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Melbourne, Australia

We've confirmed the flight to China leaving on 16th Sept to 30th sept, arriving Beijing and exiting Shanghai. I've been quite busy looking up tour books, hotel bookings and enquiring about train rides between cities. There's a plethora of information out there on the net but who knows which sites are reputable and which ones are the scams! Right now I am trying to stick to the two sites, and also thinking about whether to fly the leg between Luoyang and Shanghai.

I've also bought the lonely planet guide book. It seems to be very useful, with many local maps where we can track down the location of the hotels we've booked and also the relative distances to the sights we want to see. I checked out the eyewitness travel guide, which contains many colourful pictures and intersting general facts, but not as detailed as the lonely planet in describing the sights.

There seems to be so many sights and so little time. We've got two weeks during the school holidays... can't wait! It'd be so exciting.

permalink written by  juliana on June 23, 2006 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: ~~china historical holiday~~
tagged Shanghai, Beijing, Luoyang, ChinaTripPlanning, Flights and Xian

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Travel opens up new silk route for China

Shanghainongchang, China

CHINA Union Pay, China’s own credit card, set up in 2002, is one of the fastest growing credits cards brands across the world, without any marketing campaigns about its buying power.

The 34 million Chinese that travelled overseas last year all act as unofficial brand ambassadors. In Australia, National Australia Bank has teamed with China Union Pay so that Chinese tourists can make EFTPOS purchases and ATM withdrawals with their credit and debit cards. Banks in the US, Germany and Egypt are among the others following suit.
There is a reason why travel industry calls China the single most important development in world tourism. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates there will be 60 million tourists out of mainland China by 2010 and 100 million by 2015. The WTO believes the 100 million figure will be reached later, in 2020.
Last year, 15 countries and regions opened their doors to Chinese tourists. To date, Chinese travellers can visit 132 destinations. Among the newest to be approved are Oman, Morocco and Syria.
The news in the inbound travel sector is no less exciting. China can expect to receive 24 million foreign travellers this year, up from 22 million last year.
This year’s figures are already optimistic. Nearly 12.12 million foreigners came to the Chinese mainland for sightseeing from January to June, up 18.47 per cent year-on-year, according to the latest figures from the China National Tourism Administration. Tourism generated nearly $17.94 billion in foreign currency in the first six months, up 13.1 per cent year-on-year. More than half or $10.25 billion came from foreign tourists, up 19.64 per cent over the same period of last year.
The Chinese State Tourism Administration is working to “explore potential markets such as South America, the Middle East and Africa.”
Events such the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the World Expo in Shanghai in the year 2010 will only see those numbers grow.
Major international tourism businesses are being encouraged to enter China's tourism industry, an area covered by China's membership in the World Trade Organisation. The government plans to lift restrictions on foreign-funded travel services looking to set up branches in China from this year.
When it comes to the Middle East and China, it is a question of renewing old ties. More than 2000 years ago when silk probably first arrived in Europe, and the Romans believed that it came from India, the Arabs were sailing all the way to Guangzhou (Canton) in southern China, while merchants made their way overland to Xi’an in the Yellow River Valley. Middle East has trade ties with China since the medieval period.
And now, with many of Arab countries being granted the Approved Destination status for Chinese tourists, establishing free trade zones and China welcoming Middle East tourists, “a new, unlimited 'Silk Road' will be formed," according to the Chinese vice minister of trade.
There are several initiatives that will lead to this. When China and representatives of Arab League countries met in Beijing in 2006, they set a target of doubling the trade between them to $100 billion by 2010. Starting from a relatively small base, Chinese trade with the Arab world had soared tenfold in the previous decade, reaching $51.3 billion. Arab investment is welcomed in China, which attracted $20 billion from Gulf countries last year alone.
In the region, individually, various countries are stepping up efforts to attract people from the world’s most populated country. Most recently, Turkey is trying to set figures for attracting tourists from China. Turkey only receives between 40,000 and 50,000 of the 132 million Chinese travelling the world each year. Even if two per cent of them come to Turkey each year, they will form half the tourist population in Turkey.
Jordan also wants to strengthen its ties with China. The volume of trade relations between Jordan and China stood at $1.3 billion in 2006, a 15 per cent increase on 2005. Already China has 153 million worth of investments in Jordan.
The UAE and China are close to signing the Approved Destination Status agreement. Under ADS, Chinese nationals will be able to obtain a single-entry visa to the UAE, subject to the final agreement, provided the trip is organised by an approved operator.
Once in full effect, it will significantly enhance the growth of Dubai's tourism and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) markets. Last year, the bilateral trade volume between China and the UAE rose to $ 14.2 billion, an increase of nearly 32 per cent.
China and the GCC have completed a round of talks on a free trade agreement as part of Beijing's efforts to boost long-term cooperation with states in the region.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud made his first hotel investment in China only this past May, by buying the leading hotel in the industrial city of Kunshan, near Shanghai. He paid $58 million for the 387-room hotel, a property that began operating only two years ago.
Now Kingdom Holdings has reportedly earmarked $1 billion for investment in China’s booming hotel industry.

permalink written by  tonyyang123 on September 3, 2007 from Shanghainongchang, China
from the travel blog: China Trip
tagged Shanghai

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Shanghai - The Biggest City in China

Shanghai, China

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Governor Patrick to lead trade mission to China

(Greg Baker/AP)

Visitors walked past Beijing's Tiananmen Gate today.

By Globe Staff

Governor Deval Patrick will travel to China in late November, making stops in Beijing and Shanghai, hoping to promote Massachusetts in a country that is a rising economic power.

"In today's global economy, competition is worldwide, and so are the opportunities. No state can afford to sit back and wait for the benefits of foreign trade and development. ... We have to take bold initiative to move Massachusetts forward and compete on the international stage," Patrick said today in a statement.

