June 10, 2012

Mystery trip -Part II

Where were we? Yes, airport Abu Dhabi, right? Time was somehow endless waiting for the plane to depart. But at last we were standing in line for departure and got a hint of what was to come. There were lots of Chinese, no surprise, but every one of them wanted to be first in line. This we hadn't expected.
We are still not sure how long the flight was; we suppose 12 hours. These 12 hours we spent watching films and trying to get some sleep. Not very succesfully I'm afraid.

In Shanghai the customs were surprisingly friendly and easygoing and we soon found our bus to downtown.
Then a short trip in a taxi; we had printed the instructions beforehand  for the taxidriver in Chinese, and then we were at our youth hostel. It was a nice, clean place and we liked it a lot.

Our plan was only to drop off the luggage and set out for some sightseeing, but we had to try the beds first...Just in case they weren't up to our expectations. They were.
Ok, 5 hours later we finally set out, searching for a place to have dinner. We walked and walked, but there weren't any restaurents along the way. Of course we found heaps of them the later :-)

In the first one only some of  the guests spoke English, but they were friendly and took good care of us. We were even invited into the kitchen to show what we wanted to eat. We got some kind of hot broth with vegetables and some meat in it. Then we got platters of meat (still frozen), sausages, dumplings and vegetables to put into this hot broth.

 The proprietor kept a very close eye at us and tried to explane how to eat this dinner. We are both confident with chop sticks, but the meat had to cook a bit longer than we thought. It didn't taste bad, but I was kind of put off when I found my first chicken foot in the broth. At least I hope it was chicken. The Chinese don't cut off the "bad" parts of meat; they just eat everything.

After that we continued our walk through Shanghai, found some nice shops and a nice cafe and...
Then it was time for a taxi and home again. A taxi costs here less than a busfare at home.

Next day we headed out for the Old Town. In particular we wanted to visit a famous teashouse. It is built all according to Feng Shui, with the bridge all zacka style to misslead all evil spirits. Well, I made it anyhow and I also passed a very high doorstep without problems. Perhaps I'm not so bad after all. You see, the Chinese believe that evil spirits haven't any kneecaps, so they cannot pass high doorsteps...

The tea costed about a months wages (in China), but it was delicious and served by a true teamaster. They served a lot of small snacks with the tea. Most of the things we had never tasted before.Very impressive!

There were only Westeners as customers, but busloads of Chinese outside. Kind of sad.

I'm not going to tell you a day to day story, just the general outlines. Shanghai is a big city with almost 24 million inhabitants. It is a mixture between modern and oldfashioned. It is clean, but there is a musty smell everywhere. I suspect some bad draining. 

Shanghai by night with the Oriental Pearl tower
Dragon boat floating through the night

All over the place you see these pairs, posing for a wedding pic. The lucky colour is red; you never see a bride in white, as white is the colour for mourning.

Princess in a park

View from a Starbucks cafe

Once we got up at 6 in the morning just to see how people made their morning excercises on the Bund, Shanghais famous promenade.

Tai Chi on the Bund
 All over the place people were stretching, doing Tai Chi, walking backwards (is supposed to be good for you. Balances out the right and the left side of your brain.) There really was no need to get up this early for this as the Chinese seem to take their excercises very seriously indeed. They do it everywhere, in parks, in the subway, shopping malls and, very annoying, in the quiet of the woods (with ghettoblasters...).

Aerobics by night

Three of Chinas highest buildings are in Shanghai.

Jin mao tower in front of  Shanghai World Financial Center

The Shanghai World Financial Center is with its 492 m the highest, the Oriental Pearl tower with 468 m second and the Jin mao tower (420 m) third. We went up in the Jin mao tower and had some coctails in the bar on the 87th floor. The view was impressive. Too bad the sun wasn't shining, it was a rainy day. 

The Shanghai World Financial Center was built by a Japanese architect. His plan was to make the "opening" a round circle, but the Chinese weren't too keen to have a Japanese sun over their city, so the plans were changed and now the building looks like a giant bottle opener. You can see it behind the Jin mao tower in the pic.

We were very impressed by the everyday scenes we saw all over the city.

Foot massage on the street
Wash day

Just a normal street 

Street kitchen with some dim sungs
Toddlers wear their trousers with good airconditioning
I prefer my own workplace...

Chicken feeding outside a shop
We saw some people wearing their PJs in the park, you know the striped kind, just like your granddads, but I didn't dare take pictures. Not that they were ashamed, in fact they seemed proud. I was the one feeling like a peeping Jane.

We saw some fun signs all over the place, but I didn't take the pictures I should have. It's one of the things I do regret.


This one we couldn't figure out. It was at the airport. Separate gates for the elephants and the kangaroos? Princess wanted to send me to the BM1, but she must have misunderstood something...

