Deep fried custard and psychedelic tunnels
11.09.2011 - 14.09.2011
All aboard the 305kmph bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai. This journey was nothing as exhilarating as our taxi ride to the Rock and Wood hostel in west Shanghai. We thought we were goners. During the experience Steve looked me in the eyes, all serious, and said – I'm ok, I'm ok to go now, at least I have found love... I swear this was the most frightening experience of our lives. Still, the view of Shanghai at night was breathtaking (well, the parts of it where we didn't have our eyes closed).
Taxi so fast and so lost! The driver had to ask for directions and still charged us the full fare. It's times like these that we wish we knew Mandarin. These guys are not a patch on our London cabby’s.
The Rock and Wood hostel was excellent. On arrival it looked like a mini 5-star hotel, complete with fish pond, terrapin, outside seating and bar. Checked into a great and spacious room. Now time to hunt for food again.
New shiny city, new restaurants, new neighbourhood to explore by night with hungry bellies and very little patience. Cash was holding us back so a quick trip to the nearest hole in the wall and we were set for the first restaurant with pictures. Easy! Or was it? 30 page picture menu no English only heads, trotters, spines and things that go bump in the night! So ordered by Braille and waited tentatively for our noodles, rice, veg, 2 meaty looking dishes and the wild-card to come. (The wild-card being the unknown dish that we order every meal so that we try something new, this time it was a fried something). Looking pretty edible and good, the Tiger beers have shown up and they are 3 large bottles for 2, Nice :-) The wild-card looked a bit pudding-like so we left it until last and sure enough it was (we think) deep fried battered custard with a custard dip. The Chinese version of the fried Mars Bar!
Bargain meal, all that for £8.50!!!!
Well rested and ready for a full day sightseeing so we headed to the subway and towards the famous Bund. A street of colonial buildings facing a familiar Shanghai skyline:
The stroll towards the Bund took in the sights of the river running East to West. The shear size of the buildings is greater than anything we have ever experienced even in London or New York, the greatest likeness is to that of Singapore with its mix of colonial architecture and giant neon skyscrapers.
With a visit to the tourist area comes the usual stares and requests for pictures with Monkey-Steve and Blondie-Jen, so not much sightseeing for us before we head back into the thick of the centre for food. Just to clarify, a tourist in these parts is of Asian origin, I guess mainly rural Chinese and therefore a westerner is possibly quite alien (description given to us in their guidebooks). At this stage in the journey (Day 7) we believe that a picture of Monkey-Steve and Blondie-Jen is sitting above the coal burning fireplace of at least 1% of the rural Chinese population.
Chinese fast food was our choice of lunch, again a Russian roulette on the picture pointing game, however no bullets this time only a weird creamy jelly chicken soup that accompanied our rather nice choices of meaty main. Steve's came with baked beans in it! Yum.
Down at the bottom of the garden, with all the birds and the bees, there are a lot of shouty people. Unfortunately there is never a peaceful moment in China. Anywhere. Not even in an authentic Emperors' garden. A visit to Yuyuan Garden will set you back 10 Yuan. Aside from the din it was very pretty.
As with every city it is a great idea to see it by night...
A trip to the New Bund for dinner (like the old colonial Bund, but newer, see pictures above). Unfortunately we decided to take the tourist tunnel across the river. Steve is still being treated for a mental disorder that was triggered by this experience. I now understand why the kiosk lady was reluctant to sell us tickets (at 55 Yuan a pop). We believe the Shanghai city planning authority gave a small simple sadistic child handfuls of fibre-optics, a torch and a tunnel to decorate. The longest five minutes of our lives. It took away our souls. Here's a link to some pics - read the reviews as they are funny. I couldn't take any pics myself as I had lost all muscle control and Monkey-Steve started dribbling. A wet camera = a dead camera.
So after all that excitement the guidebook led us on a bogus trail for a restaurant that was miles from where the map said it should be. Instead we ended up eating lavishly in a Michilin Star Chinese restaurant with beer for £15 each. A surprisingly inexpensive evening for western standards given that the food was beautiful. Altogether a great night and we got to experience the sheer scale of the buildings of the New Bund.
With Shanghai explored we were booked on the 5 hour bus early next morning set for Huang Shan (Tunxi) and then a transfer by local shuttle bus to the scenic area, Tangkou. Huang Shan literally means the Yellow Mountain and the intention was to conquer it as every Chinese person aspires to do so as a right of passage (or so we are told).