We got an early turbo jet ferry from Hong Kong and arrived in Shenzhen an hour later, we looked at the exchange rate, got some cash and then booked our flights to Shanghai for the same day. We had a slight problem with the exchange rate and at first thought that everything was extremely cheap, unfortunately for us the lady who told us the rate worked on 100 quid were we were working on the value to 1 pound. Anyway we eventually got it sorted out but had spent slightly more than we though on our flights, oh well!
We arrived in Shanghai at around 5pm and got in a taxi and headed straight to Sarah's flat, this is one of Matthews mates. The taxi ride wasn't easy at all. It took Matthew a while to get the taxi driver to understand that we wanted him to phone Sarah so he took us to the right place, eventually he understood and we got their ok, it was then we realised that this was going to be the most challenging country we have been to so far. We got settled into Sarah's and it was so nice to actually have a cup of Yorkshire tea and sit on a sofa to watch a bit of TV. Its amazing at how you miss the simple everyday things that you don't think anything of at home, but its the first sofa we have sat on in almost 6 months!
Our first day and we headed into town, this involved us pointing at a metro station we wanted to go to on the map so the taxi driver knew where to take us as very few people can speak any English. we got there ok and the subway was pretty straight forward with all stops in English so we were ok. Out first stop was Najing road, the main shopping street. Their were loads of hawkers about who kept coming up to us to sell us 'watch watch, bag lady bag, dvd, dvd' that's pretty much what everyone said to us on the way down the street. What we did notice about Shanghai was that there was a nice mix between old and new buildings, some shopping centres were in really colonial looking buildings, it was great to walk around. We then headed toward people's square that is really just where people chill out, it was there that the comments started. I must have had about 5 people come up to me or shout across the square at how nice my hair was because it is blonde (ish) and how lucky i was to have white skin ( i still think i'm pretty brown) and blue eyes. It was really amusing and we certainly got more attention than we did in India. On he down side though the men are all perverts, its a bit creepy really at how much they all stare and have a good giggle to themselves. Matthew recons they have never seen boobs bigger than a AAA because the chinese are all really tiny. I never thought that anywhere would be worse than India, but we've found it!
While we were walking around taking in all the sites a chinese couple came up to us to practice their English. One as studying Medicine the other English. We got chatting and they recommended a few places to go in and around Shanghai, they then said they there was a tea festival on and did we want to join them. We said yes and ended up in this tiny little room surrounded by tea. They had over 200 to chose from, we only tried 6 but they were all so different and really unusual. What was quite amusing were the rituals and customs they did before drinking the tea, that we also had to do and then after we had finished our tea we had to roll the cup (it was only like a shot glass) around our eyes and on our cheeks to prevent signs of aging - so their you go girls instead of spending a fortune on moisturiser roll your empty tea cup on your face! I can't remember all the teas we tried but there was Jasmine, green tea, a fruity one and then a really strange on where what looks like a bud of some sort is put in hot water and it starts to open and looks like a flower in the glass, it was really strange, it tasted ok though. It was a really good experience, a bit pricey for the tea but we had a good afternoon. We then headed for the bund, the waterfront promenade which is a smaller version of the Hong Kong harbour front. While taking photos and people watching a man came up to us who is Chinese but has lived in the US for the last 20 years and was back visiting his parents. He said he could show us around if we wanted, we said we were ok and that we were heading to the old town, he came with us, well we followed him to save us looking at the map. The old town was great, the buildings were all chinese architecture. It wasn't like any other China Town we had been to, this was 10 times better, even though it was really busy. We wondered around their for a while, found a restaurant that had English writing under the Chinese and then headed back to the flat, feeling great about Shanghai.
I'm just going to digress for a minute and say that all the photo's and video of me doing peace signs, i am been stupid. We decided to take the piss a bit out of all the chinese as they either do a really stupid pose or the peace sign in every photo, we have seen this all through our trip so i thought i would join in.
The next day we didn't do as much, we headed for the French quarter, where Xintiandi is the centre piece. Its basically several blocks traditional houses that have been renovated and turned into shops, bars and restaurants. It was good for a walk through, a bit too expensive to have something to eat or drink there so we headed to the museum of the 1st National Congress which was interesting to find out hoe everything started. On the way out we passed a group of Chinese chanting something infront of the Chins flag. Matthew thought this was interesting so he tok another video we then went to find some food. We had a few drinks at a bar opposite the bund that Sarah had recommended for the views and then walked back to the subway through the main shopping street. This is what i had pictured Shanghai to be like, all the shops were lit up with flashing lights, it looked fab. Matthew particutarly loved the flashing coke bottle.
Our last day in Shanghai and we went to a place called Zhouzhuang, it is 60 kilometres away from Shanghai, but Sarah organised a taxi to take us there and back for a cheap price. We are really glad we went because it is so different to anything we have seen on this trip. Its an ancient water town that was built in the 11th Century, it reminded me of a smaller version of Venice. On both sides of the river banks their are ancinet manions and old houses, it is full of different styles of bridges and narrow streets to wonder, its fairly easy to get lost. People still live here so you can see them getting on with their everyday life, we both really enjoyed it. However, the weather had decided to turn on us, so it was a bit cold and looked like it was going to rain, but luckily we managed to escape it and had a really nice day their, again looking at temples and just generally taking in the atmoshphere of the place. We liked it so much we bought a couple of small drawings to remind us of it.
Although we had a good day, it was nice to get back to a warm flat. We had a night train to Beijing so we relaxed for the rest of the day and made the most of the Yorkshire tea and the home comforts to keep us going for another 6 months.