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China November 2011 - From Shanghai to Beijing - Page 1

Day 1 - Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Qantas dramas

Actually, this is day -1 or perhaps 0 day.....better mention the Qantas dramas.
Whilst this is big news in Australia right now, in 10 years time hopefully I can still read this shitty website (I have lots of 10 year old content online right now so I dont see why not).
Since Saturday 5pm, Qantas spectacularly decided to ground their entire fleet of aircraft, the pool was totally closed.
This of course threatened to end my trip before it started, I am flying all the way there on Qantas.

The dispute is complicated, baggage handlers want more money, Qantas wants to employ Chinese baggage handlers in China to somehow load bags in Australia.
In hopeful news, the situation was ended by the court of fair work choices who told everyone to cut the crap at 2am last night. It then took some 26 hours for the civil aviation safety authority to confirm no one was planning to blow up the planes as a result of the decision.
Planes are now flying, and it looks like I will get to go to China, my flight tomorrow morning is at 6am.

Sydney airport

My flight from Adelaide to Sydney was delayed by about 30 minutes as all Qantas crews had to work until late last night as flights only resumed at around 3pm due to the industrial action described above in boring detail.
I have been apologised to about 20 times, at the Adelaide meet and greet for the international check in, at the check in itself, at the Adelaide lounge, on the plane by the pilot, the cabin manager, and then personally by the cabin manager, in Sydney by the transfer bus desk lady, the transfer bus driver, the Sydney lounge guard downstairs, and now the Sydney lounge ticket checker and even the waiter who served me breakfast. It is starting to get annoying.

The actual lounge itself in Sydney is often voted the best in the world, its the only time in my life I wished I drank, as you can easily enjoy $100 worth of champagne with breakfast.

Present indications are the plane to Shanghai will leave on time, but as we now know, the airline can cease operations globally in 8 minutes, so who knows!

Sunrise at Adelaide airport. All parking spots were full, and there were a few planes round the back in the stand off area too. Nice morning you can see the jet trails of some early morning flights from Perth or South Africa that have gone across Adelaide

The extensive menu in the Sydney first class lounge for breakfast. Place was full and plenty of people were enjoying wine and champagne with 2 breakfasts each. Fat businessmen are fat for a reason.

Heres what I had, it was delicious. Note its vegetarian, I am mostly vegetarian these days except for innards and any broth prepared from the face of multiple animals.

Generic view of the vicinity, I have about 30 minutes to kill so thats what you get.

The view outside however is great, plenty of action, 3 x A380's took off whilst I was sitting here.

Shanghai arrival

OK I made it.
Flight time was 10 hours and 10 minutes, add that onto the 2 hours for Adelaide to Sydney and at least an hours taxiing time particularly on arrival at Shanghai and that adds up to quite a bit.
Which means I am happy cause I love to sit on planes.

I stayed awake the entire flight, next to me was the only spare seat on the entire plane (I checked), so I could spread out and enjoy the service and in flight entertainment. It of course had to be rebooted twice, as it has to be on every single flight, because no one has ever yet designed an in flight entertainment system that works.

Qantas fed me non stop, in addition to the meals below there was a noodle service, hot chocolate, non stop drinks (but annoyingly the tray only ever had booze on it, ice cream if you wanted it, fresh fruit etc.

Arriving in Shanghai was very efficient. I am actually a bit disappointed as this is my only visit to Pudong airport as I will be leaving via Beijing, and I didnt really get to see much of it.

Next up was the maglev train, which at night is speed limited to 300kmph, and it was night when I was on it. I am tempted to ride it again during the day to see it hit 450.

Finding my hotel was also achieved fairly easily, as well as buying an RFID card that you can use for anything.

It being quite early china time, I wandered around the immediate vicinity of my hotel, more about that below I guess.

I am very relieved to be here and had a great day travelling.

I had my usual bulkhead seat, first row in economy, the leg room is fine and theres no one in front of you to recline back into your face. Having an empty seat next to you is luxury.

