Saturday, November 8, 2014

Welcome to the People's Republic of China

Beijing is my entry point to China and the start of the 23 hour countdown before I leave the country. Flying Suites extended when I was waiting for my luggage. It was the first one that came across and I was just on time to meet an acquaintance, Jessica (who was a close friend of my colleague). She was waiting for me holding a simple "Ronald" sign and I quickly recognised and waved.

Jess was waiting for an hour and I was really thankful for her kindness and going all the way to pick me up at Beijing Capital International Airport. She told me that selling tickets to Temple of Heaven finished at 3:30pm. There was no way for us to get hold of tickets so we quickly brainstormed what my alternatives were. She knows that two things I wanted to see were Birds Nest and Temple of Heaven, but seems like my quick layover to China would not be as fruitful if I just go to the Olympic Site. I agreed that we will go to a nearby Temple.

After about half an hour, we were at Yonghegong Station. We crossed the road and saw the temple. The temperature was not too bad as I expected. Good thing I brought scarf and pullover. I could not afford time to go inside the temple so Jess took pictures of me in front of it. Then she toured me around a nearby Hutong called Nanluoguxiang Hutong. A Hutong is like an alley with heaps of native stores that shows traditional chinese products. I literally felt like I was in a movie scene with Zhang Ziyi as my lead actress. Jess offered to carry my luggage while she take my photos. If that was not enough, she even treated me a Milk Custard. Who couldn't say no? Her hospitality was unparalleled. We even went to a well-known restaurant called Jin Ding Xuan. We were on waitlist so she decided to get a cab and visit a nearby branch. Again I felt I couldn't say no to her kindness. The traffic was really bad but still it was worth it cos we went pass the Olympic site and I saw Bird's Nest where they opened 2008 Beijing Olympics. It looks magnificent. Then when traffic couldn't get any better, we decided to head along the nearest subway so I can catch my 8:30 flight.

Top: Lama Temple; Left: Nanluoguxiang Hutong
Right: Milk Custard; Bottom: Jessica and I

I checked my luggage and got an hour to wait so I decided that I should continue my mission, which is to eat KFC. My colleagues were all telling me how KFC tasted much better in China compared to Sydney's so I got to try it. It was great or I was just that hungry.

I flew Air China. It was an hour flight to Shanghai Hongqiao, which is closer to the city than Pudong. I literally ran my way to catch the last train to Nanjing East Road.

Left: KFC Beijing Style; Right: Flight to SHA via CN

Even with GPS I found it hard to locate my hotel. Maybe I was disoriented because there were a lot of girls offering their services (massage and the like) and I you say no - they will chase you until they got tired and they are really persistent.

I stayed in Grand Central Hotel Shanghai, which has 9.5/10 rating in The reviews were true to its words and I was at a loss for words when I saw how luxurious the hotel is. From the lobby to the hallway and of course the bedroom. Astonishing, really.

Top: Hotel Lobby; Bottom: Twin Double Bed

Even though I was tired, I cannot stop. I kept reminding myself how much I spent for this trip and how limited my time was. So I went out walked through Nanjing East Road. Not entertaining the girls who still chase me like paparazzi to a star. I just didn't mind them at all and I kept a pace beyond their reach. Before 15 minutes I was in front of the Bund. I was so frustrated when the city skyline looks dull. It does not have lights. The Pearl Tower looks like a shadow of fading picture and I suddenly decided to go home and just rest.

 Left: Feeling Excited; Right: Frustrated with Dark Shanghai at midnight

Morning after was really hectic. Opening my window there were noise coming from both the pouring rain and the people jogging to a race event that later I found out to be Shanghai Run. I went to People Square where I had a quick bite from the first stall I saw which sells crepe with egg, lettuce and chinese sausage. I also bought hot soya bean drink.
First Stop is People Square. Felt refreshed after my Soya Bean drink :P

Next stop was the Yuyuan Garden and Markets. I went around and saw one of the oldest chinese garden, it was conceived back in 1559 from Ming Dynasty. I stayed for half an hour before making my way to the Markets where I bought some souvenirs.

Left: Yuyuan Garden; Right: City God Temple

Finally, I decided to walk from end to end of The Bund. If I was frustrated the night before, this was the highlight of my day. The city's vibrant array of skyscraper and well known landmarks were here. The Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Tower. All too familiar and I had like 10 different selfies taken from various angles.

Left: The Bund; Right: Shanghai Skyscrapper (Pearl Tower and Shanghai Tower ) 

I walked back to my hotel through Nanjing East Road where the shops became really busy with heaps of people. Apparently this is one of the best shopping places in the world. Given the scarcity of time, I decided to get my luggage back in the Hotel and made my way to the airport via Maglev (ultra speed trains - 400km/h). I was at Pudong International Airport within 7 minutes from Longyang Road.

 Left: Nanjing East Road; Right: Maglev Trains to PVG

No comments: