A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010




One of the highlights of Shanghai was the journey there. Despite being warned by Nick and Andrea about traveling by night bus we figured it couldn't be THAT bad. And it wasn't. It was simply one of the most insane journeys that we have encountered on our trip to date. Fortunately we got on where the bus started but the journey still began with some drama; the conductor man tried shifting two girls from there beds and moving them to our seats. This we would have been fine with if it wasn't for the fact these two beds were the top bunks right at the back of the bus which also happened to be next to the toilet. Considering how much normal toilets smell in China we could only despair at what a bus one would be like...!!!

So after some persistence we managed to get our beds. This meant that Kristian was on the top bunk behind me and I was on the bottom one in front. I didn't last here for very long though because about 50 minutes into the journey the lady in the bed next to me started vomiting into a plastic bag (at a time when the bus was stopped and there were no extra people in the aisles) and then proceeded to sit and hold the bag!! I wasn't very impressed with this so jumped up onto the bed in front of Kristian which happened to be the only other free bed on the bus. I sure was glad that I did this!! In traditional Asian fashion the bus stopped every kilometer to pick people up from the side of the road; we kept thinking that they couldn't possibly get anyone else onto the bus but then another 5 people would get on!! In the end there were people all sitting through the aisles incredibly cramped with at least 65 people on this 35 bed bus! I wouldn't have fancied being them for the 12 hour journey! It was a good job the vomiting lady had more plastic bags because there was no way she'd be getting anywhere near the toilet! Kristian awoke in the morning to a man standing over him looking out the window obviously stretching his aching legs.

Eventually we got to Shanghai and strangely had to have our bags scanned when we got off the bus in order to walk onto the street; we'd already had them scanned just before getting on the bus! Fortunately we were right next to a Metro station so we made our journey out to our couchsurfing hosts who lived out in the suburbs. Our sim card wouldn't work because we'd foolishly bought a Qingdao city one so we wound up sitting outside their door (they didn't answer when we knocked) waiting patiently to appear. Means we gave Wes a bit of a shock when he opened the door to put the rubbish out! Once we bought a working Sim we were on our way back into Shanghai to see the sights.

It as SO GOOD to be in a busy city. Shanghai was the first place we have visited on our travels which reminded us of London in anyway and it sure felt good. The crowds were surging on it's most popular shopping street and we just wandered around mesmerized by everyone. The Chinese tourists are unlike any other sort of tourists. We went down to the Bund for a walk along it and just loved it! It was so cool with the old style architecture along there and then the modern day, futuristic city of Pudong on the other side of the water. Such a good juxtaposition. We decided to be real tourists and so took the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel over to Pudong. This was some seriously weird method of transport. It is basically some extravagant light show in a tunnel objectifying things like paradise, hell, molten lava, shooting stars, fish in the ocean. Really a rather surreal experience.

Once at the other side we walked around the strange pedestrian roundabout before heading to the two biggest buildings in China in order to feel miniature! We didn't want to pay to go up it neither did we want to spend $15 each in the bar so we looked out the window of the lift; it was a really cloudy, miserable, rainy day so it wouldn't have been worth the money! None the less the view from our little window was still spectacular. We went next door to the biggest building which looks like a massive bottle opener! Its size sure is impressive at 480m or so and we stood at the bottom feeling like ants, completely in awe. By now it was really rainy so we popped into a mall in order to continue our search for a new bag. We left empty handed, tired and it was raining even more so we went back into the weird tunnel thing. Back on the old side we chilled out with a hot chocolate and figured out what we were going to do with our time in China.

Then we were off to use the internet before trying (and failing) to buy a ticket to Hangzhuo; the office had shut two hours earlier. Oops. It was therefore time to stop being antisocial and head back to the suburbs where our hosts were having an indoor bbq. Everyone was on the drunk side of tipsy and we were understandably tired so excused ourselves to bed around midnight. I think that we had both just dropped off to sleep when a commotion began outside with the very weird and very drunk American girl called Echo. What sort of name is that?! We stayed out of the way until she had left (well had been taken home) before getting up to see if there was anything we could do. The drunk girl's child had been left there (a two year old girl called Lark) and when she and the baby woke up Coryn was left trying to juggle the two of them. I stepped in to help get Lark back to sleep which wasn't too hard. Then finally it was time for us to get some well earned rest on our playroom floor!

