26 November 2011

Nihao! - Part One

Nihao! That's 'hello' in Chinese Mandarin! And I mention this because I've recently come back from 9 days in China, sweet! Already from reading my old posts about my previous travel experiences I already know and feel that China tops them all by far.

On this trip I went with my good friend Isaac who is originally from China and has been studying here in Australia for the past two years.  He was going home over the Summer to visit family, asked if I wanted to come so yep, I went for it.  Having someone who speaks the language was absolutely invaluable, I really can't thank him enough as the trip wouldn't have turned out anywhere near as amazing as it did if it weren't for him.

Now anyone who has been on a holiday can tell you that no matter how well it is recapped, it will never do the trip the justice it deserves, but hopefully through text and pictures I can instil in you guys the emotions I felt as I traveled to some of the most surreal places yet.

Alas my story begins with our first stop, Shanghai:

Day one: We arrived at the airport after the long flight, eager to be able to stretch our legs, only to then slowly sweat my way through customs with the unneeded fear that something will go wrong with my passport and they will insist on sending me back home (I am a nervous traveler it appears), but of course everything was fine... stupid imagination.

Now this introduction into a new country is the best I have ever had. We find a taxi and Isaac takes the lead and speaks to the driver in Chinese mandarin to convey our destination while I take the front passenger seat so I could a great view on the drive.  Ah, hmm... seat belt won't lock. Try again... nope, doesn't work.  Oh, we are driving already, too late to jump into the back seat, ok... no seat belt it is I guess, should be no worries.

The driver cruises onto the biggest, longest freeway I have ever seen... only to floor it like a race car driver! This guy refused to go below 100km/h, with his cruising speed at a ridiculous120km/h, in what I am pretty sure was a 80km/h zone, zooming in between buses, cars and other taxi's (who it almost appeared he was in a road race with). It was insane haha!

Out of the way, I'm coming through!
Thankfully we arrived in one piece at our hotel, checked in, then went for a quick walk for supplies. This is where I got to have my first true cultural experience in China with a late night snack before calling it a night from what looked like a BBQ grill stand just outside our hotel. It was absolutely delicious =)

Barbequed potatoes, lamb, and other stuff I couldn't recognize.
Day two: We wake up nice and early as that night we had a flight prepared to take us to Beijing, so we planned on spending the whole day exploring the bustling inner Shanghai city streets.

A quick taxi ride later and we are walking the city streets of Shanghai... the place was amazing! It wasn't long before I felt at home either, the city was clean, there were plenty of people around, and thankfully there was quite a few foreigners around which definitely lessened some of the attention I would of otherwise received. I definitely felt safe and not that far out of place. As the day went on the city began to feel more and more like Melbourne city (which is where I am from), there was modern architect, department stores, Subways and KFC's, taxi's, buses, it really didn't feel what I expected China to feel like. I mean this in a positive way of course, my point is simply that the city wasn't what I had envisioned before arriving, but I figured being a capital city it has probably been somewhat influenced by the Western world as a result.

With my very limited Chinese mandarin I chatted to a few shopkeepers and locals, thankfully most spoke enough English to get by, and they were all friendly and welcoming. We spent the day walking along the city streets, took a ride on a double-decker bus tour, and used a few more taxi's to get around. All of which was insanely cheap.  The sights were amazing:

An Apple store! Look how busy it is!
An aquarium of sorts built into the side of a building!
I really like this picture. It made me realize that despite cultural differences, there are some human traits (like love) that are truly universal.

Some European occupied era buildings in the heart of Shanghai. A great surprise to see.
What a magnificent skyline.

Isaac then recommended we visit the Oriental Tower which is apparently the tallest tower in Shanghai. Sounded good to me!
Oriental Tower
Taken from the top of Oriental Tower. It doesn't give the stunning view the justice it deserves =)
Glass floor, awesome!
Takes strong nerves to stand on it ha.
Afterwards, to my great amusement, we found a place that made pizza!  I know I shouldn't laugh, I just couldn't help from releasing a little chuckle at the thought of a Chinese shop making something that is almost the complete opposite to Chinese that you could possibly go.

The pizza wasn't bad at all actually, although the Italians are still the masters.
By now it was getting late so we proceeded to get a taxi to take us back to our hotel, pick up our bags, then take us to the airport for our flight to Beijing. All day we had praised the impressive transport that Shanghai had to offer, we were only ever a few minutes away from hailing a taxi so we weren't worried at the late hour. Little did we know however was that it was now 'peak hour' in the city, and catching a taxi proved much more difficult then we could have ever imagined. 

An hour goes by, Isaac and I are now spread 100 meters apart on opposites sides of a crazy busy road in an attempt to catch a taxi. "Dude, we are running out of time!" Isaac shouts out, finally letting his nervousness show. I laugh at our predicament... if only we didn't stop for that pizza! In our hour of taxi chasing, literally three dozen taxis had driven past with the majority for some reason simply ignoring and driving past us, or in a comedy of errors we kept missing them by mere seconds. Finally we caught one (I think we ran out in front of him so he couldn't drive away). Luckily this one had working seatbelts because this ride proved much more daring then the one on our arrival as the driver seemed sympathetic to our mission of reaching the airport in time and was determined not to let us down.

An hour later we reach the airport with only 10 minutes to spare before check-in closes... intense! Being only a domestic flight was much more enjoyable. We both slouched in our airplane seats, closed our eyes and enjoyed the rest, smiling as we said goodbye to the hectic two days that were about to be behind us... or so we thought.

Part two here.


Kathy S said...

That sounds awesome. I have always wanted to go to China.

Out of Sync said...

I highly recommend it Kathy, it was amazing. I have yet to even post the most amazing parts hehe (Great Wall, Forbidden City!). Put it on your must-see list for sure =)

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