Saturday, September 15, 2012

Speeding to Shanghai

By Friday morning, I was really starting to get to grips with the Pinyin I had been learning all week. This is a way of reading, writing and pronouncing the Chinese (Mandarin) language without using the characters, whichh greatly speeds up learning for Roman alphabet users (English, Spanish, French etc....). The makeup of each word is actually quite simple, just an easily-distinguishable collection of consenants with a predictable pronounciation. Chinese grammar, at the level I am studying, is also quite straightforward and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of tenses. However I can really understand the pains that people like my Chinese friends must have gone through to learn the topsy-turvy language that is English!
Anyway after a couple of hours of reciting, listening and a bit of writing, and an amusing episode trying to drop off clothes to be laundered (more on that later) I departed the hotel, somewhat delayed, with 4 other friends - Alisa, Coco, Benedikt (Ben) and Iolo. 2 Germans, 2 Brits and an Austrian. We rushed across town (well, as much as you can on the Beijing buses) to the Wudaokou subway station and made our way to Beijing South Railway station. we were taking the bullet train to Shanghai!

Beijing South is a huge station, as big and impressive as any airport and with passport control and security to match. A note on security while I remember, it would seem that Beijing must be a flagship for security in the whole nation, every time you go on a tube train your bag is x-rayed (but your person is not generally checked!) and there are many, many, MAMY private security firms. But typically, these (and many other public service jobs here) seem to have virtually no job variety or satisfaction and the workers can generally be found on their phones or watching TV...
The super-fast Bullet train (high speed, wide guage electric) reached 303km/h and only made 2 stops between Beijing and Shanghai. It departed 3 minutes early (!) and got to Shanghai in just under 5 hours, during which time we had covered over 1000km as the cros flies - more than the length of the UK measured JOG-LE! I wish I could get to Edinburgh that quickly...

We passed the time in deep (like, deeper than the Kola borehole) conversation and sleeping. As soon as we stepped out of the train in Shanghai, we noticed how much warmer it was than Beijing and made our way across town on the significantly more expensive subway. We emerged on East Nanjing Road, one of the main pedestrian centres and home to almost as much neon as Oxford Circus.


From there it was a brief walk to our 'Captain Hostel' home for the next 2 nights.

This was by far the best Hostel room I've ever stayed in, I had organised 2 twin rooms with an extra bed in one of them. As the last through the door of the boys' room I was obviously left with the little bed! But we weren't there long before we went out to explore the city.

View from the Hostel rooftop bar!
First we went back to East Nanjing in search of food, but we hadn't realised that there were actually no restaurants there and by then it was deserted (I guess the Apple store had closed). But we spied a street kitchen off to one side and had rice or noodles, freshly cooked with an egg, veg and the smallest morsel of meat. Yes it looked dodgy but the wok was really hot, the ingredients were fresh and I could see it was being cooked really well!

Since it was Alisa's birthday (though actually not, since it was beyond midngith, though debatably it was still in Germany) we had promised her a drink in one of the highest bars in the world. We made our way to the {} building by taxi and took 3 express elevators, through the Hyatt hotel up to the aptly-named 'Cloud 9' bar.

JinMao tower on the right (obviously not my photo!
Cloud 9 was absolutely amazing. Although we only got there half an hour before closing time, the view from the 87th floor of the second-highest building in Shanghai was phenomenal. It was also a day of very good visability, so the view was better than that justified by my photographs!

We treated ourselves (and Alisa) to a cocktail at the eye-watering price of 100 Yuan. However, that's only £10 in UK money, the cocktails were justifiably large and delicious, and I later found out that you are charged 98 Yuan just to go to the observation deck on the 88th floor! So we were far from ripped-off.
On our way out, we had a look down into the lobby of the Hyatt. This 33-floor vertical lobby is both hugely impressive and absolutely terrifying. I'm OK with heights but my legs were very, very weak looking down into that gulf! What's more, the bottom is actually the 54th floor of the whole building - so not even half way to the base!

Not being much left of Friday, we took the taxi back to the hostel. Taxis are very affordable in China (except to/from the airport) and the most I've paid has been 42 Yuan - barely £4 and even that was split between 4 of us! 
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1 comment:

  1. Hey Cj - Phew! I'm exhausted just reading about all the things you have been up to and a fitting finish to top it off with a spot of clubbing! China sounds so interesting and it's been good to get a deeper insight with the photos too. Hope you have a wonderful time in Singapore - I remember it being very hot and humid but no doubt you are acclimatising to Asia. Keep on Blogging. AOL Mum x