Meal number 1 is a roast chicken thing, with peas. I decided to take the western options before dumpling apocalypse commences.

Meal number 2 was really good, braised beef with mushrooms, and more peas.

Sunset on descent into Shanghai. A lot of planes flew past in the other direction at super speed.

I am risking arrest by the red army by taking this photo in the baggage collection area despite there being many signs suggesting you cant take photos.

This is the maglev train. It looks a bit shabby. When you get on it and they shut the doors you can actually feel it levitate, it doesnt feel quite stable until it starts moving, then it feels just like a regular bullet train only quieter.

Inside the maglev train, they have refitted it with the cheapest seat covers imaginable. In other news it costs $5 and is almost empty.

This is the street behind my hotel, which I think is the main pedestrian street that goes down to the bund. If you read about it on tripadvisor people will warn you about scammers and whatever, but no one seems to hassle me. I saw some middle aged men in shorts and knee socks with fanny packs getting hassled though.

Interesting mix of architecture, I am saving photos of mega modern buildings to bore you with for another day.

To my surprise, my hotel is a full apartment with kitchen, separate lounge area, bedroom and large bathroom. This is the lounge, you cant quite see the office area (where I am sitting now) as its around to the left.

Kitchen with proper cooktop, big fridge, microwave and enough plates and things to have a dinner party.

Bedroom with rock hard bed. Its really large, the view out the window is also great, will save that for another day too.

There are currently 4 comments - click to add

David Newton on 2011-11-03 said:

hi max, amazing indeed
I guess quite a few people at work read this, but I am surprised you just stumbled across it of your own accord. Hope you enjoy it, theres plenty more similar stories if you go back to the main page.

Max Miller on 2011-11-02 said:

It's amazing who you stumble accross while your surfing the web. Love the commentry though Dave, very intrigueing and i will be checking back to see what other exciting adventures you will encounter.

annoying mother on 2011-11-01 said:

hello from mother. eagerly awaiting the shanghai instalment

David Newton on 2011-10-31 said:

This is the new comments thing some people requested.
I predict no one will use it.
If you care to comment or suggest ridiculous things I should do, you can do that here.
They dont appear on the site immediately because the temptation for many is to try and sell viagra, so I have to approve them and probably edit them first to make them relevant, funny or insulting.

Day 2 - Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Its raining, quite a lot. Started out raining in a manner where I refuse to acknowledge that its raining, but it got heavier and darker to the point where I was the only person not carrying an umbrella (because I hate them and would rather get wet, and also am extremely stubborn).
This of course means the hundreds of umbrella sellers are quite happy to chase me down the street, failing to understand why I wont buy one.
I do my best to answer them in Mandarin, even though the main language here is Wu. Educated people speak mandarin, but I dont know what qualifications you need to stand in the rain and sell umbrellas.

So I went to a museum (global collective sigh?). It was my kind of museum, the Shanghai planning and development museum. It was full of maps and dioramas, including the sewerage system, gas system, airports, trains etc.

An update on the status of internet in China, Youtube is bloced, Failbook is blocked, tiwtter is blocked (its main use is for organising revolutions or occupy starbucks and talk about wall street protests).
Of course I can get around this, as can everyone in China, its a bit silly. Annoyingly the learn to speak mandarin lessons I watch on youtube wont stream through my VPN, so the bikini wearing Taiwanese girl PEGGYSPEAKCHINESE! has been silenced by Chairman Mao for now (second only to Chairman Kaga from iron chef on my top 10 list of chairmans).

My hotel comes with breakfast. Well they gave me the vouchers even though I specifically purchased the cheaper room with no breakfast. Since it was raining I decided to give it a go.
Sure they have bacon and eggs, but I decided to have savoury pancakes, stir fried vegetables and noodles.

Redundant photo of breakfast area of hotel is redundant.

