Our trip to New Zealand is a bit of a mammoth venture, going via both Shanghai and Sydney, with fairly lengthy stopovers in both. Since we were in Shanghai for 13 hours, it seemed to make sense to pop into town and take a look around.
The trip from the airport into Shanghai was a bit of a revelation in terms of passenger transfers. The last time I had come through Shanghai airport was in 2001, and I can report that some serious upgrades have been put in place since then. The key part of this was the seriously fast maglev train that whisked us from airport to almost-central Shanghai at a top speed of an eye watering 431km/h (270mph) And there was me thinking the German train at 300km/h was a marvel of engineering. That wasn’t powered by magnets and Chinese brilliance, clearly.
This was Vera’s first time in China, and in fact Asia as a whole, and I am happy to report that she loved it. Asia is not a continent with cities where you can temporarily forget you are in just another city somewhere in the world. It is clearly obvious, all the time, that you are no longer in the West. It’s also pretty impossible to blend in, or really be anything other than a foreigner. Still, embrace it, and let it envelop you, and it’s a pretty fun experience.
So we posed with Chinese tourists who loved having their photos taken with foreigners (I’m pretty sure Vera was the key attraction, what with being six foot tall and having long blonde hair), we chatted with a variety of folk who we met on the way who were keen to try out their English skills. We ate cheap noodles at a street side stall. We wandered the back streets of the old parts of Shanghai, goggled at overloaded scooters and even managed to squeeze in a tea ceremony, because, well, when in China..
We navigated the underground, at one point getting entirely confused by the choice of swiping and ticket slot options, before being instructed by the giggling security team that we should just jump the barriers. We peered at hanging laundry, at people gutting eels and at folk asleep in their stalls in the heat of the afternoon.
We marvelled at the sheer efficiency of the police force who were keeping people from spilling off the pavements via the fairly simple method of having one police person every few metres or so. A tactic that would see the UK’s police force run out of officers after about three blocks I suspect.
Finally we watched the sun set across the giant oriental pearl radio tower, one of Shanghai’s most recognisable landmarks, and returned to the airport, ready for the next phase of the trip, an 11 hour hop down to Sydney followed by eight hours in the airport before the last jaunt across to New Zealand!