We awoke far too early felling nowhere near rested. We had tickets to go to the Expo but first we had to buy these train tickets to leave Shanghai. The man only seemed willing to sell us tickets for 7.50am so it looked like it was going to be another early start! After getting a bus to Expo we finally got there about 12ish. It was so cool! Yes there were a lot of people and there were some insanely long queues but the atmosphere was really good. Fortunately we got to queue jump at the British one with our passports so that saved us 4 hours! It was one of the visually more impressive with all its fibre optic spikes and was certainly focused on greenery/eco stuff which we thought was good for the Chinese considering their pollution issues. We have since heard that due to Expo not only have the factories around Shanghai been turned off but you are only allowed to drive your car on certain days depending on the numbers in your number plate to limit the pollution. Isn't that insane?! Anyways each of the spikes in the British one had a different seed in it and all in all it was a good concept but I feel I would have been disappointed had I waited four hours for it! From here we queued for Ireland which meant we are now planning a holiday there!

From this point forward we chose countries with little or no queue including Brunei (where K got really excited for some weird reason) and Cambodia where they had built parts of Angkor Wat and were of course selling things! A real highlight of the day was Afghanistan's pavilion - it made us really want to go there! Shame about these wars...! We both made friends with the passport stampers in Sri Lanka as we shared knowing smiles with the Chinese's inability to queue. It must be really infuriating to be working there. There was a ridiculously long queue for Irag - like at least an hour - but we got into North Korea's quite speedily at least. Here we stood in awe of the videos of the Mass Games which really do look quite spectacular.

We tried to have dinner at Latinos which despite it's name only served Chinese food! After a rather disappointing and average dinner we were devastated to discover the Mexican pavilion had a restaurant inside! Mexico and Chile were the last two we visited but were definitely among the best. We really wished that we could have seen more but we really needed to go home and rest our weary heads/worn out feet!

Posted by jo.kris 07:11 Archived in China Tagged shanghai Comments (1)


China's beer Capital

semi-overcast 21 °C

Our first stop in China was Qingdao (pronounced Ching-d-ooooow) which may look more familiar when written as Tsingtao. Yes this is the town where that World famous Chinese beer comes from. It is a former German port and the beer factory started its days brewing Pilsner before the Japanese got involved. This seems to have done a world of good for the beer; its funny to think that once Tsingtao accounted for 98% of China's exports!!! Think it is a little different now. Strangely though this beer is an exported beer mainly, the Chinese don't really tend to drink it and it is much more expensive than the "local beer" of the province. Anywhoo I digress...

Our first impression when we got off the boat was that it looked a little bit like a shithole! We have come to learn that this is just the way that Chinese cities look when they begin to age which happens before the buildings are even finished/being lived in! This whole country is going to fall down in the next 20-50 years if the architechts are to believed! We jumped in a taxi and made our way towards our host, Andrea's, home at the Ocean University. We were glad for the Chinese characters depicting her address or goodness knows where we would have wound up! We had a lady taxi driver who was literally insane but efficient! She weaved in and out of the traffic with ease and there was only one incident where we could have gone through the windscreen; not bad considering! We eventually found our way to Andrea's building after asking a few people; she was lovely! She's working as an English teacher here but is originally from Texas. Yes she does litter her speech with "y'all" which we found rather endearing. She instantly made us feel comfortable and gave us a choice of plywood beds to sleep on. Yes I did say plywood! One of them even has this little zipper thing which you can open to see it - perhaps it is so you can check it is good quality plywood?! Who would know...

We sat around chatting for a while and then headed up to a restaurant (a Korean one of all places!) although it served Chinese food fortunately. Andrea ordered as the menu was of course in Chinese. We had sweetcorn and pine nuts (TASTY!), a tofu dish (our new best friend) and a Qingdao speciality of fried eggplant (aubergine) and green peppers. This meal was to begin our love affair with aubergine which we are now basically addicted to. I guess there are worse things. By the time we had eaten and were ready to go and see any form of sights it was 3pm so we jumped on a bus and headed back towards town.

