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As West as East gets


After the first of four planned overnight smelly and shaky train journeys we arrived in Chinas most western (people not geography) city – Shanghai. The journey here from Beijing took 14 hours and we travelled ‘hard sleeper class’ meaning 6 bunks to an open compartment. This means you get to experience the other 70 people in the car quite well as they move up and down to the hot water boiler at one end of the carriage (pot noodles anyone?) and the one shared toilet at the other (best not visited after the first couple of hours). Luckily the bunk opposite me was occupied by a Chinese chap who had lived in America for a number of years and so could translate the guard’s orders. Although why they insist on opening all the curtains and waking us all up at 6am when the train wasn’t arriving until 11.30 we never did find out. It’s like being in hospital..
Shanghai was infamous at the end of the nineteenth / beginning of the twentieth century where it was known as ‘The whore of the Orient’ as western visitors and Chinese nationals succumbed to the opium dens, gambling and nightlife. Now it is the most international city in China with lots of recognisable shops and fast-food outlets. Vegetarianism hasn’t reached here either but the diet did take a bit of a step back; apparently a number of the chief trouble makers at the time of the Chinese communist uprising spent time in Paris as students and so after taking over the top jobs in China they insisted in bringing back French style bakeries (accessible to all of course...). Chocolate croissants for breakfast – hooray!

The main sights in Shanghai are to be seen along ‘The Bund’ the embankment running along the Huangpu river. On the old city side there are many of the buildings built 100 years ago by the Europeans still standing which have now been revamped into fancy restaurants. On the opposite side of the river is the new financial district which over the last generation has gone from farmland to home to some of the tallest and flashiest buildings in the world. Some of the most recognisable being the Pearl TV tower and the one-time highest building in the world – the world financial tower; and every time a higher one is built somewhere else out come the cranes here to build something bigger
Bridge to the gardens
. One is under construction at the moment. (Rumour is that the Chinese wanted this area to look as different to the old European buildings as possible to prove that China is very much independent from its old ties and that the 3rd largest harbour in the world is very much Chinese).

Although Shanghai is a very modern city it does have a small area in the old town containing a set of gardens designed in the Ming dynasty in the sixteenth century, covering 2 acres with temples, bridges over fish ponds and lots of greenery – just like the Chinese gardens in books. It was lovely to spend a couple of hours here away from the madness of the inner city – greater Shanghai has over 16 million and sometimes they all seemed to be out at once

Read more: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/joslyncarsten/1/1306168855/tpod.html#ixzz1NqmCcfAk
 

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