A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye Shanghai ... till we meet again!


View Shanghai and lots more - 2011 on Ils1976's travel map.

Our last day in China! Those 14 days have flown by so very quickly! It seemed only a few days ago that we were on our way towards the airport.
Because we haven't got plans today, there is also no alarm clock that could wake us. I am just the happiest girl alive! The streetworkers outside the hotel do their best to wake me, but I refuse to open my eyes and enjoy this blissful moment.

My brother on the other hand had to wake up very early. Today, he was going to the cemetery with his fiancee Mingzhu and her father. Mingzhu's mother passed away when she was only a little girl and it is a tradition of her to go and visit her mother's grave whenever she comes back to Shanghai. This time my brother was going to join her.

That's why Tania and I decided to go souvenir shopping today. First we headed towards People's Square and tried to look for the Hard Rock Cafe. My brother asked us to buy a t-shirt if we could find it. Last night I saw the address and it looked to be near People's Square on West Nangjing road, so we were in the right direction. Our search for the Hard Rock Cafe could begin! And what a search it was. We walked several times back and forth on the West Nanjing road, but no sign of the Hard Rock Cafe. What the heck was going on here!? The best thing we could do is ask for directions, but noone seems to know where it was. They had never heard of it. How on earth is this possible? We kept on thinking that maybe the cafe was closed, but a brand like that!? Come on, this can't be right!?

After an hour we gave up our search and went on our way to the French Concession, this we DID find, thinks to the wonderful "map reading" skills of Tania.

This neighbourhood was just great. It felt like we were already back home! It was really cozy and you could buy lots of nice things in the small shops ... even the prices were the same like in Europe! Because it was so expensive, we gave it a miss ... but the food, we just couldn't ignore it and we ended up at a German restaurant which of course sold all the specialities of the country. Although it all seemed really yummy, I just ordered a sandwich.

From here we walked all the way to the fortified wall. It's not that there is lots of wall left like in Beijing, it is just a small part and it also has a temple inside. It wasn't too expensive to visit, so we gave it a try. Not the most exciting tourist attraction I must say, but you definetely had another view on the city. It also has a small exhibition area which explains everything about the wall and why it was placed. Most of it is in Chinese so it was impossible to understand and therefore we gave it a miss.

This district of Shanghai is so much different than the one at the Bund, it's a complete different Shanghai if you ask me. Here you see lots of construction works and it seems that "the government" is replacing all the nice Hutongs from the old days with just plain skyscrapers, maybe that's the price Chinese people have to pay for overpopulation.

We walked all the way through the street works and ended up at one of the many Chinese "residential" areas. The first thing you noticed was the poverty of some streets, not to mention the people who live in these streets, so you can't exactly call this residential, can't you!?  

Anyway, from here we noticed that we were at the back of the Old town and the Yu garden, so we went for one last quick look at this place and didn't forget to buy some great souvenirs.

From all this shopping and walking we got a little thirsty, so we decided to have a drink at the food stalls at the entrance of the Gucheng park. Although it was getting dark soon, we walked towards the Bund. After all, we couldn't say goodbye without seeing the lights for the very last time.
Suddenly I got a call from my brother, they were back in Shanghai and he asked us to come to Mingzhu's apartment in Hongkou. This was a great idea, because we wanted to say goodbye to Mingzhu's dad as well. We agreed to meet them about 7.30 pm, so we had enough time to enjoy our walk on the Bund and in the meantime have something to eat.

We ended up at a small restaurant close to the Bund. The entire restaurant was decorated with spiders and witches and it surprised me that even here in China the concept of Halloween was no longer a secret. Only one other table was occupied, but we were both so hungry we didn't care so much about it. For starters we ordered a creamy pumpkin soup and our main course was a spaghetti bolognese with lots and lots of garlic. First we got the soup (which isn't always the obvious here in these parts) and not very soon after, our pasta arrived as well. I guess the staff noticed that we were very hungry, because they gave us a dessert for free, a few pieces of watermelon.