First job though was to find a ticket out of there and onto our next destination which would be Shanghai. The trains were sold out for the day we wanted to go and the next day only had the most expensive seats available. So we figured we'd try and find an internet cafe. We asked at a hotel nearby and they told us to get an 8 yuan taxi ride to one. Fortunately she wrote down the characters for wangba (internet) and we managed to spot one near the station without getting a taxi. This was literally about 300 yards from her hotel so she must walk around with her eyes closed. We found here that it would be cheaper to fly so at least that through in an option of travel. INstead of booking that though we thought we would go to a hostel and try to organise a train or bus ticket with them. They weren't very willing to help us to begin with but when we couldn't communicate with the number they had given us (of course they only spoke Chinese..) they decided to help us! With a deposit left with them we were on our way hopeful that we would have a bus sorted...

We wandered around the Old Town until Andrea and her friend Nick came to meet us at the Cathedral. This involved walking through another locals farmers market; highight of this one was the chickens roaming around under our feet. Had to be careful not to trip over one and hurt ourselves. We also had our first experience with a Chinese public toilet. This was in a department store which looked really nice, new and fresh. Its a shame that the same couldn't be said for the toilets! They literally looked as if they had been built 20 years before the rest of the building (impossible considering they were on the fourth floor) and my god the smell! It was quite something special. Don't think that we will be going anywhere for here on in without our scarves!!!

For dinner we went to this little hotpot place which the lady cooked skewers of food for us in a pot of chicken broth in front of us. Not entirely sure what was on these skewers exactly but don't think it was anything near being real meat. Funnily it turned out that Andrea, who is basically vegetarian, had been eating cow stomach! Think it is best just not to ask what it is in these situations....! It wasn't a great meal but it was cheap costing just 1 pound 40p for the two of us...can't complain with that that's for sure!

Our sightseeing the following day was marginally more successful. Having eventually got on a bus headed towards the Beer factory the hostel call us to say that we need to go there NOW in order to get a ticket. We jump in a taxi and arrive there to discover that there are no tickets available with the agent. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh panic....!! But it was okay as a guy from the hostel got a taxi with us to the bus station where we were able to book two tickets for the following evening to Shanghai. Phew! It was cheaper too so that is always nice.

Finally we were in our third taxi of the hour and on our way to the Beer Factory. Considering that it had taken so much effort to get there is was a little bit of a disappointment when we arrived! I guess that that is always the way. The funniest thing was the Chinese tour groups who whizzed through as we were gradually taking our time. I swear that they couldn't have had a chance to take in any of their surroundings; they were just in and out like a punter at his local brothel. The place where this was most apparent was in the tasting section of the tour. We just sat and (Kristian) enjoyed our beers casually, taking our time, and these tour groups would come in like a huge tornado. They'd quickly drink their beer then be gone again in the blink of an eye just leaving a catastropic mess behind with half full glasses abound. You could literally see the tumbleweed blowing past following their departure. The workers would just get the mess cleaned up (super speedily!) and then another tornado would whizz in.

The other highlight of this tour was seeing the machinery packaging up the beer and getting it ready to be sent out to stores. We could have stood for hours watching this but it must be a super boring job for those who work there. I'd imagine that you'd see bottles in your sleep! We had a wander along beer street upon exiting the factory which sold catastrophically priced beer and then got in another taxi because we didn't know where the bus stop we needed was.

Next stop was to be the Lu Xin Park which was located along the seafront. This was a really lovely spot for us to just chill out and formulate a plan for the rest of China; we were even treated to a scrap of blue sky! All the beer had obviously got to Kristian as he chose to spend this time napping on the rocks we were sitting on. With some sort of rough plan in place we headed onwards to what was for us the highlight of Qingdao. We hit up China's equivalent of Blackpool pleasure beach! This was AMAZING! There were actually people TANNING! God forbid that we could be seeing tanned Asians sunning themselves but it was so, our eyes for once were not deceiving us! There were huge groups of men with potbellies and equal amounts of really ripped guys working out at the beach gym! It was just insane. We were fascinated by the groups of men in their speedos grouped around together gambling or playing games or something. The best thing about the whole experience was that they all seemed to be having so much fun: laughing and joking together. This was for us an introduction to another side of China we had not yet experienced thus far and we could truely see the yin and yang of how this country worked.

Our journey back was the other side.....an hour and a half on a packed bus, crawling along at snail speed on a journey which should have taken 30 minutes!!

Posted by jo.kris 19:22 Archived in China Tagged beaches qingdao Comments (0)

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