Patrick will travel with a team of business executives, academic leaders, and senior government officials. The delegation is tentatively slated to leave Boston on Nov. 30 and return Dec. 8.

"China will be an important partner in the years ahead, especially as it becomes one of the world's economic superpowers and thus provides a major market for Massachusetts goods and services," University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson, who is going on the trip, said in the statement issued by the governor's office. need the Governor to lead the way in tapping this important market.?

The followings are some useful sources for your reference:
翻译公司 http://www.oktrans.cn
上海翻译 http://www.oktrans.net
北京翻译公司 http://www.oktrans.org

同声传译 http://www.si-co.cn
同传设备出租 http://www.si-co.cn/simultaneous-equipments.htm

permalink written by  jackyang33 on October 17, 2007 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Shanghai Travel
tagged Shanghai

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Shanghai Impression

Shanghai, China

We take the train from Beijing to Shanghai overnight, leaving at 7pm and arriving at 7am the next day. The train is a brand new European-built leviathan, with about 40 coaches and two engines. Each pair of coaches has its own attendant and there is a bar and restaurant on board. Within the coaches there are cabins, each one having 4 beds with crisp bedding, plenty storage space, and bright airy decor. There are 4 such trains, all leaving within a few minutes of each other, bound for Shanghai, and each one is fully occupied.

The train rolls into Shanghai station precisely on time and we grab our bags and head for the ticket office to buy train tickets out of Shanghai. We find that there are no so called 'soft sleeper' seats left so we opt for the 'hard sleeper' alternative.

We take a taxi to our hotel in the Bund area of Shanghai, and after showering and breakfasting; we head out to visit Unilever Research in the Caohejin Hi-Tech Park. My friend wanted to meet some previous colleagues there, and visited the well-known high-tech Industry area, by the way.

That evening we stroll from our hotel which booked by restgo.com, out on to the riverside walkway to see the neon lit skyline of Shanghai. Across the Huangpu River in Pudong we see the enormous sky scrapers including the Pearl Tower. Over its surface red lights flash and then a rainbow of colored lights on the spheres flash in mesmerizing patterns.

On our side of the River, older colonial buildings, banks, and department stores are underlet in a conventional European style. Behind the old, loom modern architectures, edge-lit like obelisks against the night sky.

Dinner is taken in a random restaurant and turns out to be a good selection. The seafood dishes are tasty.

Next day we take an underground train beneath the River to reach Pudong. The driverless pods speed through a neon lit tunnel in what can only be described as a 'trip that you would only ever take once' since it costs 10 times as more than the underground
On the other side we buy Y50 tickets to the 88th floor of the 4th highest building in the world (488m). The elevator accelerates to 10 meters per second so my ears feel like they are about to burst. The top reveals the view that confirms Shanghai's pre-eminence as the biggest business city in China.

Back on the west of the city the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall shows how the city will develop in the future. We see a huge model of the city taking up the space of a 5-a-side football pitch and have fun spotting our hotel and also some new buildings. We stand in a 360 degree cinema and watch a dizzying computer-generated animation film about how the airport will be developed within just a few years. I see a young lady driving a virtual truck to the new container-port which needs a bridge of over 35km in length to be constructed.

The scale of development in Shanghai is all too much to take in and we collapse exhausted back at the hotel room. Neon lights glisten outside the Victorian sash windows.

Next day, a short taxi ride away is Zhou Enlai's house. Set in a leafy suburb, the house is a lovely example of '20s English architecture with its dark flooring, spacious rooms, and large windows overlooking the garden.

Out of time in Shanghai, we head back to the railway station.

permalink written by  vincy on October 21, 2008 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: My Travel
tagged Shanghai, Travel and Reservation

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Shanghai, China

My first day in Shanghai was the first time I got goosebumps from a city skyline. The hostel was right next to the Bund and as you emerge onto it you come face to face with the Oriental Pearl TV tower and the other spectacular erections (haa) on the other side of the Huangpu river.

I walked around aimlessly and found myself in Peoples Park where I came across one of the most bizarre scenes of the trip so far. Groups of people were gathered in the park looking at lots of pieces of paper. I got talking to some English students (there is a place called English Corner where all the students hang around trying to practice their English) and they explained that these pieces of paper contained detailed descriptions of people who are trying to get married – or more accurately who the parents are trying to get married! Many were already deep in discussion with potential matches (or their parents) and I was completely shocked, not just by the Lonely Hearts pages coming to life in front of my eyes but by the sheer number of people who were involved in the process!

I was invited by my new student friends to a tea ceremony – which I was obviously slightly suspicious of. I told them that I didn’t have much money and some of them even offered to chip in for me, I thought fuck it – this is an opportunity to see a traditional tea ceremony with a group of very funny English translators and even if it was a scam – I supposed that is all part of the experience! So for the next hour or so I drank a few different teas and watched as cups were poured over a little statue of what looked like a frog but was actually the God of tea.

The Old Town in Shanghai sounded too good to miss considering most of it seemed to be a sprawling mass of high rises and cranes on dusty building sites preparing hurriedly for the Expo in 2010. I’d read that there was a Sunday market down there so I got up early and after navigating a few construction sites and busy roads I turned onto a shabby looking street where men were fixing bicycles and colorful washing hung across narrow alleys. This was a bit more like it.

Suddenly I turned onto a street absolutely FILLED with sellers. It was a spectacular site– I held my camera by my waist and took sly (mostly shit) pictures as I strode through. There were live fish flapping around in plastic tubs, chickens being killed and plucked by the side of the road, people haggling irratically and sacks and sacks of teas, vegetables and spices- all of which appeared to have arrived by the many bikes which cluttered the scene further.

Old Street itself is busy and has a slightly disappointing faux-traditional feel to it. I did find a very exciting new snack which is basically a dumpling with soup and meat in the middle. It comes with a straw sticking out of it and is a wonderfully ingenious little thing. I ended up having two. The Yu Garden is by far the most impressive thing around the Old Town – a really amazing example of a traditional Chinese garden.