After dinner we went back to the Bund to take our last pictures and went on our way towards the hotel. We crossed Nanjing road, which was still filled with people at this time of the day, and within 15 minutes we were back at our hotel. We left our souvenirs and the rest of our belongings at our room and headed towards Mingzhu and her father.

At the evening market we bought some delicious round "cakes" we discovered the night before as a thank you for Mingzhu's father. Just to be on the save sight we bought two bags and it turned out it wasn't a loss because we all liked them very much, even the aunts and cousin of Mingzhu who came by to say goodbye.

Because we still had lots of packing to do, we said goodbye to Mingzhu's dad and relatives. My brother had already packed his bag so he stayed. The two of us went back to the hotel and began the dreadful task of packing our bags. It was almost midnight when we were finished and completly tired of this exciting day.

The only thing left for us to do is crawl into our beds and sleep because tomorrow we had a very, very long flight back home. So after saying goodnight to eachother, my eyes closed and the only thing on my mind at this moment was: goodbye Shanghai, it was nice being here, but sadly enough we have to go, until next time! :)

Posted by Ils1976 01:18 Archived in China Comments (0)

tourism at its best!


View Shanghai and lots more - 2011 on Ils1976's travel map.

Today Mingzhu organised a real touristy thing for all of us. Ever since we saw some billboards of those typical water towns at the sightseeing tunnel, we were talking about visiting one. So, once back home, she went to a local travel agency and arranged that we could go along with a tour group. Yes I know, the one thing we tried to avoid during our entire trip and on one of the last days we join one. How crazy can you be!

So, when our alarm clock went of early in the morning, we had a quick bite to eat and headed for our rendezvous point at the Hongkou Football Stadium. Mingzhu was going to meet us there and when we arrived, our bus was already waiting. It seemed we were the first ones to arrive, but after a while more people stepped on the bus.

The bus wasn't even half full on departure and it seemed to take hours to leave the city when all of a sudden the bus turned away from the highway and heads for ... another stadium! Lots of people were waiting to get on and after waiting 15 to 20 minutes we finally left. Our tour guide on the bus was relatively young and surprisingly enough very friendly.

Once we were on the highway towards Zhouzhuang he started to tell lots of stories, so I think ... because he only spoke Chinese, we couldn't understand a word of it and it was just too much for Mingzhu to translate. He kept on talking and talking and talking. There was just no stopping this kid and after more than an hour I was glad to see some civilization, we were almost there!

Our tour guide gave us all a sticker with the license plate of the bus, so that later on when we returned from our visit to the town we were able to find our bus. This necessary evil proved to be very usefull because we weren't the only ones at the parking lot. It was just one tour group after another ... oh my god, I was in hell! Now the only thing we needed was matching hats and I was ready to go to a mental institution!

We told our friendly tour guide we were not going to join him, after all ... we couldn't understand a thing! Although his English was relatively good and he tried his best to speak it, he agreed with us to go on our one. After all, the rest of the group was Chinese except for a few other Russian tourists, but they had their own guide with them. He told us to be back at the bus at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Mingzhu wanted to follow the group, which was understandable and my brother went along with her.

Once inside, we said goodbye to the group and off we went to explore this amazing place. At the twin bridge there was alot going on and it looked like every tour group was at the same place. It was a real cacophony of sounds. We left the groups behind us and soon we could walk without being pushed all the time and even could enjoy the many beautiful views this town has to offer.

The entire town consists out nothing more than restaurants and of course, souvenirshops. It is just one small store after another and being the good girls like we are, we made a small contribution by buying one, two and even more nicknacks.

When we walked all the way to the temple complex of the town we noticed that there were even shops where you can buy some silk duvets and we decided to have a look, but once again the measurements weren't the same like Tania wanted so, we went on walking further down the street.

After a while we ended up at the silk shop again to have another look and eventually bought one! It wasn't the exact size Tania wanted, but once back home she could buy some new covers and enjoy her new acquisition. Problem solved!

We still had some time to pay a quick visit to the temple before we had to go back to the parking lot and the rest of the group.

Once everyone had arrived, our guide told us that we had to make a compulsory stop at a silk factory. Someone way up in the sky is definitely laughing with us. What are the odds!

