donkey meat.

My meal was great, I had pan fried pork and scallion dumplings, dipped in chilli oil, with hot and sour soup. It was delicious, but fattening. Even the jasmine tea was great. This was however an expensive meal, I think it cost me $8.

Just another way China is dealing with over crowding.

A catholic church. The centre of every Chinese city seems to have one. There was mass line dancing going on nearby.

mother on 2011-11-11 said:
what happened to the comments link? Did you get embarrassed and remove it cause I was the only one commenting?

Sure are a lot of big open spaces in beijing - must be very drafty in winter. Also lot of room for more Chinese, so maybe they can cancel the one child policy.

Donkeys are common on the menu at some restaurants in China, but no horses or spicy grandmothers

mother on 2011-11-09 said:
students say there are lots of street lights

David Newton on 2011-11-09 said:
OK, I will add pictures of the Hotel at some point, I did take some of the Shanghai hotel. I think both my hotels are costing somewhere around $70 a night, I paid for them before I left.
Theres no breakfast included in the Beijing hotel. Quality of service? I hope to never see anyone providing any, I am sure it gets cleaned daily, it has slippers, dressing gowns, toothbrushes etc.


As for the train from Shanghai to Beijing, this cost about $90, took 4 hours and 50 minutes. I think the food on the train was quite cheap, but I only bought nestea ice tea (like liptons) which were under $1 for a 600ml bottle.

mother on 2011-11-09 said:
so how is the hotel? pics please. Also some details such as price, quality of service, do you get breakfast this time?
details of trip from Shanghai to Beijing also - time it took, cost of food on train, did you buy any etc

There is now a page 4, use the navigation thing below or the index thing at the top left.

Contents

Latest Update

Day 1 - Tuesday, 1 November 2011
  Qantas dramas
  Sydney airport
  Shanghai arrival
Day 2 - Wednesday, 2 November 2011
  Raining
  Still raining
Day 3 - Thursday, 3 November 2011
  The bund
  Hongqiao transport hub
  Nanjing road west
Day 4 - Friday, 4 November 2011
  Going to Suzhou
  Walking forever
  Back from Suzhou
Day 5 - Saturday, 5 November 2011
  Xujiahui
  Pudong is awesome
Day 6 - Sunday, 6 November 2011
  Xintandi
  Guitars and home made dinner
Day 7 - Monday, 7 November 2011
  Yuyuan Bazaar
  Zhongshan
Day 8 - Tuesday, 8 November 2011
  Science museum
  Last night in Shanghai
Day 9 - Wednesday, 9 November 2011
  Shanghai to Beijing
  Central Beijing
Day 10 - Thursday, 10 November 2011
  The forbidden city
  Tiananmen Square
  Random walk
Day 11 - Friday, 11 November 2011
  Temple of Heaven
  Xidan
Day 12 - Saturday, 12 November 2011
  Beihai park and military museum
  Sanlitun
Day 13 - Sunday, 13 November 2011
  Going to the great wall
  The great wall
  Returning from the great wall
Day 14 - Monday, 14 November 2011
  Lost
  Really lost
Day 15 - Tuesday, 15 November 2011
  National museum
  Zhongguancun
Day 16 - Wednesday, 16 November 2011
  Qianmen and the railway museum
  Last night in Beijing
Day 17 - Thursday, 17 November 2011
  Beijing capital airport
  Hong Kong airport