Re-united with Rago Mark after his Beijing football tournament (they came fourth for those that want to know), and also some friends we’d met in Xian who happened to end up in the same room as me in Shaghai, we decided to go and see an acrobat show. It was an amazing show although I was slightly concerned about the amount of time these youngsters must have spent balancing chandeliers on every limb and unicycling upside down on a tightrope when they should have been out having a good time.

We also led our companions across to the other side of town where I had heard about an Art Street where old factories were being converted into exhibitions for local artists. Also nearby was (supposedly) the Museum of National Security which attracted me with it’s promises of gangster paraphernalia but ultimately disappointed me with it’s not actually existing anymore. Not a good thing to admit to your friends after leading them around in the rain for half an hour but luckily the Art Street was good so I didn’t feel like a complete failure. Inspired, I spent the rest of the day taking black and white photos of bicycles and shop fronts.

The Shanghai nightlife is the best yet and without even trying we found ourselves being given free entry into a club with an open bar. We were there drinking, dancing and playing dice games with the locals until 4am and spent absolutely nothing the whole night! We ended up going back to the same place again a couple of nights later because we’d had such a good time (and because we were to lazy to find anywhere else) and although we had to pay about 8 quid entry this time, the bar was just as free and the drinking, dancing and dice just as fun.

There are some cool places around Shanghai so we decided to do a day trip to Suzhou, famously described by Marco Polo as the “Venice of the East” for its network of picturesque canals. Getting a return ticket was easy and cheap and although we were disappointed with the modern city which Suzhou has become in recent years, the traditional gardens were full of charm and the canals were worth a look. You may also be interested to know that they eat a lot of frogs here (at markets you see them in bags, alive and squashed together into a horrible orgy of squirming green bodies) so to sample the cuisine, and perhaps due to some sort of warped curiosity, I tried a bubbling hot pot of frogs with green peppers and onions. It was actually really nice except that you had to negotiate spines and skins, both of which were slightly disconcerting.

Our next stop was Hong Kong so that morning we decided to go and waste some of our remaining Chinese money on the local watch and dvd sellers. We’d had a lot of fun playing with the sellers, trying to sell them stuff back and asking for things which we knew they would sound funny repeating. Anyway, I ended up buying a pair of fake Ray Bans as my sunglasses were broken (I’ve decided that in Thailand I am going to kit myself out completely in fake designers haha) and I made one beggar very rich. The best line was from one of the sellers, who approach you, by the way, with a piece of laminated card displaying their goods, who said that he had “everything”. When I responded that we had no time he quickly retorted “I HAVE TIME!”. I asked how much and eventually got him down to 1000RMB (about a tenner) for a day which I thought was more than reasonable.

permalink written by  steve_stamp on April 18, 2009 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
tagged Shanghai, Market, Frog, Sellers and PeoplesPark

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Jade Buddha Temple

Shanghai, China

Jade Buddha Temple is one of the few Buddhist temple around in Shanghai. The temple is easily identifiable by its bright saffron walls. In the inside, the main attraction is the two-meter-high white jade sitting Buddha encrusted with jewels which weight around 1,000kg.

Inside the temple, it has quite a number of ancient sculptures, rare painting and Buddhist scriptuers. There are more than 7,000 Dazang sutras kept inside the Jade Buddha Tower. The temple consist of 3 main halls and two courtyards.

The first hall is the Devajara Hall where statues of the four celestial kings and Maitreya are enshrined. It was said that the Maitreya is the Budai Monk. In 916, before his death, he had told people that he was the reincarnation of the future Buddha Maitreya. Later, people called him Buddha Maitreya and began to worship him in temples.

The second hall is Mahavira Hall. Three large gilded Buddha statues: the Buddhas of the past (Bhaisajya-guru), present (Sakyamuni) and future (Maitreya) are kept in the hall. The one in the center is Sakyamuni, east of it is Bhaisajya-guru and west is Maitreya. Eighteen gilded Luohan statues stand around them.

After visiting the Devajara Hall, we reached the Jade Buddha Tower, which is 1.9m tall and 1.34m wide, stands on the second floor. Inlaid with diamonds and agates, the jade Buddha is sitting leisurely at the moment of his enlightenment.

The temple also has two valuable jade statues.The Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved with whole white jade. The sparkling and crystal-clear white jade gives the Buddhas the beauty of sanctity and make them more vivid.

The Sitting Buddha is 190 centimeters high, wearing a robe inlaid with precious the agate and the emerald and portraying the Buddha at the moment of his meditation and enlightenment.

The Recumbent Buddha is 96 centimeters long, lying on the right side with the right hand supporting the head and the left hand placing on the left leg, this shape is called the "lucky repose". The sedate face shows the peaceful mood of Sakyamuni when he left this world.

permalink written by  PorkyPo on November 11, 2009 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Visit to Shanghai
tagged Shanghai, Jade, Temple, Buddha and Yeschinatour

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CHINA - Shanghai

Shanghai, China

First of all, i need to warn you that the city of Shanghai needs no introduction. The largest city in China has grown as a result of its location on the banks of the Huangpu River. It is now leading the way for China to become a first world country. It has over 17 million people and every year the number of affluent people grows seeing a slight shift from communism to capitalism. I have been to Shanghai many many times and it's so interesting to see the city changing every week. Arriving from the Pudong International Airport is very easy. The 430 km/h magnetic train (¥50 single, ¥80 return) makes the 30 kilometres trip in 8 minutes, and arrives at a line 2 metro station (¥4 single) not far from the centre. The metro is modern and safe, but rather infrequent and no platform information is displayed. Good signage on the other hand seems sufficient for foreigners like me to find their way.

