Thanks for your comments everyone, we're really starting to get into this whole blog thing! We've decided to use our intials to dictate when we are sharing experiences with you guys as sometimes we may experience things differently!
M: So our last day in Seoul was spent heading down to the famous Bampo bridge where at 12 mid day there was a water show. We got there just in time and well, the show was a bit of a disappointment. It has nothing on the Bilagio fountain or the Dubai mall show...oh well.
We wondered back and once in the massive train station we decided to get something to eat as we saw tons of shops selling noodles in a bowl for 5000 won (5 pounds). I ended up having a spicy bowl of sea food and noddles which blew me away....talk about unblocking any sicences!!!
D: I've never seen him eat so slow in my life so I knew it must have been extremely spicy!
M: The food was good and after we headed back to the hostel to crash. Once at the hostel we chilled out and didn't really do much. With all the walking we had done the last few days we were beat. Now the best way to describe the hostel is that its a very small place and very cosy. Daria finally came around from her first impression and I think secretly she enjoyed staying here. Justin was the camp Korean manager who was more then helpful and went out of his way to help all the guests. We were in bed early doors as we had to be up at 6.30am to get to the airport for our early flight to Shanghai.
Next morning we got up and left for the airport. The train journey was simple and easy. Whilst buying a ticket for the train, we were 300won short (around 30p). I asked the member of staff if we can use a debit card and he said no, and then gave us the 300won!! Ha, fantastic! Now that is service for you!
Once at the airport, we checked in which was done within minutes and made our way to the business class lounge. The lounge was amazing. Very spacious and we pigged out with the food that they had on offer as we had not had breakfast at that point. We only had an hour in the lounge and then went straight to the gate were we boarded for our plane. The plane journey was nothing to write home about, it was only an hour and 40 minutes from Seoul to Shanghai.
D: So although Korea was very interesting because it was so different from anywhere I'd been before, I was definitely excited to get to the airport, especially since I knew we would be able to use the lounge and eat some "normal" food. I was SO happy to see some vegetables and fruit I loaded my plate full with them!
M: Once we landed at Shanghai, our first major incident of the trip came to light. Now before I explain let me explain how I travel; I keep a pre pay travel card from STA travel which I have used for years. There are no fee's when making a purchase in local shops and you can only spend what you load up onto it. I do this for 2 reasons. Firstly I am extremely paranoid when it comes to using my debit card, even in the UK. I've seen it too many times at work where people have been victims of ID theft. If it happens, it can completely screw you up and takes months to sort out. Also, by using a debit card abroad, if someone cloans your card and wipes your account, you're screwed!!! . Second, I don't like to walk around with large amounts of cash on me. If I ever got into a situation where someone wanted my money, well I'd only ever carry 20/30 pounds and they can have it! No big deal. So, I load up my pre pay card 300 pounds a time, carry minimal amount of cash, its all good!
Now before we left for Seoul, we had 120 pounds which we changed up at the airport in San Francisco as we had to pay for the hostel. Daria had around $140 left over from America. When we landed into Shanghai Daria said that we should just change up the US Dollars that she had. When she checked her purse it was gone. I was furious! We were trying to work out how the money had gone, or if it was taken. Daria was sure that she put the money into her purse at the airport, which I do remember her doing. We then remembered yesterday at the hostel when we were both downstairs uploading the blog and returned to our room upstairs to find our door open. Daria thinks that someone must have come into the room then. I'm not so sure as there was no one else in the hostel.
The annoying thing is that in China everything is stupid cheap. So that 140 dollars would have lasted a week or more, literally!!! We got on the train to the hostel here and I was so mad, but, it is what it is, so we just have to let it go and forget about it.
Our train journey was a little over an hour. Our hostel is located 3 short stops from the main city centre which is perfect. We got out and immediately were met with 2 massive sky scrapers! It was very impressive. We walked about 10 minutes from the train station to our hostel. The area its self is a bit of a s*** hole, but we didn't feel unsafe.
D: Walking down the street to where our hostel was I was a bit weary. There were rows of run down shops that we passed on the way. There didn't seem to be any order in the streets. In Korea everyone waited for a green pedestrian sign to cross the street. Here it's more like India where you go for it and hope someone doesn't crash into you. There's tons of locals riding bicycles and motorbikes and red lights don't really seem to apply to anyone. Although Marty assures me India is much worse!
