October 8th 2009
October 6 – Beijing to Xingang
Our adventure continues. We arrived at the Southern train terminal only to face hordes of commuters. The next bullet train that would take us to Tian Jin, the closest city to the port of Xingang was a 2 hour wait away. It was well worth the wait and ride though. We clocked the train speed at 330 kmph, therefore taking us only 45 minutes to get there. This would normally take 2 hours by car. The embarkation process was a breeze this time compared to the disaster in Buenos Aires in 2008. The ship was late leaving the port and could not sail away until 11:00 pm as the body count did not tally up. I guess the Chinese government wasn’t too receptive to having any foreigners left behind in their country!
October 8 – Shanghai
We docked at the port of Waigaoqiqo which is 40 minutes from downtown Shanghai. Another amazing city, full of life, colour and incredible architecture. Our walking tour led us to Renmin Park and People’s Square, past the Grand Theatre, Shanghai Museum & the Expo 2010 center. We headed towards the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, a very commercial open air mall with hundreds of fashionable little shops. We nipped down an alley way to experience the local culture. Just past the Peace Hotel (now owned by Fairmont) we found the Bund pedestrian tunnel under the Huangpu River which was underwhelming. A light show and sounds of maniacal laughter while you’re trapped in these little humid pods, slowly shuttling along a rail line.
The pod took us to the Oriental Pearl Tower, which is the third largest tower in the world. A truly amazing structure which stands approx. 468 m high, composed of 15 spheres of different sizes, depicting large and small pearls falling on a jade plate. We took the elevator to the observation level giving us a birds eye view of Shanghai. An incredible panorama with the Huangpu River running through the center of the city. It also gave us a wonderful panorama of the famous Bund, which is the old area built in the 1900s by the English, US, and French trading companies whose govts forced China to trade with them. After that we took a stroll along the river promenade, observing the multitude of vessels plying the river including these self-propelled barges.
Returning to the other side of the river, we walked south along the Bund, taking in the old English colonial style architecture. Hunger pangs took us down another tiny alley where we came across a very tiny restaurant whose owner invited us in for a noodle feast. It was our lucky day as we met a young English lady who was fluent in Mandarin just sitting down to lunch. She came to our rescue and placed an order for us. Philipa Langdon, a lawyer with an International Law Firm has been in Shanghai for 2 years and enjoys her time here. A lovely, soft spoken lady, we thoroughly enjoyed her company.
After parting ways with Philipa,we walked along this busy little street, while motorcycles, bicycles and cars zipped by us, taking in the street market way of life, looking and peering down tiny alleys. We pulled out our map to find the Yu Gardens, looking thoroughly confused when this 75 year old gentleman, David, came to our rescue. David had a wonderful sense of humour and was eager to expand his knowledge of the English language. He led us to the Shanghai Old Town, considered the oldest district of Shanghai. It’s a labyrinth of alleyways. An area that has been restored to look exactly like it would have looked 400-600 years ago during the Qing and Ming Dynasties. What you would really expect Shanghai to look like with all the old oriental architecture, lanterns and bustling with people and vendors. He led us up an elevator to a beautiful teahouse, located on a roof top overlooking this part of the city. It gave us a perspective of the old and new Shanghai. We stopped for tea and had a few laughs with both David and the Tea Agent while savouring the different, wonderful teas.
Time was running out, therefore we had to say goodbye to David and head back to the Julong Handicrafts & Silk Exhibition Centre to board our bus back to the ship. A wonderful cultural experience in Shanghai!
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