Yuyuan Garden (Chinatown):
Visit the Yuyuan Garden for a typical old Chinese style building complex and the only Ming Dynasty garden remaining in Shanghai. This is a lovely colourful area, for us foreigners signifies China; the red buildings with their characteristic Chinese shaped roofs. There are lots of shops and stalls selling so many different things; teahouses and restaurants are also available. In terms of sights, there are many pools, pavilions, rock gardens and bridges, which are great to see, especially the Zigzag Bridge. It is said the reason why it was built that way, was to ward off evil sprits, as the Chinese believed spirits could only travel in a straight line. Also in the mid-lake pavilion is the Huxingting Teahouse, it gets very busy around here, so do arrive early.

Nanjing Road:
This is a huge shopping street/area, much like London’s Bond Street. It is said it is the most expensive and stylish shopping area in China and runs from The Bund for 5 kms. At one of the major crossroads, is an elevated section which is designed to facilitate crossing the busy intersection, but now serves as an area for more shopping.

The Bund:
There is always a lot of people strolling along The Bund and is a little bit of Europe in the heart of Shanghai. It’s a pretty concrete walkway and leads on to Huangpu Park. The park was famed for once having a sign which read ‘no dogs or Chinese’. The road side of the walkway is lined with lovely 1920/30s buildings which are reminiscent if the days gone by when international financial companies ran Shanghai; on the other side is brown/gray waters of the Huangpu River. It is quite popular to do a boat cruise.

Xintiandi (French Consession):
My favorite spot is the French Concession or Xintiandi in Chinese. This section of Shanghai was once controlled by France and it shows. Restaurants and hotels all have a European feel and charm. Compared to the rest of Shanghai, the area is upscale and expensive. This is the place where only rich and famous people live; if you're seen here, most likely you will be mistaken for a celebrity. Staff in restaurants and hotels will usually speak English or another European language. Prices are shown in yuan (Chinese money), Euros, or American Dollars, so this makes Xintiandi a well-accessible section of Shanghai to many foreign tourists.

Shanghai Museum:
Probably the second best museum in China after Xi'An. The Ancient Bronze exhibit is particularly impressive. Audio guides is available for a minimal fee. Entrance is free.

Food is everything in Shanghai. It's part of living in Shanghai and without Shanghai's expansive array of food, Shanghai would still be a little fishing village not even on the map.

Best Way to Get Around:
If you intend to stay in Shanghai for a longer time the Shanghai Jiaotong Card can come in handy. You can load the card with money and use it in buses, the metro and even taxis. You can get these cards at any metro/subway station, as well as some convenience stores like Alldays and KeDi Marts.

The trains are fast, cheap, air conditioned and fairly user-friendly with most signs also in English, but the trains can get very packed during rush hour. Fares range from ¥3 to ¥9 depending on distance. Automatic ticket vending machines take ¥1 or ¥0.5 coins and notes. Most stations on lines 1-3 will also have staff selling tickets, but on the newly-completed lines 6, 8, and 9 ticket puchasing is all done by machine (in both Chinese and English) with staff there only to assist in adding credit to cards or if something goes wrong.

Taxi is a good choice for transportation in the city, especially during off-peak hours. It is affordable (¥11 for the first 3km, 2.1RMB/km up to 10km, and 3.2RMB/km after) and saves you time, but try to get your destination in Chinese characters or available on a map as communication can be an issue. As Shanghai is a huge city, try to get the nearest intersection to your destination as well since even addresses in Chinese are often useless. Drivers, while generally honest, are sometimes genuinely clueless and occasionally out to take you for a ride. The drivers are very good about using the meter but in case they forget, remind them. It's also the law to provide a receipt for the rider but if your fare seems out of line, be sure to obtain one as it's necessary to receive any compensation.

On Foot:
I always prefer walking in Shanghai, especially in the older parts of the city across the Huangpu from Pudong but be aware that this city is incredibly dynamic and pavements are often blocked due to construction. With many roads also being closed off in some sections, expecially along the Bund, crossing the road can be difficult, if not impossible in some places. Look for subways as these are usually open despite the roadworks.

If your Chinese is good enough and you're trying to go somewhere the metro doesn't without resorting to taxis you can use the public bus system. The bus system is much more extensive (and always cheaper) than the metro, and some routes even run past the closing of the Metro (well, more like "start running past the closing of the Metro"- route numbers beginning with 3 are the night buses that run past 11PM).

If you can handle the fumes and menace of Shànghǎi’s vicious traffic, biking is an excellent way to get around town, especially if you occasionally link it in with public transport. Come sunny summer, cyclists sport a wide array of sun shields, from wide-brimmed hats resembling lampshades to vast sun visors that could pass for welding masks. Bikes have been banned from major roads for several years now, so you may have to join cyclists surging pell-mell down the pavements of busy streets. Remember you will be on the lowliest transportation device in town, and buses, lorries, taxis, cars and scooters will ceaselessly honk at you, in that pecking order (just ignore them)

permalink written by  davidtann on December 25, 2009 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: CHINA - Shanghai
tagged China, Shanghai, Pudong and ShanghaiBund

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Day 5: Beijing, China and Flight to Shanghai, China

Beijing, China

Day 5: Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Beijing and flight to Shanghai, China

Today we finally slowed down our pace as we were exhausted from our first two busy days and are both fighting head colds. Luckily I packed a whole pharmacy with us, so we have plenty of medications to help us feel better. We also slowed down because it was the coldest day so far in Beijing, starting out at 18 degrees F and capping out at only 27 degrees. Brr! The wind is light, which helps, but 27 is still cold!

We started off the day with mini pancakes and pastries in the concierge lounge and then packed up our suitcases. The vacuum sealed bags work really well to squish our heavy clothing down to a manageable size, even through hand-rolling (in lieu of a vacuum). We are still wearing our same heavy clothes, so all our pictures will look like they were taken in one day. At least we'll know any photos in our warm-up pants were taken in Beijing!