No sooner said than done we arrived at the factory after just a few minutes. At the entrance there was some explanation of how everything works and how they use the silk. Afterwards we ended up at a rather large store where you can buy all kinds of products made out of silk. Needless to say that noone bought a thing and we were away faster than we came.

It was already pretty dark when we arrived at the Football Stadium. My brother and Mingzhu went to see her father because they wanted to go and eat something together. Tania and I wanted to go and find something to eat at the French Concession, but because we were a bit tired and didn't know the neigbourhood very well, we decided to stay in Hongkou and ended up at the Pizza Hut on the other side of the Football Stadium. When we had some food in our bodies, we felt a little bit better and decided to do some shopping at the evening market.

Needless to say, we bought some small things and ended up at Starbucks to check our mail while enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee. What better way to end a day!

Posted by Ils1976 01:18 Archived in China Comments (0)

short visit to the Venice of the East


View Shanghai and lots more - 2011 on Ils1976's travel map.

When I woke up this morning, it suddenly hit me that I was back in Shanghai. The traffic noise I was getting used to the first few days, sounded strange and annoying in my ears at this moment. I even beat the alarm clock with half an hour. Yoohoo!?

Today we planned to make a quick visit to Suzhou, because this evening we have to go to a family dinner which is held in one of the local restaurants in the Hongkou district.

This time we took the normal train and within one hour we were already in Suzhou.

Mingzhu and my brother wanted to go shopping for a wedding dress. Last night a friend of Mingzhu made a surprise visit at her place and said that you could find nice dresses for even a better price at some kind of district in Suzhou and that caught her attention. Me and tania on the other hand wanted to see as much of the city as possible, so we split up and agreed to meet eachother again at the trainstation early in the afternoon.

Suzhou, known as one of the many watertowns near Shanghai is also very famous for its gardens. I read somewhere that most of them are protected by Unesco, so ... we couldn't stay behind. Because there are so many of them and we had so little time, we agreed to visit at least one garden. The most famous gardens are situated in the centre of the old town, but because Tania and I didn't want to end up between all those noisy tour groups, we decided to visit a small garden just outside the old town.

The Liú garden or lingering garden was going to be our "choice of the day". The garden itself is divided into several smaller ones with a few pavilions and a small pond. I especially liked the bonsai trees and the small bamboo forest. Because it isn't big, you can easily walk the entire tour of the garden in less than an hour, like we did.

Once back on the street, Tania noticed that the shops across the garden also sell silk duvets. The last time she visited China she bought herself a silk pillow and because she was so satisfied, she wanted a duvet as well. Unfortunately the measurements weren't the same as in Belgium, which was a real pity. Oh well, maybe we find one one of these days. You never know of course!

Further up the road, we crossed a bridge and followed the small channel all the way to a gateway of an old street. We were so happy to have found the old town. See, even us two girls can read a map!

While walking down the street I noticed a few tourists, but not the big crowds which we are used to see. This made me a little bit suspicious. Were we in the wrong place?

Tania on the other hand didn't mind so much. There were a few souvenirshops, so what better way to spend our remaining hours. At the end of the street we noticed a small bookshop where you can even have something to drink and we decided to take a break with a cup of coffee and something small to eat.

Still very much suspicious of the fact that it was so quiet (what can I do, it is in my nature!) I asked the owner for a more detailed map and found out that we were at Shantang Jie. Unfortunately for us it was going away from the center of the old town so after our coffee break we headed back towards the gate.

This time we made a left turn and followed the big street called Baita Xilu all the way up to Pingjiang street, which turned out to be a long, "authentic" street with canal boats and lots of small stone bridges.

It was almost time to go back to the trainstation and we tried to stop a taxi. Because there were street works going on at this part of the town, it looked like we weren't going to find one. All the ones we saw were occupied and it looked like we were standing on a wrong place to stop a taxi. The only thing on my mind was  ... NOT AGAIN!

Suddenly we both noticed an empty taxi and as good as we could, we explained in English, sign language and with the help of our trainticket where we needed to be.