Scoopon, cudo, dailydeals etc. Pay attention. In China there are coupon machines all over the subway stations. You can either print one by pressing the button or hold your phone against it and it electronically transfers them somehow.
Given the ridiculous amounts of money tv stations have bought coupon sites for in Australia (and the world for that matter), commercializing this in aus should be worth a 7 figure sum to someone.

The entrance to the planning and development museum

I stumbled into this part of old Shanghai.

The diorama of all of Shanghai, you cant imagine the size of it, look closely and you can see a person standing on a podium at the far end.

More diorama.

Diorama from above, they made it night just for me.

I found a noodle place with no english, took the girl out the front and pointed at the sign and what came out was a bit different but ok. Its a fairly plain noodle soup, adding chilli to the broth gave it some flavour.
The beef is mainly wood fungus or mushrooms of some sort (I hope, it could be skin!). Its been 2 hours and I dont feel sick yet.
An old man and his daughter were told to sit near me, the place was full, they were very apprehensive, but I just said 'Please, eat me' in Mandarin to them, and they seemed very happy to sit then.
My lunch was $2, this was the more expensive of 3 places on the same bit of street, also by far the busiest.

Still raining

November is supposed to be the dryest month in eastern China, today it rained all day and is still raining right now.

A story I forgot from earlier, like Taipei, in many parts of Shanghai each store is responsible for their own piece of footpath (sidewalk). They hold an annual competition to see who can polish this the best. Of course this means as soon as it rains, I fall flat on my ass in a puddle and feel like an idiot. Until 2 more people did the same in the same spot!
Then this evening, I saw some more people slip over in other locations, one guy on stairs seemed to be badly hurt, he jogged off with a severe limp holding his leg, not sure why he decided to jog.

My evening rain walk took me along Huahai Lane, which is like Orchard road in Singapore, full of Cartier, Tiffanys and Rolex shops, it seems to go on forever.
Of more interest to me is the food areas under all the department stores.
Of more interest to my missus back home, KFC stores in China sell Portugese egg tarts, and the twister combo meal comes with one. They are 30 cents each and look authentic to me, maybe I will have one.

At one stage this evening I had 2 people chasing me trying to sell me an umbrella at the same time, they then stopped and argued with each other. Also, the streets are surprisingly dark at street level, above your head is a lot of neon but this seems to make seeing where you are going even harder. Add to this, electric scooters on the footpath. These things are incredibly dangerous.
Driving is hilariously bad, I have seen a few cars going the wrong way up a one way street, everyone leans on the horn all the time, not quite to Indian levels but certainly the 2nd worst I have seen.
Also traffic lights only apply if theres cars coming in the other direction, as a pedestrian you have no right to cross the road ever, even when theres a walk sign. Busses and taxis in particular seem to completely ignore traffic lights, even if theres other cars coming.
Finally, if you have a car and the road seems busy, why not use the footpath for a block? If pedestrians are in your way, feel free to abuse them out the window with your hand on the horn.
It all seems very dangerous, especially in the rain.

Random street view from an overpass.

The apple store. Actually one of 3 I have seen so far. This one has the best lights, and someone across the road selling Steve Jobs RIP tshirts.

You can walk along under the freeway flyovers which is quite cool, especially when its raining. The freeways are impressive.

6 floors of made in China electronics. They had lots of great stuff actually, media players I hadnt heard of. They seemed to work great on high definition mkv, many of them had been loaded with

New world something or rather department store was impressively large, with an ice skating rink on the top floor.

My food court dinner, it was dissapointing. Pepper beef I think, the beef was ok, but not hot, and basically just a huge amount of rice underneath which I barely ate.

Which meant I could get some excellent wasabi flavoured chips. They have these at Waitrose in the UK, I recall them fondly.

There are currently 3 comments - click to add

Crazy mother on 2011-11-02 said:

students don't believe all your comments about Chinese driving - always obey traffic lights

The missus on 2011-11-02 said:


Chocky on 2011-11-02 said:

Walker told me I have Wasabi chips.

