15 September 2011

One Big Fat Buddha [Shanghai, China]

It is the little things, like having a seat on a train, that you come to appreciate while travelling in China. But even with a seat things can get a little uncomfortable. On the train to Shanghai, in true Chinese style, the train was packed full of people standing. It is actually crazy how many people they get on a train. I have heard people say it is because there are just so many people in China, so naturally a huge number of people need to travel... So run more trains? I don't believe the infrastructure is not up to it, they are building new lines all the time. Even some crazy high-speed lines where the trains travel at 400km/h. Anyway, I'm getting off track. It was packed, but at least I had a seat, there were no peeing babies, and I managed a little sleep.

While in Italy I met an awesome American guy named Mike, we were being hosted by the same guy in Florence. He was living in Shanghai and said I should call in when I pass through, and I said I most definitely would. True to my word, almost 6 months later, I called in and spent a couple of days hanging out with Mike in the big city.

And Shanghai is a big city. Problem is, there is not much more to it. I mean, it is a cool place, but it doesn't have the historical sites like other cities I have visited. While there I checked out the Bund (waterfront area in central Shanghai), Peoples Square (which contains the Shanghai Museum who happened to have a exhibition from New Zealand!), Nanjing Road (the main shopping street), and Yuyuan Gardens.

I took a day trip to Suzhou - a small place about an hour outside Shanghai. It is nicknamed the 'Venice of China', and while it does have a lot of canals, I wouldn't go quite that far. It is also famous for its historical gardens. When I arrived to the train station I was approached and asked if I wanted to join a tour. It made sense as the sights are not really close in Suzhou, and this way I wouldn't have to worry about transport. The only two negative points were that the whole thing was in Chinese, so I didn't understand a thing! And the most annoying; they took us to two 'factories', one silk and one jade, where they locked us in a room and gave a presentation (again, could not understand a word), then led us through their big shop trying to sell stuff. Each took around an hour in total. Not cool.

I thought that Suzhou was a little unimpressive. The gardens are nice, but they didn't make me go 'Wow!'. Same with the canals. I think the best part was this HUGE stone buddha and massive pagoda you could climb up.

I attempted to travel to Hangzhou for a day trip - a town famous for its beautiful lake. I turned up at the station at about 9am, but the next train wasn't leaving until 11:45. Meaning I wouldn't arrive there until just before 2pm. The last train back was at around 7pm. All to rushed for me, so I just decided to flag. It was just as well really, as I was feeling like crap. My flu was back with a vengeance.

I would have liked to spend more time in Shanghai hanging out with Mike, but I need to keep moving. I really want to spend a few days in Hong Kong, and my multi-entry visa for China dictates that I must be back in the country before the 2nd September... so the clock it ticking.

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