We arrived right on time at the station, even before my brother and Mingzhu. They arrived a few minutes later with lots of bags. It seemed that their "mission" was a big success. Not only did they buy one, but two wedding dresses! After watching the pictures of the dresses we headed to our train, this time it was a bullet train and in less than half an hour we were back at the train station in Shanghai.

After a quick shower and change of clothes we went on our way for the family dinner.

It turned out that we had a private room on the first floor of the restaurant and because we were a bit early we were the first ones to arrive. Soon after us, Mingzhu's father arrived together with the aunts, the uncle and one of the cousins and as the chairs get filled with other family members, we could finally eat. Boy, was I hungry!

We could order anything we wanted, but as our Chinese is still the same like a week ago, Mingzhu asked for all the things we liked. As the food arrived, it seemed I wasn't the only one who was very hungry. Lots and lots of different dishes were put on the table, the ones I tried tasted all delicious, but I still like the pumpking cakes the most ... I can't help it, I think I am a bit addicted.

For me, family dinner was a big success and because everyone looked very satisfied, I guess the others thought the same way. After taken some last pictures, we all went back to our "homes".

Not quite sleepy yet, the three of us made a quick stroll on the evening market before hitting back to the hotel. A nice way to end the day!

Posted by Ils1976 01:18 Archived in China Comments (0)

visiting the jewel of Hangzhou


View Shanghai and lots more - 2011 on Ils1976's travel map.

I was a little bit curious what the weather would be like today and couldn't wait to open the curtains. There is a Dutch saying that says the following: "na regen komt zonneschijn" (roughly translated into English it means, after rain there is always sun), well it wasn't all true, but I was still happy to see that there was no rain. The sun wasn't exactly shining, it was greyish and cloudy, but at least it was dry!

Tania's cold unfortunately wasn't getting better, so she took some medicine and hoped it would get her trough the day.

After having breakfast we went straight to the West Lake. We planned a half day of walking around it and afterwards we head back to Shanghai with one of the local trains.

I must say that it was quite a difference with yesterday ... I could finally see the pagoda and the many boats on the lake. It was amazing! Still, there was alot of wind at the lakeshore, but I didn't mind so much. Mingzhu on the other hand looked like she was going to turn into a popsicle any minute. Lucky for her, my brother gave his fleece so that she could warm up. Isn't he a first class gentleman! :)

Along the lakeshore we came upon the temple and we went to have a look to see if it was open. Unfortunately it wasn't, but much like in Shanghai, the elders were practising some kind of Tai Chi. It was nice to look at and we took some more pictures.

There are alot of bridges along the lake and all very photogenic. I also liked the bronze statues we met during our walk.

The later it got, the more people we saw. Not too surprising, of course, we saw lots of Asian tourists but also the local senior citizens. The latter were forming all sorts of groups ... you had your dance class, singing lessons, local choirs, groups practising the daily Tai Chi or yoga, even playing cards or playing chess ... it was quite fun to watch it all.

Then we noticed some Chinese characters on the ground and saw that a few of those senior citizens walked around with a bucket full of water and a stick. A strange thing to do of course, but we already saw alot of strange things during our holiday, so in a way we were getting used to it. At the end of the stick there was a kind of "cotton ball" attached covered with fabric. They dipped the ball into the water and began to write Chinese characters on the ground. It is quite fun to watch actually, people can write whatever they want, after a few minutes it automatically disappears.

A few meters further down the lakeshore, one of them asked us from which country we were and all of a sudden he began to write the word Belgium on the ground in Chinese characters. This of course, attracted lots of people and everyone gets a bit curious. When he asked us to spell it in our language Tania took over and also gave it a try, much to the joy of the many bystanders.  

During our walk we saw a pagoda emerge on the other side of the lake. The closer we got, the more interested we became to go and visit it.
The Boachu pagoda is situated upon a hill, this meant of course that we had to do another climb. I must say that I still was a little bit stiff from our Yellow Mountains adventure and I wasn't the only one! But I gave it a try and in the end I managed to reach the pagoda. It's a pity that it is closed, but the view from this place is quite amazing. From here you can see a large part of the city of Hangzhou.

