Monday, June 02, 2008

China - Part 1

Well China - where can I start with the whole China thing? Well firstly I have to say that Shanghai was completely amazing and I think the reason it was so amazing I think was the Chinese Culture and the Chinese people. The people were just so incredibly friendly and we were able to make it about the city with our incredibly limited Chinese (when I say incredibly limited all we could say was hello and thank you!).

We began the trip in the same way any international trip from New Zealand begins, in an airport and the airport at Shanghai was brand spanking new (well it seemed to be brand spanking new but in all likelihood it wasn't so new) and incredibly clean!

When we had made our way through customs and picked up our bags we headed to the magnetic train and headed to the city. The train was INCREDIBLY fast and after the train we were able to navigate our way through the subway and to the hostel without TOO much difficulty. I admit that the relative ease in which we arrived at our accommodation was due to Fiona and Kat - I have NO sense of direction what-so-ever!

I have to admit - when booking online back at home in New Zealand I was a little anxious about the state of the hostel in China. But I need not have feared - the hostel was fantastic and it was cheap as chips. It had it's own little pub/restaurant attached and it was super clean and generally pleasant all round!

Once we got settled in the hostel and had showers and the like we decided it was time to begin exploring some of the city.

I think my first impressions of China were firstly (and sadly) the smog - this was the first time I had been out of the Pacific and I hadn't been anywhere so dirty before. You do adjust to it after a while but it makes you realise just how clean New Zealand actually is. My second though would have to have been sheer amazement at the size of the buildings and the contrast between the small shacks and units and the huge buildings such as the Pearl Tower. Some of the large skyscrapers are SO big when you look up at them you kind of start to feel dizzy (well I do at least - maybe that's just me?)

Whilst checking out the general area near the hostel we came across this place - Super Brand Mall where we ended up spending a fair bit of time. Mostly because it was easy to find food I could actually eat at this place (as in vegetarian!).
On our first visit we came across a place called "New Age Veggie" turn out we had quite a few meals at new age veggie. It turns out that some Chinese food take on the challenge of vegetarianism by making tofu taste and look as much like meat as they possibly can - there was one night Fiona and I shared a "mock" fish meal that tasted scarily like the real thing.

Anyways - whilst having my first meal at "New Age Veggie" I had my first pot of tea on Chinese soil. It was a HUGE pot of "Star sign" tea!

Once we had finished our meal we decided to head over and visit the Pearl Tower so we could have a better view of Shanghai. I think that the Pearl Tower is one of the strangest looking buildings on the Shanghai skyline - but I guess that's why people like it so much. You would never get it confused with another building that's for sure. You also have a great view from the Pearl Tower - you can even see the barges on the Bund (I always thought some of the barges look like they could sink at any moment with all the stuff they were carrying).

But there was more to the Pearl's tower's weirdness other than it's shape! Inside we found a rather weird space exhibition - including an alien, which looked like ET, which appeared to flipping us the bird? We also had the chance to go on an indoors roller coaster in the Pearl Tower - I think it was actually designed for 10 year olds but hey - we weren't the only ones on the ride that were WELL over the age of 10.

Finally we finished off a day of our Pearl Tower adventure with a visit to the museum in the Pearl Tower - where I realised that Chinese Photo's REALLY love their photos (now here's a group of people I can TOTALLY relate to!) in the museum the Chinese people were taking photos of everything. In New Zealand if you tried to do this some museum guard would be along ASAP to tell you to delete all the photo's on your camera of the museum but not in Shanghai! The Museum itself was pretty cool - it was a bit like the history of Shanghai in told with displays, models and holograms - I liked the holograms' the best:)

We finally rounded off our first day in Shanghai with a walk along the Bund, Kat and Fiona picked up some ice creams at a McDonalds Ice Cream stand whilst we watched the sun setting on our first day in China.

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