M: As we walked into the hostel we were both impressed. The hostel is more like a hotel. The lobby area was spotless and to the left is a massive bar/lounge area. They even have a pool table!! Outside is a really nice pond area and as it was hot and sunny people were hanging out and drinking etc. Daria had the "wow" factor compared to the last place. We checked in and went up 4 floors to our room. It was a complete shoe box with no room at all, however this was not an issue. We had a really comfortable bed and the shower and toilet were really clean. As I said before, this was more like a hotel then a hostel. Perfect!
We went back down to the bar and checked out the prices of food and drink. A bottle of corona was only 18RMB - thats just under 2 pounds. A massive bottle of Chinese beer was only 10RMB - 1 pound. I could not believe it. We ordered some beers and crashed on the comfortable couch. We ended up drinking 5 bottles between us, with a total price of 5 pounds...unbelievable.
We were both hungry so we decided to go into the city centre to see if we could get something to eat. We walked back to the station and as we walked in and went to the ticket area there was a massive commotion going on. As we walked closer there were 2 women having a fight. It was so funny. All the locals were around both females trying to split it up but they were both shouting at each other. One of the women tried to hit the other, I couldn't stop laughing. We finally were able to get our tickets and go down to the platform. When we got down there, the 2 women were still there going for it.
We arrived at the stop "People's square' and as soon as we walked out of the station we were met with tons of high sky rised buildings. It was so impressive. The area was full of people and there were tons of Westerners. We took a slow walk and as we passed all the high buildings I noticed that they were all the big named hotels. This was obiousbly the main tourists area.
As we were walking, there were many side roads off from the main path. We took one of them and and within minutes found a side street restaurant. I could see that it was packed and there were Western people in it. I pointed it out to Daria and we went in for dinner. I would compare this place to Georges place back home (the London lot will know what I mean). The prices were stupid cheap. We ordered a complete feast and the total price for everything was 12 pounds. Bargain!
D: As opposed to Korea where there was nothing I could find to eat, here there was nothing I wouldn't eat! Everything on the menu looked absolutely amazing!!! And the fact that it was so cheap just sealed the deal. We ordered the dumplings, sizzling beef, chicken with veggies, and fried rice. It was a feast! Everything was absolutely amazing, I am loving the food here! The flavors were incredible, soft doughy meat dumplings with the perfect seasoning. The chicken and veggies were amazing and had just the right amount of spice on them. And to top it all off there was a Cold Stone at the train station where our hostel was so I really couldn't pass up the opportunity! The metro stations are funny here, they are all like underground malls at every stop so you always are smelling some kind of baked goods when you get off the train. This is in contrast to the smell of sewage you often get when walking around in the city. So far though I'm really liking China!
M: After dinner we carried on walking and checking out the area. We tried to take some night shots with our camera but they didnt come out too well. After about 30 minutes of walking around we went back to the hostel and crashed for the night.
End of day 1 spending;
Round trip fare for 2 people on the underground (metro) 1.20 pounds
1 bottle of Chinese beer 1 pound
Meal in Resturant: 12 pounds
We got up early (as we seem to be doing this since arriving in Asia) and went downstairs to the hostel bar/lounge to have breakfast. I ordered an English breakfast which cost 2 pounds. Daria had an omelate which cost 2 pounds. The food was decent so there were no complaints here.
Our first stop was a short ride to one of the local temples on the edge of town. This place was amazing as it was an old temple in the middle of various newish high buildings. We paid 6 pounds for the both of us to go in and see it. It was interesting to check out and we took a ton of pictures. There was various monks praying in one section which was pretty cool to see.
D: The temple was gorgeous and everyone was lighting sticks of insense and praying. Also you'll see a picture of Marty throwing in money into the big stove like structure which everyone else was doing so we joined right in! I'd like to say I got mine in on the first try and after three attempts Marty just gave up... People were also leaving money on a rock and praying which you'll see a photo of.
M: Once we finished exploring that temple we left and walked across the road to a local park as I thought there was some sort of market going on. As we got there, there were no markets but a simple kiosk. We carried on walking into the park and saw various old people doing yoga. As we walked further on we saw a bunch of old people dancing.
As we walked, an old lady invited me to dance with her. Not wanting to disappoint I took her hand and we danced away for a couple of minutes. It was funny as this park was full of old people just dancing away to random music. Must be a way of getting their exercise.
