Update 1

February 8, 2011 - Shanghai, China

I'm sat at a desk in Shanghai, and composing my first update, one of many to come!

Saturday 5th/Sunday 6th February

Day 1 was waving Connie off at 2am and then getting some kip before catching my own bus to Heathrow. It was really nice to have phone catch-ups with Mum & Dad and Danny that morning, and even better to meet Tom for a coffee! Check-in went smoothly and before I knew it we were in the air. It was a fairly empty flight so I got an exit row seat, but all the same didn't sleep too much. Arrived at Pudong International Airport, Shanghai at 8.30am local time but 12.30am GMT, but I resisted the urge to head straight to bed. Pete Jackson is a former sax player in the Magdalen Swing Band and is out here in Shanghai teaching English for the year, and he really kindly met me at the airport and is hosting me in his flat. The first excitement was taking the Maglev train from the airport to central Shanghai, which got up to 431km/h! It raced through some pretty desolate and be-rubbled marshland East of the city before arriving in the newest part of Shanghai, Pudong, about 5 minutes after leaving the airport. From there we caught the metro across town to drop my stuff off and after a quick cup of tea headed out.

First stop was lunch, which was massive - we went to a 'jiao ze' (dumplings) restaurant and had four plates which were all larger than we'd anticipated. Crispy fried (possibly even slightly battered) aubergine with garlic, pak choi with mushrooms, and two sets of dumplings - shrimp and meat + cabbage - were more than we could handle, but we did our best anyway. Barely able to walk, we dragged ourselves across town to The Propaganda Poster Museum, which was a fascinating collection of posters from the 1950s-1970s. It was a great introduction to the history of Communism in China, so colourful and interesting, and the chap looking after the place chatted a lot about the posters. He was clearly very enthusiastic, though I can't say I understood a great deal of what he said - fortunately Pete was able to translate! Next up was People's Square, where we visited the Shanghai Museum. This documents ancient Chinese history, with bronze works from nearly 4000 years ago, coins, art, calligraphy, and beautiful traditional dress from all over China.

And finally, the Bund, which is the iconic waterfront of Shanghai on the Huang pu river, full of art deco buildings built by colonialists over the last 150 years. It sits in striking contrast to the buildings of Pudong on the opposite bank - the Oriental Pearl Tower, the bottleopener (the latest addition to the skyline). Google some images of the two, they're really amazing. We went to an overpriced cafe overlooking the water for a sit down and a drink before heading back home, and then nipped out for another large meal at a Sichuan restaurant. The potatoes were pretty spicy, sweet and sour chicken delicious and battered shrimp even more so, amazing.

Going to bed was something of an experience in itself, as fireworks were going off over the whole city. Literally people were just setting them off on every street corner, it was madness. However, I was absolutely pooped, so slept like a log. Woke at 5am to nip to the loo and the fireworks were still going, and again at 8am, and yes, still going strong - even though it was now light. Because the word for four in Chinese is similar to the word for death, four is something of an unlucky number. This, Pete suggested, was why there were so many fireworks on this day, the 4th day of the new year.

Monday 7th February

After a good 13-14 hours sleep, I felt as if I'd pretty much got over my jet lag. Monday was another pretty busy day, but the highlights were seeing a few markets and a stunning Daoist temple in the morning-early afternoon, checking out some music instrument shops and seeing the Bund again. In the evening, we headed out for Indonesian dinner (should have been Uyghur, but the place was closed), and then on to JZ jazz club, where we were entertained by a quartet - a very talented pianist/singer, good sax & bass players and a fairly mediocre drummer. In any case, it was a lovely evening, met some of Pete's friends from out here and generally had a nice relaxing time.

Tuesday 8th February

And finally today (Tuesday) has been a fairly tiring day. We stuck around the flat for a bit then headed to Pudong to try and find the China Sex Culture Museum. Alas, no luck - we reckon it may have been replaced by something slightly more family-friendly since the guidebook was published. Nonetheless, it was good to see the Oriental Pearl Tower up close as well as the Jinmao tower and the bottleopener. I then wandered round the French Concession for a bit trying to find a cafe which, similarly, wasn't there, before heading to another and getting a bit lost on the campus of Ruijin hospital on the way back to the metro station... I'm about to head out for some food and to meet up with Chris, an Oxford graduate originally from Shanghai who I met on the flight, for a quick drink. Early flight to Xi'an tomorrow and want to be on decent form!

Hopefully internet will be easy in Xi'an and the next update will be in the not-too-distant future!

Lots of love,
Tim


1 Comment

Connie:
February 8, 2011
So glad you´re enjoying the food my dear, sounds literally amazing. I´m filling up on rice and beans and anticipating a lot of ceviche..... love you lots, keep having awesome fun!
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