After such a climb I've got a little bit hungry, but unfortunately we didn't find something on the way. Sometimes we passed a few foodstalls, but nothing for my taste. All those Chinese dry food packages, hundred year old eggs and even crisps with duckflavour ... not for me thank you very much.
I wasn't the only one getting really hungry, Tania had the same problem. After a while we were talking so much about food that it became even worse. But still the foodstalls couldn't tempt us to buy something.

We kept on walking along the lake and because we were almost at the Leifeng Pagoda we decided to go and visit this place first and than seek something to eat. After a quick visit of the pagoda and it's amazing views from the top we took a taxi ride back to the center and amazingly enough ended up in the same place we ate yesterday ... yes, the noodles place. We all took some "slurping" noodles this time and I decided to eat it like it is meant to be ... with lots of slurping noices! :)

We walked back to the hotel for the last time, picked up our bags and went looking for a taxi to bring us to the trainstation. For some reason we couldn't get one and Tania suggested to go back to the hotel and ask at the reception if they could get us a taxi, when all of a sudden someone at the hotel told us that we better walk to the busstation. He told us that at this time of day all the taxi drivers had a change of shifts, so ... noone would take us. He gave us directions to the busstation and we went on our way, still trying to take a taxi when we saw one, but no luck. They just wouldn't take us.

In my mind I was saying all the curses I knew, and how on earth it was possible we ended up in such a mess. What a hassle to find a ride!

When we were close to the busstation our luck changed. My brother saw a taxi where the drivers changed shifts and hurried of to it ... "blocking" the car till Mingzhu arrived to translate and you can call it a little miracle because we finally found a driver who agreed to bring us to the trainstation. The only thing I could think of was ... Praise the Lord! (Yes I know, here comes the L word again)

In less than half an hour we reached the trainstation, bought some tickets and went straight to our train which could arrive any minute. Shanghai here we come (again)!

Just over an hour later we were back at the place where our journey started in the first place, Shanghai.

Mingzhu was pretty tired, like the rest of us, and decided to go back home and have dinner with her dad. After all, in just a few days she is going back to Belgium and has to miss him for quite a while. She wants to have a father-daughter moment.

The three of us go back to the center of the city to find something to eat. Because we haven't seen the lights at the Bund in the evening we go and have a look. Is this the same place???

During the day it was sometimes crowded but now the word I am seeking for is "overcrowded". Finally we find a spot at one of the many rails so that we could take some pictures. The lights are really magnificent and fun to watch to, but after a while we go back to Nanjing road to have a stroll and end up taking the metro back to our hotel.

After such a long walk and all the "excitements" of the day we are pretty exhausted. A hot shower feels more than welcome and before I even know it I am off to another country called ... dreamland!

Posted by Ils1976 01:18 Archived in China Comments (0)

rain, rain and nothing else but rain

The main goal of today was to see more of Hangzhou and more in particularly the West Lake, since it is the most touristic place of the city. But when we looked outside our window, there was just no way this was going to happen today. For some reason the weather gods weren't agreeing with us.

The rain came pouring out, it was just terrible!

To make matters worse, my roommate Tania was really sick and was coming down with a severe cold. No way this was going to be a "happy day".

We decided to have some breakfast, after all we agreed to meet my brother and Mingzhu at the reception desk, and afterwards we could see how things evolved. For all we know, it was just one big rain shower and maybe everything would be fine.

After breakfast, the rain wasn't so severe anymore, so we decided to take our chance and go along with the original plan. Although I must say, the four of us really didn't look forward to it, but what else could we do?

Just to be on the safe side, me and Tania went to one of the little shops near the park to buy an umbrella ... after a few minutes this turned out to be a real good investment, it just kept raining and when we eventually arrived at the lakeshore there was even more wind than rain ... this was just too terrible for words. Taking pictures of the lake was a really big task of it's own. We managed in the end to take a few, but where was the fun of it all!?
We walked further along the shore when all of a sudden it felt like heaven was going to drop on us. The rain kept on coming, it was really unbearable. We chose to leave the lakeshore as soon as possible and searched for some shelter in one of the nearby coffeeshops. Thankfully we found one very soon and with a nice hot cup of coffee, everything didn't feel so bad anymore.