Day 3 - Thursday, 3 November 2011

The bund

It stopped raining.
There was even a hint of blue sky, but it dissapeared fast, covered by what I presume is constant pollution.

Walking to the bund is about 30 minutes from where my hotel is, along the pedestrian shopping street which goes all the way there.

The bund has recently been overhauled, with more walking space and a complete lack of cheap gift stores, scammers, pop up merchants selling genuine parts of chairman mao or teracotta warriors etc.

The view of Pudong was obscured by pollution, cloud, mist and whatever else is in the air, much like Hong Kong, I have no idea when they take the actual photos showing it at its best.

Scooters are very popular here, not quite to Taiwan levels but its the preferred mode of transport. As mentioned, many of them are electric, and no one at all wears a helmet, ever, until today. I saw a tandem scooter (these seem to be used by old couples and dont go very fast). The man on the front was wearng a construction workers helmet and he looked so happy he may have been retarded.
Behind him, his wife was yelling non stop, and beating him over the head with an umbrella.
So, the helmet wasnt for protection from traffic, its for protection from his wife.

My hotel breakfast. I wont take photos of it everyday I promise. The thing that looks like an ice cream scoop is a steam bun. I expected mystery meat, instead it was sweet.
Also for breakfast today were a few different vegetarian dishes, one featuring stir fried squid, the other 'preserved ham taste'.

Nannas practicing their sword skills.

Falun Gong flag wavers protesting apple. Occupy apple!

The bund

More bund

Pudong dissapearing into asbestos laced mercury fog.

!!!!! The evil hillsong church has managed to set up shop in China. I wonder what would happen if the priest that faked cancer and collected $30k from his church for treatment (booze and hookers) from his church pulled that stunt here?
I had a coffee here anyway, but there were no hand holding circles of teenagers plotting to convert sinners like there are in Australia.

Some sort of impressive statue, theres lots of them along here.

This impressive monument had no English signage anywhere that I could find. Therefore I have worked out it is to celebrate the victory over the west, whos resources fuel our global expansion, the glorious day rapidly approaches...December 2012.

I couldnt bring myself to actually buy them from KFC, instead I paid 50 cents each. I couldnt decide to have one now and one later, or save them both for the evening. So I ate them both immediately, 1 bite each, eating tarts like a boss.

Hongqiao transport hub

Tomorrow I am going to Suzhou, by bullet train.
It is not very far, but this being China, you cant buy a ticket online, because triads buy them all and then charge much more for them on the black market.
So to get a train ticket, within 5 days of travel (no sooner), you must travel to the station and buy a ticket in person.
You either need your ID card if you are Chinese or your passport if you are Laowai.

This is fine with me, and my hotel is on the subway line that takes me to the main station on the edge of town which also happens to be a huge busy airport all within the same giant building.
I was excited.

There was quite a bit of hilarity to be seen at the ticket counter, with people really getting mad and banging on the perspex window etc. I really wish I knew what they were mad about, after a minute or so of being yelled at I think the ticket girl pushes a button and a police man standing nearby advises the yeller to move on.
Also, despite clear markings, the concept of a line doesnt exist, however strangely people seemed to observe the line rule when I stood in it waiting, I am setting an example for all of China.

The whole facility is huge, theres bullet trains leaving to somewhere every 5 minutes, the main bus terminal, and a huge airport thats mainly domestic flights but also some international. I walked its entire length.
There are lots of shopping malls within, mostly vacant as the building is brand new, but every 50 metres or so is a sparkling bathroom with an attendant in each one.
I felt sorry for them, they have no 'customers' so I went to the bathroom every 50 metres just to wash my hands, they seemed grateful.

A particularly amusing announcement in the train waiting area (where they make the announcements in Mandarin and English) was, 'next train on platform A2 will be 10 minutes late. Please be ready to leap on as it will barely stop at the plafform'.

