Apologies for being missing for so long! Last few weeks have been an amazing whirlwind (have been through Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos!) with barely any time to sit and write and WiFi connections have been intermittent…the posts covering those rather wonderful destinations will have to wait as I continue to catch up on China…hard to believe we were there less than two months ago!
So read on, to discover how we spent our time in Shanghai as part of our G Adventures Essential China tour (shorthand ACEC), with fabulous CEO Jackie 🙂
Day 21 / Day 5 of ACEC
Getting off the sleeper train in Shanghai, the first thing that we noticed was that it was warm – very warm, in fact, compared to Beijing, and Jackie confirmed that the temperature was a whopping 25 degrees (Celsius, American readers!). The sun was also out and though supremely grateful for the lack of rain and blue skies, we melted just a little (as we were dressed too warmly for the weather!) as we walked to where our private bus was waiting to take us to the hotel.
After a quick shower to wash the sleeper train smell off ourselves and changing into more weather-appropriate clothes, we headed to a chain curry restaurant in the town centre for lunch. This curry restaurant was extremely similar to the curry chains in Japan, right down to how you placed your order – pick the curry base, the amount of rice, additional toppings, and the spice level. Jackie informed us that underneath the ‘spiciest’ level, it said in Chinese to prepare to ‘go to a doctor’…needless to say, none of us picked that, though I opted for the third spiciest!
Thereafter, we visited the Shanghai Museum, which was free to enter and houses a really great collection, from ancient coins, pottery and different types of traditional dress to a fantastic bronze exhibition. It’s also quite aesthetically pleasing from both the outside and inside. I highly recommend a visit – we had a couple of hours there and I’d say that’s enough unless you’re specifically interested in one or more of the exhibits, in which case you could happily spend a whole day there!
On exiting the museum, we noted that ominous grey clouds had gathered overhead and as fat drops began to fall from the sky, we opened one umbrella (and lent our other one to group members who didn’t have one!) and ran towards the subway station for cover. The storm didn’t last long though – only fifteen minutes or so. From there we took the subway to a mall near Shanghai Circus World. We dined on ramen, fried rice and dumplings at another chain restaurant (bit of a theme on this day, and unfortunately didn’t write the names of the restaurants down – but they were both average so not a hugely important) and then attended a spectacular acrobatic show. It was nothing like anything I had ever seen before and was well worth the £20 (equivalent) we paid to go and see it! There were all sorts of differently themed scenes, and apart from what appeared to be a slightly less well rehearsed spaceship number, they were all brilliantly executed, specifically in terms of the acrobats’ agility, balance, flexibility and charisma. One interesting thing to note is that the performers were all rather smaller than average – this tends to happen with most gymnasts and acrobats who have been training rigorously from a young age.
Thus ended a thoroughly enjoyable first day in Shanghai.
Day 22 / Day 6 of ACEC
The next morning, Jackie took us on an orientation walk to the bund, from where one can view the world famous skyline, which is essentially the financial hub of Shanghai. The sky was still overcast today with a lot of low lying cloud, meaning that the daytime view wasn’t as good as it could have been – but Jackie assured us it was likely to be stunning later on, at night, and we resolved to return after sunset.
Afterwards, we continued our walk around to the Old City, and then opted to visit the Yuyuan garden. If I remember correctly, it cost the equivalent of about £5 entry, which in my opinion was a little high, however if you’re into gardens then I guess it’s worth it to see a traditional Chinese garden! There were lots of different parts to the garden, including several different buildings that all mean something a little different, and a fish filled lake with a bridge over it. It was a pleasant place to spend about forty minutes to an hour wandering around, and Dave and I had some lunch. We had bought sandwiches earlier from a convenience store. Just to point out – they weren’t the sort of sandwiches you’d find in the ‘fresh fridge’ section of Tesco, though you can buy these in China as well. They were bizarre, prefilled with various flavoured creams then ‘sealed’, crustless and packaged like crisps. Unfortunately I did not take a photograph! Dave liked them better than me.
We met up at the nearby Starbucks later after which Jackie continued our little walking tour of Shanghai, taking us to a pet market and then an antiques market. The pet market was interesting but also saddening. It was very crowded and cramped and smelly and full of everything from cats in far too small cages to different types of birds fluttering against their own too small cages, but was mostly abundant in crickets, which the locals buy for cricket fighting. I have, weirdly, never been in a UK pet shop, but I highly doubt the RSCPA would allow them to at all resemble the pet market of Shanghai…I think it’s worth a visit but if you’re quite sensitive about cruelty to animals then perhaps it is a little too much. That’s your call, really. I’m glad we saw it, simply because it opened our eyes to how animals are treated and viewed in other parts of the world.
The antiques market was rather more fun. Jackie warned us that a lot of the ‘antiques’ were probably no more than a few decades old at most, but the vendors knew how to advertise their wares so they looked older! Everything seemed to have an ‘aged’, slightly grimy look, and much was sort of tumbled and strewn together, displayed in such a way as to resemble the contents of a newly opened but extremely old chest. Dave picked up a couple of coins that resembled some of the ancient coins we had seen in the museum the day prior, and had great fun haggling the price down!
The last stop on our walking tour arguably one of the most significant in terms of China’s recent history. It was the first meeting place of the Chinese communist party. The entrance was free and the exhibit was informative, and included a full scale models of all the original party members, including a young Mao! If in Shanghai, definitely visit.
There were no set dinner plans amongst the group and Dave and I weren’t feeling like a big dinner out so we purchased some pot noodles and snacks to have at our hotel room before heading out with one of our group members, the British lady, back to the bund to see the night view of the skyline. Jackie was not wrong, it was beautiful – I will let the photo speak for itself here! The next day was our last morning in Shanghai.
Day 23 / Day 7 of ACEC
Given that there was nothing else major we particularly wanted to see or visit in Shanghai (one of the main things to do, I think, is visit the awesome malls and shop but we didn’t really fancy that), we decided to have a lie in the next morning and checked out at 12pm.
We had a sleeper train to catch a couple of hours after that, so all we really did was go and grab some lunch, but that was quite a fun affair in itself. We wandered the streets near the hotel, which were full of little side restaurants, some of which had long, long queues, before settling on one of them – largely because it didn’t have many queues. Despite a bit of a language barrier, we ended up having some of the tastiest (and cheapest!) Chinese food we’d had until that point! We essentially got it over to the owner, with the help of a translation app, that we simply wanted some sort of chicken dish and rice, and he, I think, brought out something he thought we’d like and we really did. Couldn’t for the life of me tell you what it was though!
Our sleeper train experience was very similar to the last one, except this time, because we boarded so early, we had a pot noodle dinner on the train in the evening – I love that they provide hot water for this purpose! Lots of the locals including Jackie used it to top up travel flasks in which there were a few tea leaves at the bottom, an excellent idea. The only other thing to add about this particular sleeper train was that the toilets were, if possible, more disgusting – I think mainly because the flush on one of them had stopped working…
And on that rather lovely note I shall end! The next two posts will be all about Xi’an and then Chengdu and our experience with the famous Chengdu hotpot and with some Chinese opera 🙂
In terms of how I found Shanghai, well, a local guide later in our tour described Beijing as a ‘hurried businessman’ and Shanghai as a ‘sexy lady’. I think, having experienced the overall feel of both, I can’t sum either up better!
Though perhaps it did not come across above, Shanghai does have a very glam feel throughout. It’s also got a lot more foreigners milling about!
Thanks for reading, let me know if there’s anything I need to correct 🙂
Next post – Xi’an!