First on our list was braving the famous touristy Pearl Market where I got my game on and hassled down the vendors to reasonable prices. We bought a 800 GB thumb drive (which is probably only 4 GB), a (most likely fake) cashmere shawl and some other clothes. We think we got a good deal although nothing is dirt cheap here in China. We bargained down to what we wanted to pay and then walked away. It was a welcome break from the cold as all other sight-seeing spots in Beijing are outdoors!

Across the street from the market was the famous Temple of Heaven, an all-wooden spherical temple that was constructed without even one nail. The temple was in the middle of another huge park, which was beautiful and would have been a nice afternoon stroll in the spring or fall. We weren't prepared for all the festivities in the park. There were huge groups of locals dancing to music, singing songs with their portable microphones and amplifiers, and older men and women playing cards and mahjong and dominos. It was a like a huge festival was going on, but we think this is standard activity in the park. Some women wore thick belts with bells on it so they could jingle as they swayed their hips, other couples were waltzing, and another group dressed up in Renaissance-like outfits with fake Groucho Marx mustaches. It was very bizarre! The architecture is the same coloring and style as the Summer Palace and Forbidden City. We had a nice walk with the audio guide and we lasted a good hour and a half before taking the metro back to the hotel.

We have definitely mastered the subway and recommend it to all future visitors. There is a stop right next to our hotel and the lines are clearly labeled. Our guide yesterday said by 2012 there will be subway lines all over the city. One more thing about the cleanliness. Line 5 is the nicest, but we noticed a lot of people employed as street/subway cleaners, so probably the Chinese lack of hygiene keeps many employed in cleaning type jobs! Also, the subway stops all have security baggage screeners, so you have to put your bags through the x-ray machine before you can walk through the turnstile. We need that in NYC, although we can only imagine the congestion it would cause in NY! Not many people here seemed to have bags on the subway, so we never had to wait for the machine. We found the metro much easier than taxis because many taxi drivers didn't know how to get to our hotel – as I previously wrote, one dropped us off at the Pearl Market and it was only due to Hunter's great sense of direction that he recognized a way from there to a major store near our hotel and the taxi driver knew the store location.

Another note about China – we felt very, very safe here and never once felt like we could be pick-pocketed or robbed. We also didn't see any indication that the country is not a democracy – it feels like a bustling, thriving capitalist society. Even though there is a military presence in the street and at the attractions, it feels more like the NYPD presence in NYC than military oversight. This is a big difference to how we felt in St. Petersburg, where we wouldn't walk around by ourselves. In Beijing, we were contented walking around not talking to anyone and feeing safe. We probably didn't even need money belts.

Actually – I may need to retract that safety comment as the taxi ride to the airport was quite scary! There are traffic lanes on the highways but many cars choose to ignore the lanes and just drive wherever they want on the road – two cars per lane, one car straddling two lanes, it doesn't matter to these drivers. And there are rarely any police cars on the highway, so traffic accidents cause huge traffic delays until a policeman can come to fill out a report for the insurance. The drivers in Beijing make NYC taxi drivers look good!

We left ourselves a good hour to get back to the airport, and it took only about 45 min this time as we left early enough before the rush hour began. The airport is huge and very clean and the information booth was helpful as we didn't know where to check in for our domestic flight. We ate dinner at a Kenny Rogers restaurant in the airport (spaghetti and meat sauce a la carte) and cleared security very quickly as we didn't need to take out any liquids or cameras, and then waited for our flight. Of course, our flight was the ONLY one in the whole terminal that was delayed! But all else went well in the airport – we didn't have to pay for any of our luggage as all was well under the weight limit and we were actually allowed 2 carry-on bags per person and 2 checked bags for free. There was also a China Construction Bank in the airport, which is a partner bank to Bank of America, so we were able to use a fee-free ATM to withdraw money. We had started the trip with a lot of Chinese Yuan, but no where except sit-down restaurants and mall-based shopping stores take credit cards, so we were eating through our money quickly. All of the tourist sights only took cash – even McDonalds turned away my credit card! (Yes – we finally mastered McDonalds as Hunter wanted a big lunch and ordered a #3 combo meal by pointing to the board. But he couldn't communicate his drink selection so he got whatever soda flavor they put in the cup! The whole meal was only $3 USD).

The plane to Shanghai wound up leaving an hour and a half late, by the time they loaded all the people and luggage, but we made up time in the air and were only 1 hour delayed arriving. We loved the plane. It was an old 767, and it reminded us of how nice air travel in the US used to be – there was so much leg room in coach, we thought we were in first class, and they served a full meal and two rounds of drinks! We slept most of the flight and easily collected our bags and got a taxi. We handed the directions to the taxi driver and he nodded silently and took us straight to the hotel. Taxis are much cheaper here than in Beijing. It took only about 30 minutes to get to the hotel and we were amazed at the beautiful skyline we could see from the road.

The hotel is GORGEOUS! It is the 3rd nicest hotel Meredith ever stayed in, and Hunter's nicest hotel. There are 60 floors, with the Executive Lounge (free WiFi) on the 59th floor, our room on the 51st floor, and the lobby on the 38th floor. Our platinum status upgraded us to a mini-suite which is very cool – BEAUTIFUL marble tile bathroom and a large separate sitting room, free slippers and robes and chocolates, etc. We are going to get spoiled – how can we go back to the Courtyards after experiencing this? We were in bed by 11:30pm and unfortunately didn't sleep well as we weren't very tired.

permalink written by  mohicanfan on December 16, 2009 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Beijing/Shanghai and a Princess Southeast Asia Cruise - Dec 2009
tagged China, Shanghai, Beijing and Asia

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Day 6: Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China

Day 6: Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Shanghai, China

Welcome to Shanghai! We got up at 7:30am and went up to the Executive Lounge on the 59th floor for breakfast. The spread is plentiful-- lots of pastries (The Chinese really do like breakfast pastries and they had delicious chocolate mini muffins) and dim sum and hot foods like sausage, hash browns and beans; also, a juice bar and fresh sliced fruit. It was so nice to have refreshing watermelon and honeydew slices!

