05.01.2013 - 08.01.2013 0 °C
After our uncomfortable 13 hour train ride we finally got to Shanghai. By the time we got to our hotel and they found our lost reservation, and relaxed for a bit, we had about half of our first day left. We couldn't have picked a better location to stay in, right on Nanjing road and minutes away from their lively pedestrian street. The lights were gleaming and there were loads of people out walking. We entered a huge multi-level food hall (sort of their upscale version of the St. Lawrence Market) and it was packed with people. We took it easy for our first day there and just walked up and down that street, including inside the millions of malls in this city. I expected to pack a whole suitcase full of clothes I had bought from Shanghai but luckily for George the mall prices are even more expensive than at home. Isn't this stuff made here???
Not a deal to be had on this high end shopping street
George was obsessed with riding the high speed bullet train so we took a side trip to Suzhou, a water town about half an hour (bullet train time) away from Shanghai. It was our first time riding a train that fast and it was very exciting, especially for George who was like a giddy little schoolboy. We reached a speed of 277km/hr and it felt like we were on an airplane. Unfortunately George's research concentrated solely on the bullet train itself so when we arrived in this brand new city we had absolutely no idea what to do. We literally stepped off the train and had no clue what to do next. After walking around for a bit with no city centre in sight we got into a cab and tried to get somewhere worth seeing. English is not as prominent here and this was a difficult task. We got dropped off in town and it wasn't exactly what I came here for - Suzhou is known for its canals (it's called the Venice of the East) and we were on a shopping street. Again we asked employees at a hotel where to go and they could not understand us. We walked into an Apple store and they sort of pointed us in the right direction. Needless to George felt my irritation at this point and was probably rethinking his whole bullet train excursion. Well...let's not go that far. As we stood at the side of the street wondering what to do next, an Asian guy about our age approached us and asked us where we were from and whether we worked here or were just visiting. It turned out he was Jeff from Taipei and he was looking for some friends since he was here for his job. He was very nice and we exchanged skype information and he told us to visit Tiger Hill, the top attraction in the city. Thank you Jeff! We got to Tiger Hill and saw some of the canals I was expecting. George was off the hook! The bullet train back to Shanghai reached 287 km/hr so George was even more excited about that. He definitely likes machines that go fast.
George is going to build a bullet train network in Canada
Crisis averted as we finally reached the canals Janet wanted to see
From Suzhou we went to a market where we found the home of knock off Uggs. I'm not an Uggs person but couldn't resist and after what seemed like trying on a million pairs and having some technical difficulties as far as sizes and defects, we negotiated a good price for some warm boots. Harbin and it's -35 degree weather here we come!
That night we went to an area in Shanghai called the Bund which is by the waterfront and had many beautiful old buildings. We were lucky enought to see the skyline and row of buldings all light up at the srike of 6 o'clock. It really was quite beautiful. That was also the night of our first restaurant meal - Pizza Hut. What can we say, authentic Chinese food doesn't really appeal to us.
A modern skyline as opposed to Hong Kong's retro light shows
Day three in Shanghai was spent in the French Concession, an area of Shanghai that is pretty upscale and has somewhat French architecture. It was drizzling out so it wasn't too lively but we could see that it would be an amazing area in the summer. It seemed like this was an area that many Western people live in as there were stores that had all the comforts of home that we have not seen anywhere else. These came at a price though - Doritos and cereal for $7 and Chunky soup for $6! We had another restaurant meal at a Taiwanese restaurant, which was good but left us still hungry. Oh well, we needed to work off that fast food we've been eating. We also stopped off at another market where George haggled for some gloves and a scarf for me. Overall, we have seen better markets in Asia so we didn't spend too much time there.
Our last day in Shanghai we had a few hours to kill before our flight to Harbin and upon leaving our hotel we met three Chinese young people who we had a conversation with for a while (they love to practice English!). They were adament about us joining them to see some sights but unfortunately we had no time. What nice people though! We walked around some areas we hadn't explored yet, tried a bunch of food from street stalls (perhaps not the best idea before a flight??) and bought some tea from a little shop. It felt like a spring day outside and it was the perfect way to spend our last day in Shanghai. We are now in the airport waiting for our flight to Harbin, which has been delayed. Perhaps that's the universe's way of telling us to rethink our visit to the northernmost part of China. Apparently there is such a thing as a body heat pack (like the heat pack hand warmers but for the body). I have a feeling that will be our first purchase in Harbin!