China Part Six: Return to Shanghai and on to Hong Kong
Waking up in Kuang’s apartment in Shanghai was a good feeling. It really did feel like we were changed people, from the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences that we had had over the last two weeks.
That day we had possibly one of the most fruitful days thus far on the trip – possibly due to the few expectations we had of it. We headed to town after a late start, getting to Yuyuan Market just in time for the lunchtime rush. The food areas of this market are famous for their dumplings, so we set out to find them. The first place we went to was absolutely lousy. Reheated, stale, and a rather chewy exterior, we didn’t eat many before we decided to move on. Wandering around a bit more, we found a restaurant with a big sign saying ‘Best Dumplings’ or something to that effect. The queue outside was enough to convince us that this was a place worth visiting. It turns out, yes. Great dumplings – large, tender, and very juicy. However, to this day, I maintain that the best dumplings I’ve ever had were on Dominion Road, Auckland, New Zealand.
With full bellies, we wandered around the markets for a while, and then inspiration hit us – Shanghai Circus! We hailed a taxi, and after a bit of confusion about where the circus was, we got dropped off at the Shanghai Circus World complex. We purchased tickets for the evening show, and with about 4 hours to kill, we decided to split ways – Kuang and Angela heading off to shop, and Yean and I on an mission to find a place recommended to us by a work colleague, poetically named ‘Slaughterhouse’. Set in a decommissioned animal processing plant, the grim grey ramps and spiral structure created possibly the most unusual shopping mall I’ve ever been to. Full of boutique and rather curious shops, we stumbled across the Ducati Cafe. Of course, this was a compulsory stop, and we had the opportunity to sit on the (newly released at the time) Ducati Diavel. I ordered the Monster Foccacia, and the Ducati Latte, both were delicious, and not just because of the names.
After a bit of a tour of the shops, we had a bit of time to explore Yuyuan Market at night, before it was time to rush to the circus theatre. We arrived just in time for the opening act, and I managed to get one photo before an usher came over and motioned to put my camera away. Fair enough. Rules are rules, and the circus needs to have an element of suprise to it for it to be worth going. Thus, here is my one and only photo of an amazing Chinese circus performance. I have to say, it agrees with me much more than a western type circus – the feats and abilities of these performers were nothing short of incredible, with the standout acts being the trapeze, the sphere of death (involving up to 10 motorcycles in a rather small sphere), and the ever so elegant hanging-on-a-long-piece-of-silk-while-you-float-through-the-air-and-perform-incredible-dance-moves-with-an-equally-as-talented-female.
From there we headed into the Bund again, there to have a couple of drinks on a rooftop bar, bringing the trip to a close. Sitting in the bar, I was able to reflect on how much we had changed as a group, as individuals, and as partners during the trip. I love two week long trips.
The next day we all headed off to the Maglev station – a state of the art train that is suspended in the air by powerful magnets, allowing it to reach speeds of up to 450km/h, and runs so smooth you can barely detect you’re moving. We bid our farewells at the station, and Yean and I hopped on the train, making the quick trip (an hour and a half by car, 20 minutes by Maglev) to the airport. We had just enough time to check in, grab a quick coffee, and then straight onto the flight. I felt there that I was going to miss China – the space, the food, the climate, and the completely different way of life were all things that struck a chord. I will be back.
Our journey home was broken up by a two day one night stop over in Hong Kong. By the time we had reached Hong Kong, however, our tourist muscles were well and truly worn out. Feeling rather frazzled and weary, the last thing we wanted to hear at our accommodation was ‘We have no booking from you’. Without printouts of the emails we had exchanged, there was no way of disproving them, and they were fully booked, so we turned around and began a desperate search for a place to stay, made all the worse by it being a public holiday weekend, and everywhere was full. Yean finally found a tiny place that had a room, and despite it’s tiny size (it was about 6′ by 6′, mostly occupied by a bed, and a very narrow shower and toilet in the corner), we were truly thankful.
Seeing as a night inside would probably result in us gouging each other’s eyes out, we hit the streets, and I’m glad we did. While we didn’t have the strength to snap many pictures, Hong Kong proved to be a full on, high tempo city, that felt vaguely like a more Chinese, less organised version of Singapore. The shopping was incredible – the first time I’ve ever seen camera lenses so cheap, even from official resellers. I purchased an 18-135mm lens for about $300NZ, as I was trying to find a good do-everything type lens that meant I could stop lugging around a 28-300mm zoom along with my 18-55mm.
The night markets were great – a far cry from the nick-nak stalls of the markets in Vietnam and Malaysia, these were selling some actually cool stuff. Yean scored a couple of dresses, and I got a new dirtbiking jersey, along with two new ties and cuff links. We ended our night at the party hub of Lan Kwai Fong, with the intention of just a couple of drinks. We ended up dancing in some corner bar, and when it came to heading home, we realised it was already 2 am.
“Diary Entry – 22/10/11
We woke to the sounds of rush hour Hong Kong – our room has no sound proofing. It’s actually quite a lovely start, when there’s no pressing need or urge to be anywhere anytime soon. After a breakfast at a local dim sum place, we headed into Central station, there we were able to check in luggage for our evening flight – an amazing logistical improvement over having to carry our luggage around for the rest of the day. We explored the CBD, and the main shopping area at Causeway Bay, although the only things purchased were a couple of face product for Yean, and a couple of books for me. After a quick coffee recharge, we headed back to Hong Kong station, and took the express train to the airport, there to board our flight back to Singapore. It’s funny how you can always spot a flight that’s heading to Singapore – there’s a very neat, single file queue stretching back from the gate, a far cry from the elbows and shoves that seems to be the preferred Chinese method of queueing.
This is the conclusion of our two week trip through China. It is 11.56pm, 22 of October, 2011, and our flight, 3K696 is just beginning it’s decent into Singapore. I am glad to be back. This will take a while to digest.”