Thursday, 3 April 2014

Shanghai

I'm typing this on a computer so utterly ancient, it doesn't support
USB drive booting. So, if it appears I'm randomly emailing you
following this post, there's possibly a keylogger on here. Just a
heads up.

So, I've just spent the last 3 hours getting an unintended tour of
Hangzhou thanks to my stupidity and arrogance. Certain in my sense of
direction, I waved off the touts, strutting out of the station as only
a seasoned traveller can, and knowing that the lake was west of me,
walked off into the sunset. It wasn't until I reached westlake that I
realised I had overlooked a few points:

1. I had left my map on the train
2. I had no idea where I was
3. I didn't know where the hostel was in relation to said lake.

Turns out that the hostel is actually south of the train station, not
west. And, in my haste, I had neglected to write down the address.
Smooth.

Still, made it. Not going to make that mistake again (he says now;
watch this space).

So, Shanghai. Shanghai was one of those cities that people said I
could skip, in a similar vein to Beijing. But in my opinion, three
days in Beijing was woefully insufficient, while Shanghai can be
completely and utterly ignored. The couple of key points: the view off
of the Bund, the great little shopping streets, can be achieved in an
afternoon. Snap a few pics, buy a nice tea cup (or two handmade ones,
with a drop-dead gorgeous handmade plate to accompany them), and be on
your way. Still, the main reason I decided to visit was to see an
internet friend, and that completely made up for the 30 hours I
stayed. And while I might be a bit doom and gloom here, we stumbled
across some jaw-dropping sites in the back streets. Little local
markets, selling everything from eels to frogs, all still alive and
some jumping out of their cages in a bid for freedom. Snacking on
local dumplings, strolling through parks and watching groups of
pensioners dancing and singing and playing board games in the
sunshine. The things I was hoping to see when I got on that plane 6
days ago. I'm glad I did.

We found one man in the park, flying a kite that was barely a speck in
the sky. Siki helpfully asked him how long the string was: 1200
metres. I would be afraid of hitting a plane at that height!

We did a tour of the main points: The Bund, heading over to Yuyuan and
saw the Tao temple there, walked along the big shopping street,
snacked on (apparently) famous dumplings (Mr Yangs: delicious), and
ended up enjoying a cold Munich beer in a bar in the financial centre
in the evening. Expensive, but lovely. This morning, after a brief
excursion to another hostel to find coffee - which is, in my humble
opinion, not nearly common enough here. And no, Starbucks, I'm not
talking to you - we headed to Tianzifung, where I found my previously
mentioned handmade crockery. Thanks to the size of my bag, I'm forced
to limit my spending, but I'm still going to have to make an excursion
to the post office to send these home; I don't want to lug them
through anothr 2 countries.

Hangzhou has given a good first impression. My plan for the next 36
hours is to veg out a little. The lake here is famous for it's beauty,
and after days of endless walking, sightseeing and travelling, I just
want to have a short time to relax. So, the next blog post may wait
until I'm settled in at Yangshuo, on Sunday.

Thanks for reading!

Andy

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