Thursday, 11 April 2013

China 1

Blogging in China
It's not easy, especially if you use Blogspot which is a Google product (and Google doesn't seem to be at all popular here!). I'm preparing some comments on this issue, but I'll wait for another time before posting!   In the meantime, here goes.  I still have to work out how to post photos (seems they can't follow the same roundabout route that I need to use to post text..) so they, and some and editing, will follow (hopefully...) 

Thursday 4 April - And so to Shanghai
It wasn't our first choice of route, but our route to Shanghai took us first by domestic flight to Sydney and then from Sydney direct to Shanghai. Transiting through Sydney is the price you pay when you travel on Qantas, I suppose. However, we were using frequent flyer points, so I don't suppose we can complain too much.
Predictably, the flight from Melbourne was delayed by over 20 minutes by air traffic control, although once we landed the transfer from the domestic to international terminal was pretty smooth, as was the path through immigration and we had time for a champagne in the lounge! This was even though it was not yet 10 am local time – and not yet 7 am Shanghai time.

Although our departure from Sydney was delayed for a few minutes (someone said we were waiting for passengers whose flight into Sydney was delayed, like ours), the Qantas flight was uneventful, although for some reason I couldn't get any power out of the computer power socket on the plane (moral: don't rely on these things).
Arrival in Shanghai was a little early and the airport was almost empty, so we were through immigration and customs and in the hands of the "meet & greet" lady in just a few minutes. Yes, that's right, a private transfer to the hotel. What's happening to my independent nature? But in my defence, this is a city I haven't previously visited and although the Maglev train enticed, it will have to wait for a future occasion!

The hotel – booked in conjunction with the tour package – is a typical mid-range hotel such as you'd find just about anywhere in the world. It's out from the centre of town, not too far from the main train station but because of the location I wouldn't recommend it. The Metro is a fair walk away, and although there's a bus stop just down the street, the buses definitely aren't non-Chinese-speaker friendly. Hence, we have come to depend on taxis. These are not expensive and are readily available, but it's essential to have your destination written in Mandarin.

Friday 5 April – Shanghai, The French Quarter
Shanghai's French Quatrter surprised me a little. Even though I had read up on it, its extent was greater than I had expected. In fact, the distances generally in the city area are greater than I thought they would be, based on my pre-trip study of the map. And I wasn't quite prepared for the fact that, despite its historical roots, the French Quarter is very much a thriving, functional area. There's a lot of residential accommodation which looks attractive from the outside from the outside but I suspect the apartments may be small inside. Unlike the big shopping precincts along the Nanjing Rd mall and the Yu Bazaar area (both very busy indeed), much of the Quarter is fairly quiet, with the possible exception of Huahai Rd. There were certainly a lot of boutiques, including many designer names, and there are 2 Russian orthodox churches, but unfortunately neither of them was open.

We spent the best part of two days in the area. On the first, we had coffee and a light lunch at a place called Lou Shi, which has set out to creat the atmosphere of a quiet art deco living room. The prices were set accordingly, of course, but it happened to be the right place at the right time for us. I subsequently learned that there are a number of places like this. One of the guidebooks mentions the "Old China Hand Reading Room", and on our second visit, we had coffee at the Zen Lifestyle cafe in Dongping St.   I understand this street was trendy when the French were here and it is certainly still trendy today.  

We were taken back for a third visit when on our tour around Shanghai and found ourselves in a very upmarket dining and shopping area which we hadn't previously come across. There's certainly a lot more to Shanghai than I had expected.

We have been greatly impressed by the parks around Shanghai. While there's not a great amount of parkland, two in particular in the French Quarter are Xiangyang and Fuxing Parks: both lovely and green (not surprinsing given the showers that we've been having) and carefully maintained.

Saturday 6 April - The Train Museum
In the list of Shanghai museums I noticed the Train Museum. What's more, it was one of the few things of interest on the same side of town as our hotel. I had an hour or so to spare, so headed off in the general direction. The walk was further than I expected, but I found it woithut difficulty and for 10 yuan found myself inside a courtyard (with a couple of well preserved steam locos on display) in front of an impressive building. However, the museum only occupies the ground floor, but just the same, there were 4 or 5 rooms with well laid out exhibits dealing with various aspects of Chinese railway history.

Saturday 6 April – The Bund and Yu Markets
More details to follow!

Sunday 6 April - Eating Greek in Shanghai
We'd checked out the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum and the Pushkin statue and it was well past lunchtime. Looking around the vicinity of the Pushkin Statue, there was a Starbucks (hmmmm), a crepiere (perhaps another time?), a steak house, an all-you-could eat German style buffet brunch (but there were only10 minutes left in which to eat!) ......and a Greek Tavern. It was sunny, and there was a deck on the upper level of the tavern – so we spent a very pleasant hour or so in the warmth looking through the upper branches of the plane trees just coming into bud for spring, with a few Greek dishes and a couple of beers. It really didn't feel as though we were in China, but, on reflection, perhaps the atmosphere just typified the French Quarter.

Just opposite was Dongping St. It took some time to walk down this street because of the trendy shops that had to be checked out! The only disadvantage of the area is that US conulate is opposite the other end of the street, with the inevitable high wall highly visible Interestingly, the French consulate is on the other soie of the street. It also has a high wall, but no visible security at all. With some trepidation we walked down the street between the two consulates, to look for the staue of a young-looking Nie Er, the composer of China's national anthem in a little park. He looks young because I read that he drowned when he ws 23 (so presumaby he was younger than that when he composed March of the Volunteers).


  1. Ah Google. Perhaps we should try migrating our blogging to wordpress.
    Meanwhile your trip is not sounding very Middle Kingdom. Coffee and Greek? Perhaps you are asserting authentic gwai lo (鬼佬) style?
    First photo ops saved for emulating First Bloke striding up steps of Great Hall of the People and lurking on the Great Wall?

  2. Your reference to Starbucks reminds me of a Chinese guide who explained that they now had KFC stores in China - Kentucky Fried Cat.