17.01.2013 - 19.01.2013 10 °C
The overnight train to Shanghai from Xi'an wasn't the most enjoyable experience. We struggled to get a bus from near our hostel to the train station and then to find the train platform once within the station but a young girl who spoke perfect English kindly helped us as her train wasn't for another 4 hours. I was beginning to feel rubbish and just wanted to get to Shanghai as soon as possible but our train was delayed by an hour. It had orginated in Lhasa, Tibet 2.5 days ago and we were joining it for the final 14 hours. We were travelling in hard sleeper and I had the upper bed which was the highest bed about 2.5m off the ground with 0.5m headroom but I did get a ledge at my feet to put my bag. Alice had the middle bed, lucky enough to be above the world's loudest snorer ever - we didn't think it was possible humans could make such loud noises while sleeping! Needless to say neither of us got much sleep and when we "got up" at 9am thankfully other people had disembarked so we could sit on the bottom bunk. I was feeling rubbish and buried myself under a duvet for the morning while Alice read. As the train was an hour late on leaving we didn't know when we should arrive but it was about 2 hours later than timetabled.
Thursday 17th January
From Shanghai main railway station we took the metro to our very conveniently located hostel in a residential area. I went straight to bed while Alice went to find some food. After a couple of hours nap, we both freshened up and went into central Shanghai to get some food, walking along the famous East Nanjing Road and eating in a mall. The girls beside us thought it was hilarious when Alice started using her chopsticks the wrong way round and quickly pointed it out to her! In her defence, she says she wasn't concentrating and its the only time she has done it.
Friday 18th January
I awoke still feeling rubbish, and self diagnosed myself as having a smog induced chest infection, but after a warm shower I felt a bit better so we went into central Shanghai. We started off at People's Square, deciding not to go into Shanghai Museum as the exhibitions didn't interest us (we are Chinese Bronze aged out), and then walked towards the Bund, on the river where banks and trading houses set up as the city developed. The views across the river were spectacular of the Shanghai skyscrapers. For lunch, we headed into the old town where we went round a traditional garden before queuing for takeaway steamed buns (pork and crab) - best lunch so far. Back at the hostel we played some pool before heading out for dinner. On the way, we bought a knee support for Alice as her knee is still giving her a lot of pain and I bought some face masks which make me look suitably stupid! We stopped off at the French Concession looking at the trendy boutique shops and bars before eating dinner at a nearby restaurant. We had Singapore noodles and fried rice with beef - safe but boring dinner.
Saturday 19th January
We could imagine living in Shanghai but it's not the most exciting tourist place, so today we headed to Suzhou, described as Venice of the East by Marco Polo. We took a high speed train from Hongqiao station which was another mammoth station. We walked for a couple of hours into the historic parts of the city but where we passed by wasn't very impressive with little sign of canals and lots of western designer shops. Alice wasn't impressed by my map reading skills as we I struggled to find the restaurant we wanted to eat at. Eventually we found it and were glad to have a seat and some steamed buns in front of us - I thought better than yesterdays and still under GBP4 for both of us. In the afternoon we wandered around a park and then some of the canals which were disappointing - lack of activity on and around the canals. We then made it to the touristy part where the canals were packed with Chinese tourists doing day trips from Shanghai and sampled tea in our first teahouse which Alice thoroughly enjoyed! Once back in Shanghai we went to the financial centre to admire the skyline before heading home for dinner, randomly stopping at a restaurant which turned out to be a hot pot restaurant. We chose a satay broth with chicken, squid, bamboo shoots, some green veg, noodles accompanied by German style Chinese brewed beer and some prawns thrown in courtesy of the chef. We were the table right at the door so the staff enjoyed watching us eat but also helped make up a delicious dipping sauce for us (no idea what went in it!) - best dinner so far!
Photos to follow asap - promise!