When it looked like the rain had passed, we gave it one more chance and off we went for the second time around. There was stilll a light drizzle but we went through worse just an hour ago so ... we could take it. Or so we thought! 

Just after a few minutes when we were back at the lakeshore, it all came down on us again ... "someone" clearly didn't want us to have a nice long walk today ... this was just too much for all of us, so we decided to go to the shopping mall where it is comfy and dry. Mingzhu still hadn't got a weddingdress for the wedding in Belgium and now it would be a good oppurtunity to go and look for one. 

Mingzhu tried several dresses, but in the end she hadn't found what she was looking for and to be honest, the Chinese fashion concerning wedding gowns wasn't all what it is cracked up to be, to tell you the truth. But then again, she still has some time left and besides that, she is confident that she would find something over the next few days.

Fitting wedding dresses wasn't an option anymore, we even got bored of shopping, go figure ... the one thing left for us to do was finding something to eat and so we did. We ended up in some kind of noodles "restaurant". You can call it Chinese fastfood or Japanese for that matter because it turned out to be a Japanese food chain, but the noodles itself were actually very good. Me and Tania had a go at some fried noodles with spring rolls, my brother had some rice with beef and Mingzhu took a bowl of noodles soup, I myself call them slurping noodles, hence the sound you make when you eat them. To be more specific, if you have the Chinese nationality! :-D

We kept on sitting in this place hoping that it would stop raining, but tough luck there ... when it rains in Hangzhou, it rains for the whole day ... much like the weather forecasts already mentioned before ... for once, they were spot on so to speak!

Without having much of inspiration on what to do on such a rainy day, we go back to the hotel. Tania is still not feeling very well, so maybe it is better for her so that she can take a rest.

But than Mingzhu comes up with the brilliant idea of going to the hairdresser so that we can have a head massage. We are talking about it for a few days now and wanted to have this done in Shanghai, but with this weather, what else is there to do!?

So we went on a search for hairdressers and ended up at a very big one near our hotel. Since my brother isn't really taken with the idea of someone "fiddling" with his hair, the three of us eagerly have a go. Me and Tania only want a head massage, Mingzhu also wants a haircut. Our "little translator" explains all our desires to the stylist and off we go ... ready to be pampered!

And did we ever! It was great, it was fantastic, it was ... there are just no words for it! 

I must say, for me it was a whole new experience, Tania already knew a little what to expect, for me it was the first time, but I loved it very much.
First our hair was kneaded if it was dough, with a little bit of neck massage in the process. After this delight our hair was rinsed and even this was funny ... not at all like the salons in Belgium, but I liked it very, very much. I kept on thinking, this is it ... now the only thing left is to dry my hair and then he is done. But I was so wrong! First the stylist cleaned our ears, not quiet pleasant but than again I don't like people picking in my ears. It feels so ... weird!  When this is done, he goes further with the neck massage and he even goes further. Amazing ... neck, shoulders, arms, fingers ... I was thinking ... keep on going, just give me the full body massage! :)

It was a real pity he stopped after a while, but than again, it is a head massage! The only thing left, was to dry my hair. It looked like I've got the full "programm".  He kept on drying and brushing my hair, almost for half an hour and it seemed like he was never going to end. I think he wanted to make sure that every hair follicle (is this even a word???) was dry.

My hairdo was the first one which was finished, Mingzhu soon followed and Tania was the last one. Her stylist had lots of trouble untangling her hair and I really hope she hadn't had to much pain, but in the end it all looked fine.

Now that this moment of fun was over, we decided to go back to the hotel so that Tania could rest a bit.  The rest of us just watched some television or surfed on the internet to check mail and to see how the weather would be tomorrow ... it should be fine, the only thing we can do is wait and see!

Tania was hungry after her nap, so we went out again to have a bite to eat and ended up at a French bakery with good coffee and cosy seats. The heavy rain is gone, but still there is a light drizzle, and after a quick stop at the local supermarket we call it quits for today and go back to the hotel to have a goodnight's rest.

Posted by Ils1976 01:18 Archived in China Comments (0)

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