Monday, May 12, 2008


We arrived slightly disheveled in Shanghai an hour or so later than expected. We'd managed to sleep ok on the train despite the rocking and noise. We followed the scrum into the station and through immigration. We emerged into a larger scrum that engulfed the entire concourse outside the station. I'd expected crowds but these need to be seen to be believed.

We struggled through encumbered with our packs trying to find the ticket office to book our onward journey to Xi'an on Friday. We gave up when we discovered the queues at the advanced ticket booths. Disheartened, we headed for the hostel. Easier said than done. Chinese queuing is non-existent, and being the polite Brits we are it took a while even to secure underground tickets!

After a relatively short trip on the underground we found the Mingtown Etour Hostel quite easily. It's a pleasant oasis from the crowds of the city. The beer's cheap too!

Monday morning, we took an early morning stroll to 'The Bund', a river side park overlooking the Central business district, which is full of futuristic skyscrapers and weird looking buildings... On the way there we were bombarded by requests to come look at watches, shoes, DVDs and bags. Once on the Bund this list expanded to include; kites, heel rollers, squishy pigs and more kites.

Bored of all the attention we hit the back streets for a bit before trying to hide in one of the millions of local tour groups. Unfortunately we didn't have a colour coded cap, so we were again easily spotted on Nanjing Road (Shanghai's equivalent of Oxford St.)

After a brief respite in the hostel we again ventured out for dinner on one of the nearby 'Food Streets'. We'd found a couple of recommended places and picked one at random. We were escorted to a mezzanine table overlooking a wedding party below.

The Chinese it seems avoid expense by having all-in-one weddings, ceremony and reception are rolled into one in a restaurant. I'd experienced one Chinese wedding before when my friend Cher Ming got married a year ago, so I was slightly prepared for the spectacle unfolding below us, but not completely!

There were bouts of groom singing to bride, bride singing to groom, (both almost inaudible over their guests constant chatter), multiple changes of outfit for the bride after each portion of the ceremony/comedy. Then there was the tack; pouring of dayglow liquid into a tube that spelled 'Our Love', followed by popping balloons with glitter in, concluded with a display of joined candles that when lit spelled 'Love' the fuse then continued on to fire off some indoor fireworks better suited to a Queen concert...

All in all a smoke filled, entertaining evening for us. The food was pretty good too!

Sunday morning we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hostel before heading out to follow a walking tour of the French Concession, which meandered half way round the south west of Shanghai.

We walked for what seemed like 50km but was probably closer to 10km! Following back streets and byways we managed to avoid most of the 'looky looky' people. By mid afternoon we were pretty tired so decided to seek out the famous soup dumplings in what can only be described as 'Tourist hell'. (We didn't realise the restaurant we were seeking was there until it was too late and we were sucked in). The dumplings were pretty good though.

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