We were waiting for it to get a bit warmer (high today of 42 degrees F) before we started our massive walking tour, and we sat in the lounge after breakfast, sending emails. The city looks huge – its a bit hard to tell as the smog is so thick it is obstructing our view from the 59th floor – so I wasn't sure if my walking plans were too ambitious. We really like Shanghai so far and were amazed at how tall and flashy the skyscrapers were as we drove into the city from the airport. And unlike Beijing, there are a lot of billboards on the highway and all have very optimistic messages about a “new world” and a “better tomorrow”. Shanghai is definitely the new face of China! We see a lot more people smoking, we expected to see heavy smoking in all of China but saw very few smokers in Beijing – but at the Shanghai airport taxi stand, they were handing out free lighters!

Around 9:30am, we packed up our bags and headed out for an ambitious day of walking and sightseeing. My legs were already a bit sore (they actually started to throb at night so they must have been tired from walking around the Temple of Heaven), and by the end of our first day in Shanghai, they would be ready to fall off! But it was well worth it as we covered so much ground by walking and really got to see all the major sights up close and on our own timetable. We saw so much of the sprawling city, we can truly say that we saw the best of Shanghai.

Leaving the hotel, we walked down Nanjing Lu, a main pedestrian shopping street that had several large malls and department stores and boutique shops. We poked in just one store, Uniqlo, a Japanese brand clothing store that we like, but bypassed everything else. I bought two light-weight fleece turtlenecks for about $13 each and they were great purchases, as both shirts were worn within the next two days as the weather was still quite cold. Nanjing Lu wasn't the nicest shopping street that we discovered in Shanghai, although it was probably one of the most famous. We passed a lot of “friendly” people who say hello in English and then try to sell you fake watches when you turn your attention to them. Nanjing Lu road ended at the Bund, which is, as we had been forewarned, under an immense amount of construction in preparation for the World Expo in May 2010. The Bund is the riverfront promenade that extends for over a mile. Across the river is the Pudong area, another large section of Shanghai. We had planned to take a river cruise to see the shoreline of the Bund, but the construction made it hard for us to find the place to take the riverboat, and Nanjing Lu dead-ended at the famous “Bund Sightseeing Tunnel” which was next on our list. We went underground to take this unique experience. The sightseeing tunnel is almost like an amusement park ride, and is a very weird combination of Chinese entertainment and practical transportation. You board a people transport, almost like a glass enclosed cable car in which you stand up the whole time. The cable car is on a track – like the rides at Disneyland – and the car rides down the tunnel, which is filled with flashing neon lights, and a very weird psychedelic soundtrack. There are blowup dolls that jump out at you as the car passes down the track to the other side. Very, very weird, but definitely a Shanghai “must do!”

We emerged from the tunnel on the other side of the river in Pudong. Pudong houses the most famous of the skyscrapers in Shanghai, including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, a tall building with two balls and a tall pointy top – any time a picture of Shanghai is presented in the news, this building will be shown. We walked to the tower thinking we would go up, but saw it was $25pp to go up to the top, which we didn't think was worth the money since we were planning to go up to the top of the nearby Jinmao Tower which was taller and less expensive. There was a sign for a riverboat cruise from the Pearl Tower, but we learned it was only starting in the new year. So we walked towards the famous Jinmao skyscraper, which was very close by but a good 30 min walk as there was massive amounts of construction going on that blocked the major roads. We wound up walking around in a huge circle to get to the building. We stopped for lunch at the Blue Frog in the Shanghai World Financial Center, which is the tallest building in Shanghai. It is shaped like a bottle opener and glistens in the sun. We didn't go up to the top, but instead walked next door to the Jinmao Tower to go up to its observatory. At 1,379 feet, the 88-floor tower houses the Grand Hyatt hotel and an observatory deck that offers incredible views of the city. We took the elevator that traveled 9.6 meters/second and then spent a good half hour walking around the observatory, admiring the 360 view of Shanghai. The skyline is so incredible, just spending time looking at the uniquely and very modern/futuristic-looking buildings is a fun thing to do. We took lots of pictures, although we wish the smog wasn't so thick.

Leaving Jinmao Tower, we walked down to the promenade to catch the ferry to the Old City, back on the other side of the river. We passed by a restaurant that advertised a “snow bar” and knew we had to go in. Just like our experience in the Ice Bar in Copenhagen last year, we donned large snow parkas with hoods and walked into a back room that had freezing cold temperatures. However it turned out the bar wasn't completely made of ice like the one in Copenhagen was, but it was cold enough to have snow on the plastic bar and ledges, which supported its “snow bar” name. We each had one drink. I had a shot of raspberry vodka and Hunter had a shot of Everclear, a drink that is actually illegal in all but 6 states in the US because it is 151 proof alcohol. We were nice and toasty after that drink! The ferry was right near by and we boarded right before it took off, along with a whole group of motor scooters, which are very popular in Shanghai.

The ferry ride was short - only about 5 min to reach the other side – and gave us great views of the Bund. Getting out we used our handy map from the Eyewitness Travel book (the local map the hotel gave us was awful and didn't represent distances to scale) to find the heart of the Old City. It was AMAZING! This is what I expected China to be like – narrow streets with small cubby-hole like shops selling cheap scarves and bags and other trinkets. The narrow streets then turned into a maze of alleyways with even more merchants selling goods and even cooking large vats of noodles with vegetables. There were two alleyways that exclusively sold Christmas decorations. Let me pause now for commentary on Christmas in Shanghai. Although it is not a nationally recognized holiday in China, we have never heard so much Christmas music playing everywhere. Every single store, restaurant, and place of interest has a Christmas album blaring from its speakers, the most popular being Kenny G's Christmas album, followed by Mariah Carey's. We think we heard more Christmas music here than we would have if we were back in the US. We now know why everyone says Christmas is so commercialized – in China it is ALL about the commercial aspect of gift giving and parties. It was really funny to see street vendors selling plastic light-up reindeer and giant robotic santas. Despite feeling like we are on a whirlwind vacation, we felt like we were in the midst of Christmas season, more than we felt before we left for the trip, thanks to all the Christmas music and decorations around the cities.