I saw one I just loved, but didn't take a pic. It said that it was forbidden to squat on top of the toilet and that you were supposed to throw your toilet paper into a basket, not into the toilet. Try to imagine yourself squatting on top of your toilet; you'll be in need for some swish and swipe after that one :-)

We spent 6 days in Shanghai and went for a daytrip to Hangzhou, a small 3-4 million place south of Shanghai. We took a taxi to the railway station in Shanghai, expecting it to be somewhere near around the corner, but no, one hour later we finally arrived. We could have taken the underground as well and saved some money, but we didn't know it. At the railway station we had to show our passports to buy a ticket; that felt strange. The train was a transrapid; a first for both of us.

In Hangzhou we got a taxidriver to take us to this lake. There we went for a walk to some temples and had a beautiful sight over the lake. We wanted to take a taxi to some other places as well, but the taxidrivers refused to take us. We asked about 20 taxidrivers, but they just laughted at us. So we went for a walk instead.

A sight along the walk around the lake. I didn't realize that the pickers actually wear these hats while picking tea.

It looks so idyllic, but we weren't amused. We finally got a tuctuc take us to the Silk museum, but there we got into a hassle because of the price, just like everyplace else all over the world. At the Silk museum they threw us out again after 5 minutes and then we got stranded. Big time! After half an hour of fruitless hailing we asked a Chinese lady to help us. She finally got a tuctuc take us back to the railway station. Have you ever taken a ride in a tuctuc? I've done it lots of times, but Hangzhou tops it all. It's only something for diehards...

After these exciting days in China we were happy to board the plane to Abu Dhabi again. Frankly we were overwhelmed after eight days in a different world. We liked almost everything we saw, but as to the people... Well, they certainly are different from us and some things were just appaling in our eyes. Lets leave it at that. We had a lot of difficulties because of the language issue. Very few Chinese speak English and this does complicate matters a lot. I wanted to go fabric shopping, but didn't find any places to go and the taxidrivers refused to take us to the address we showed them. We couldn't figure out why.

All in all summary? You don't have to love everything, but Shanghai is a fascinating place well worth a visit. If you have the chance, do go. You won't regret it, thats for sure and you simply cannot imagine the things you will encounter there.  We had a very good time there and don't regret anything, except taking more pics...


  1. I was simply fascinated by your narration. You are intrepid. Princess is lucky to have you as a role model. I am going to ask a coworker with Chinese wife about the airport animal sign.

    1. I had to look for intrepid in my dictionary :-)Actually I never go anywhere dangerous and check out where I'm going before I start out, so I know fairly well what's to expect.

  2. How great you and your daughter made this trip together. It will be a great memory to share forever. China is complicated and hard to understand for us. I have a friend who lives in central china and works as the only westerner in a Chinese mobile company. His tales of everyday life is fantastic.... As is your observations :)

    1. I'm very lucky to have such great daughters. Both travel with me whenever they can. And yes; I don't understand the first thing about what Chinese people think.

  3. Intrepid is right!! I'm not sure I'm up to the rigors of a trip like this! Chicken feet in my soup! I don't think so! I went on a European trip with my mother years ago and I have such wonderful memories! How nice that you travel with your daughter!

    1. I just love travelling, so it's no hardship for me. My daughters share this love with me and we go as often as we can and have the opportunity to do so. You should come to Europe again; I promise not to serve chicken feet :-)

  4. What an amazing trip! Love the toddler and his trousers : )

    1. Yes, we couldn't believe what we saw, but all toddlers had these trousers. The parents must be very fast...

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you; hope you will be back again!

  6. Very cool and interesting post! My theory for the animal pics: it's for kids incase they get lost. You can tell them they have to go to the elefant gate instead of gate 2B. We have the same at the beach: each beach entrance has an animal picture cause they all look the same.

    1. I'm suspecting a zoo somewhere near myself; you wouldn't leave your kids alone in a place like this - its huge!

  7. I've really enjoyed reading this post! It's so interesting to learn about your visit and your photos are great too :)

    1. Thanks Janine! Yes, China is a country full of mysteries...

  8. Sounds like you had a marvellous trip - chicken feet and all! Although it must have been quite frustrating not being able to get the taxidrivers to take you where you wanted to go.

    1. Yes, it was really exciting. I've had chicken feet and fish heads on my plate before and God knows what else, so no big thing. But the taxidrivers were disturbing; we felt helpless, even with millions of people all around us.

  9. May, what is a tuctuc? I have never heard of that before. I don't know what it means. Do we have those in the USA? Maybe by a different name? I loved reading about your trip. I wish you would write more about your trip. It was so fascinating to read. I will never get to China, so to read about it from someone who is no Chinese, it is wonderful. You could email me and tell me more about your explorations. I would love it. But do tell me what a tuctuc is. Thanks.

    1. a little taxi, usually seats two, built round a motorbike but adapted so it has three wheels. Fairly common in Eastern countries, China, Thailand etc.