After, we walked down to a second temple and paid 4 pounds to get in. The temple wasnt as nice as the first, but still worth seeing. Once we finished here, we took a long walk back towards the city centre and stopped off on route for something to eat. We went to some high class looking restaurant inside a shopping centre and both had lunch for about 10 pounds in total, so not to bad. After we finished here, we carried on walking into the city centre and down to the water area where you can see views of the financial district of Shanghai. Now as we approached, the views were stunning. The buildings were amazing and we were able to get some great photos. After taking in the view, we took a short walk back to the metro and headed back to our hostel. We were both knackered. Once back at the hostel we checked the map and it turns out we walked across the whole city!!!! We were both in bed and asleep by 8pm!!!
Day 3 We woke up early and didnt have much planned for today. As we had seen most of the stuff yesterday, we planned on just chilling. We had to get our train tickets to Beijing and for some reason we had to go to a ticket office. The lady at the hostel said it was a 10 minute walk and gave us directions.....lets just say it was more like 2 hours! We walked through a local street market which was pretty interesting. They had all sorts of fish for sale, ducks and chickens. As we walked past 1 guy selling the chickens, someone was paying for one. This chicken was alive and his feet were tied up. The guy then cuts the chicken's feet off and slices his neck and throws him into a box. A few minutes later he takes the chicken out and gives it to the person buying the chicken...a bit horrific but thats the way life goes I guess. We finally found the ticket office and bought our tickets for the train to Beijing. It cost 55 pounds each and this is the new super fast train. We booked into the basic economy class and were told that the journey takes around 5 hours. We were all set and the whole process took ages. We were tired by the time we got back to the hostel but Daria wanted to go and see some famous gardens which was a short ride on the metro. We did that and on route were hungry. We could not decide if we wanted some noodles or what. In the end we saw a McDonald's sign and gave in. We walked in and ordered 2 meals with 2 McFluries for 5 pounds!! After, we took the walk down to the gardens and saw them. They were very impressive and kept very clean. They had guards watching out for anyone who was walking onto the green area to take photos as this was not allowed. If anyone did wonder into the grass area, they were met by these guards whistling at them! The gardens were not very big and we were not there for very long.
After we finished, we had to walk to the metro station past the area which we were in yesterday when looking at the water area over looking the financial area. This is where things got interesting;
As we were walking, we passed a young Chinese couple. They asked Daria if she would take their picture with their camera, which Daria did. Once that was done, both the male and female started to talk to us in almost perfect English. They asked where we were from and straight away I was thinking something was up. Daria engaged in the conversation and I didnt say much. The first part of the conversation was the normal "Where are you from? Do you like it here?". Both the male and female explained that they were from China and the guy was visiting the girl. Something was wrong and I could not work out what. Then the female asked Daria when were we going home. Daria started to say tomorrow and I jumped in and said "tonight". Daria looked at me very strangely and I said again that we were FLYING out tonight. The guy then asked how many people were part of our group and I said that there were 7 of us in total. At this point Daria knew to let me do the talking. At this point I was convinced something was wrong. The guy and girl then asked if we wanted to go with them to see some show about Bruce Lee or something to do with that. Straight away I said no as we had to go back and meet the others in the group. I said our goodbyes and we were out of there. I said to Daria they were trying to have us over and she said that maybe they were just been friendly. No way!! Once back at the hostel I googled "Shanghai scam" and lone behold, a bunch of information came up on it. Basically, the scam is that a couple of 3 people will come up and speak perfect English. They will engage into a conversation for various reasons and want you to go with them to a restaurant or somewhere. Some stories state that the people are taken to a local shopping centre where they are then asked for money. If you don't pay a bunch of heavies turn up and it all gets a bit silly. The second scam is that they take you to a restaurant and order a s*** ton of stuff. The restaurant is in on the act as well, as the people order extremely expensive items and then leave one by one leaving you with the bill!! Either way, it could have been expensive had we not been switched on!!!!!!
Once back at the hostel we chilled in the bar area and had some drinks. I got chatting to an English guy from North West London. He was also drinking the Chinese beer, but he bought his from the shop next to the hostel for 50p! ha we went there and bought a few bottles and sat in the hostel area drinking.... After that we got something to eat and went to bed.
Tomorrow is a long journey to Beijing!