Back to Old City. There was one place where the alleyways opened to a big square that had beautiful old Chinese buildings. We finally found the entrance to the Yu Yuan Gardens, which was on our sightseeing list, but I had spent all of our money and we didn't have enough cash to cover the entrance fee. We also figured the gardens were small (only 2 acres) and we could see some from the outside, so it wasn't so much of a loss. Whoever said Shanghai takes credit cards was wrong. NO ONE takes credit cards in China except the big restaurants and the largest department stores. Every single attraction/major tourist site is cash only. We even had to pay cash with the concierge when purchasing our tickets to the Shanghai Acrobatic Show, and you would think a hotel would take credit cards! We had brought a lot of Yuan with us, but wound up making 2 additional trips to the ATM (in addition to the one ATM stop at the airport) to ensure we had enough cash for the rest of our trip in China.

After the unique experience in Old City, we started to walk back to our hotel but it was very, very far. We got about half way then took a taxi the rest of the way. We always carried the piece of paper with us that had directions to our hotel in Chinese characters because none of the taxi drivers speak English. By the time we got back to our hotel it was 5pm – we were on our feet actively and briskly walking for 7 ½ hours and were quite exhausted. We purchased tickets to the traditional Shanghai Acrobat show from the concierge and then headed back out for a pre-show dinner. The concierge recommended a complex called Xiantiu which was a very romantic outdoor area of restaurants. The restaurants surrounded two large courtyards, filled with trees and white twinkling Christmas lights. Very romantic! It was something you would find in the US. We ate delicious hamburgers (we know we are not being adventurous with the local food, but we would rather be safe and stick with food that we know won't give us upset stomachs than to risk getting ill before the cruise even starts) and then hopped in a taxi to the acrobatic show. It was SO much fun! We saw several different acts, from contortionists to jugglers to magicians to somersault acts, to spinning plate girls, to beautiful ribbon flying acrobats. The last act was 5 motorbikes in a cage. Each act offered more “Oh my gosh, are they really going to do that?” moments and is something we would definitely recommend to future Shanghai visitors. We can understand why the Chinese are such gymnastic professionals!

We finally ended our first day in Shanghai around 9:15pm back in the hotel and made the last 15 min of the free drinks and dessert in the Executive lounge. Our tequila and glass of wine was greatly needed by the end of the day!

permalink written by  mohicanfan on December 17, 2009 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Beijing/Shanghai and a Princess Southeast Asia Cruise - Dec 2009
tagged China, Shanghai and Asia

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Day 7: Shanghai, China and 1st cruise day

Shanghai, China

Day 7: Friday, December 18th, 2009

Shanghai, China and 1st cruise day

We began the day much later than usual as we were so tired we slept past 8am. Hunter ordered hot eggs for breakfast and then we packed up our suitcases before hopping in a taxi to the French Concession area of Shanghai. The hotel bell hop had told the taxi driver the wrong location, so when he stopped at the wrong place, Hunter used his handy iPhone Shanghai application to show him a new location in Chinese. We got as close as we could to the French Concession area and then walked the rest of the way. This area was filled with many shops and restaurants, and had a busier and more upscale ambiance than did Nanjing Lu. It reminded us of 5th Avenue, but it wasn't that high end. We did some window shopping and then took a taxi back to our hotel and walked to a main department store complex nearby. I had lost my nice sunglasses in a taxi and so we had to buy a replacement pair and some liquor (for the cruise ship). This department store had everything – including a liquor store on the ground floor! It was the only liquor store we saw in all of China and was pretty limited. Our tour guide in Beijing told us the Chinese do not drink much but when they do, it is predominantly beer.

We walked back to the Marriott just in time for our late check-out at 2pm. We then headed up to the Executive Lounge to type emails before taking a taxi to our cruise ship. We didn't want to board the cruise ship too early (we like to wait for the crowds to subside) and wanted to take advantage of the internet as long as we could. We ate free finger sandwiches and enjoyed our last free alcoholic drinks for a while. We started to get so excited for the next leg of our journey as our cruise will be a whole other type of experience!

Some final thoughts about Shanghai....there were definitely more people who spoke English here, but as soon as we ventured even a little bit off of the touristy areas, our English resources became slim. Hunter had a great software application on his iPhone that highlighted major places of interest in Shanghai and gave driving directions in Chinese (our hotel was also listed in the app), so any time we needed it for a taxi, Hunter could just find the location we wanted and hand the phone to the driver. Thanks, iPhone!! Shanghai is a wonderful mix of old and new China. From the optimism of the futuristic-looking skyscrapers, to the quaint and bustling street markets of Old City, one can experience the dichotomy of present-day China all in one city. At the JW Marriott, we see a lot of Western businessmen, sometimes seeing them even meeting up with their Chinese counterparts. Maybe one day we will return for business! There are much fewer people in Shanghai walking around with face masks on – probably because the city overall is cleaner than Beijing. It was a little disconcerting to see so many surgical masks in Beijing, but because people just randomly spit in the streets as they walk, it is probably prudent to wear one each day! We saw several market stands selling masks – they even sell ones that are decorative and lace and embroidered!