One of the never ending hallways of Shanghai Hongqiao transport hub. My kind of place. I will go here at least 2 more times, tomorrow to go to Suzhou, and next Wednesday to go to Beijing.

Looking at part of the building from outside, I couldnt get to the actual airport departute gates to look at planes, so you are spared those pictures. Australian airports are rare in the world in that they let you into the departure areas even if you are not flying.

The giant train waiting area.

Heres where I had my lunch, some sort of dumpling place. Surprisingly they spoke no English despite all the staff appearing to be 10 years old, and they had no English menu available at all. I pointed at the sign and suspiciously got charged the highest price of anything on the menu...

I didnt get exactly what I asked for, but it was still excellent! More like won tons than dumplings or bao, I dont know what was inside them, but they were very delicious, as was the broth. A young guy took the seat across from me and glared at me, I never worked out if he was waiting for his food or just wanted to glare at me for a while. I was happy to oblige in either case.

Nanjing road West

Generally, people head east along Najing road, at least according to the internet, as thats where the bund is. I decided to head west instead.
It was a strange sort of a night, it seemed very clear, despite having just rained (again), and the clouds seemed to be just above the tops of buildings.
My top tip for finding places to eat, is to go one street back from the main roads, the rule seems to be on the main roads you have clothes shops, watch shops and mall entrances, and one street back you have all the small independent restaurants.
2 streets back is scooter repair shops, mahjong dens, 3 streets back for opium dens, illegal kidney harvesting etc.

1 street back.

Some sort of civic building that is yet to be knocked down.

I had to delete the Lamborghini photos when I stumbled across a Zonda F....

....and then a Gumpert Apollo which didnt look nearly as bad in black in the flesh compared with blue in pictures.
Ok no more car photos.

I found my dinner in this popular well lit area full of young couples out on dates.

I had Pho for dinner, yes Vietnamese. At least they share a border with China.
The drink was fantastic, I ordered it, and the waitress walked out of the restaurant to the nearby coco tea drink shop and ordered it, paid cash, then carried it back to my table.
Young coconut milk with grass jelly.

On the walk home, I stumbled into the cool Jing an sculpture park. Open until 10pm and lit with artistic lighting.
As well as sculptures there were lots of old people, some doing speed walking around a marked path, and some ballroom dancing in a very dark area, complete with boom box blasting.

Also, cats seem to live here and be well looked after by the army of old people, and they seem to get along with tiny useless dogs people have brought into the park with them. I didnt think that was possible?

I appear here as a ghost because this was a 15 second exposure and I stood as still as I could for only about 10 seconds.

There are currently 7 comments - click to add

David Newton on 2011-11-10 said:

Hi Vaigunths mother.
I remember we exchanged emails many years ago when I visited India.
Hope you are doing well, I do occasionally speak with Vaigunth, he has been in Milan recently I heard.

Vaigunths mother on 2011-11-10 said:

Hi david,i'm vaigunth(HCL)'s mom.Nice blog&photos.felt as i myself went a trip to CHINA.............

David Newton on 2011-11-08 said:

...who are you, and why do you ask?

on 2011-11-07 said:

Have you weighed yourself lately ?

Ridiculous mother on 2011-11-04 said:

Where are you? Have you gone on the long march?

mother on 2011-11-03 said:

particularly like ghost shot -very clever

Leo on 2011-11-03 said:

Nice pictures. Next time tell the umbrella man that you are waterproof!

There is now a page 2, use the navigation thing below or the index thing at the top left.


Day 1 - Tuesday, 1 November 2011
  Qantas dramas
  Sydney airport
  Shanghai arrival
Day 2 - Wednesday, 2 November 2011
  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
  Pudong is awesome
Day 6 - Sunday, 6 November 2011
  Guitars and home made dinner
Day 7 - Monday, 7 November 2011
  Yuyuan bazaar
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
Day 12 - Saturday, 12 November 2011
  Beihai park and military museum
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
  Really lost
Day 15 - Tuesday, 15 November 2011
  National museum
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