Beijing and Shanghai both surpassed our expectations by a large margin. We felt so much safer here than anticipated and we thought both cities were thriving economies with lots of opportunities and excitement. We would recommend both cities are tourist destinations, and unless you want to do a lot of walking, we would recommend personal tour guides for each city so you could learn more history than we did and feel less disoriented upon first arrival. We walked a tremendous amount in each city and our muscles are aching! We are looking forward to tomorrow when we have a full day at sea. We will be taking it easy on-board the ship, reading and staying indoors. We are thankful we are leaving behind the cold weather and are putting away our scarves and heavy gloves. Luckily, we only needed our toe and hand warmers once in Beijing.

Around 4:15pm we packed up our laptops at the Marriott and prepared to leave for the port and cruise ship. However, we were delayed a good 25 minutes talking to the concierge to get the name of the cruise port terminal written out in Chinese. The Executive lounge attendant translated the “Princess cruise” into Chinese and got an address from the concierge on the 1st floor where the cruise boats normally dock, but the address was different from the one Princess had given me, so we tried to call the US Princess number but couldn't get through. We decided to chance that we had enough information for us to get there without getting too lost, and we left the hotel around 5pm. Within 20 minutes we were pulling up to the port, without getting lost. We still had about 90 Yuan left over, but I was thankful to have had more money on the last day than to have been worried about not having enough.

There were no lines at the cruise terminal (which had signs for Royal Caribbean) and we passed right through without any problems. We dropped off our largest two suitcases and took the rest with us. We got our pictures taken on board for our cruise photo, but we missed the official “first time on board photo” that they try to sell you. It is probably for the better as we don't need more photos! Our cabin, 4050, was right down the hallway near the Passenger Service desk, by the gangplank entrance. We walked in and were pleasantly surprised. We had a 2-seater blue couch with a yellow diamond print and yellow pillows, a nice vanity and deep blue cushioned stool, and a large dark wood cabinet and tv console. The TV is a flat screen, probably a good 17-in (maybe even 19-in). The large king bed is at the far end of the room, facing a giant floor to ceiling mirror which nicely opens up the room. We have a huge bay window with a nice ledge in front that we can use for storing things. The bed is elevated, so all of our suitcases fit under it nicely. The bathroom is tiny, of course, but the shower seemed roomier than the last cruise and there is plenty of shelve and cabinet storage space for our toiletries. The stateroom was perfectly designed – everything fit and I never felt cramped. We had a mini bar with room to store Hunter's tonic water (which he took from the JW Marriott to go with the bottle of gin he snuck in his suitcase). We keep the blinds closed most of the time we're at sea because the moving water makes us even more nauseous!

We were in our cabin for 6pm, and unpacked the bags we had brought on with us. By 10 min to 7pm the other two bags had not arrived and I was getting worried we would not be dressed in time for dinner. Hunter checked with the purser and the bags were delivered a minute later. We unpacked everything and realized that Hunter was missing two pairs of dress pants. We had forgotten that the two pairs he was wearing in NY the week before for work were supposed to come with him on the cruise. So he only has one light colored pair of pants and his tuxedo pants, but we think that is enough. We later saw that many people were dressed casually and there was a group that even came in jeans! We can always buy another pair of dress pants in one of the cities, but we probably won't be staying out late and so he'll only be “dressed” for 2 or 3 hours a day anyway!

At a little before 8pm we headed out and took the elevators to the 9th floor to check out the Panorama buffet and the Lotus Spa and Fitness Center. We got a mini tour of the facilities in the Lotus Spa and I booked a much needed deep tissue massage for 8am the next morning. My legs were hurting so much I was afraid the rest of my cruise was going to be ruined because of it and I wanted a massage to get me loosened up as soon as possible, knowing I would likely need several rounds of massages before the cruise was finished. I signed up for the earliest time as it was 20% off for the “early bird special.” The fitness center was small but had 4 elliptical machines and 5 treadmills, plenty of free weights for Hunter, and several yoga/pilate classes. The spa had a cellulite reduction machine which I would love to try!

At 8:15pm, we went down to the 5th floor and waited in a short line for the dining room to open up. Plenty of people were in the lounge outside, having drinks already. We were shown to a table of 4 (table #7) but the other couple never showed up. Our waiter's name was from Romania. We didn't particularly like him as he would always comment to us “oh, you don't like it?” if we didn't finish the whole meal. The tables were much closer together on the ship and there were only a few tables of 2 and many other tables of 8. We were lucky to get a small table. The dining room is decorated like an old English library, with dark wood paneling on the walls, and a back wall (separating the dining room from the lounge) that contained two English style 18th-C type portraits.

The food is typical Princess fare, with a lot of fish and the staples – fettuccine alfredo and shrimp cocktail and the signature Princess Love Boat Dream chocolate mousse on-top a brownie. The service was very slow, and got worse as the cruise ship progressed.

After the first dinner ended, we went to the Cabaret Lounge on the same floor (deck 5) and took our seats for the first evening show. They introduced the cruise director, a woman from Australia named Susan Rawlings, and then the rest of the cruise staff, who was mainly from Australia as well! Lots of cute blond girls from Australia. One short, brunette woman, Chantal (23 yrs old), was from Canada, and the men were also mainly from Australia. They said that this cruise had a junior cruiser program (not all itineraries on this boat have one) and they hired a staff member from the US – an older woman – to oversee the program. There was brief entertainment – a dance number from the dancers (all but 2 dancers are also cruise entertainment staff members) and then four songs from a male singer who was quite good at the showtune stuff but was so overly dramatic he reminded us of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Disappointedly, they did not announce the cruise breakdown of the passengers, but from our interactions with the passengers throughout the cruise, we deduced that most were from America, followed by a large British and Australian representation.

We got back to our room by 11pm and went straight to bed. The boat cleared for departure in China sometime between 9pm and 10pm and we could start to feel the boat sway a bit, so Hunter put on his wristbands.

permalink written by  mohicanfan on December 18, 2009 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Beijing/Shanghai and a Princess Southeast Asia Cruise - Dec 2009
tagged China, Shanghai, Asia and Cruise

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