Shanghai airport is HUGE and on our arrival pretty deserted. The pilot described the weather as foggy but I have a suspicion that the murk we see is entirely or at least partially man made. Formalities completed the first hurdle was would we actually be met by someone from Sinoway travel or was it just a well manufactured internet scam?
Turned out the representative was a quietly spoken young lady, Bella who had us whisked us out onto the forecourt but had, it transpired, lost contact with the driver. An hour later, still waiting and numerous phone calls later, she eventually, we assume, got authorisation for us to use a taxi.
Hopefully our taxi driver is not a typical specimen. The lane changing, speeding and heavy braking was uncomfortable at best and coupled with no seat belts, three bags in the car and three of us in the back it was pretty ugly. There was talk of meeting the original transport part way but luckily that got the heave ho and we ended up eventually at the Shanghai JC Mandarin, a fairly typical business class hotel.
Shanghai is much bigger and busier than I think we were expecting (18 million Bella said but how would you know) with appalling traffic and pretty insane driving .
A shower and we were out into what had by now become pretty intense heat. The thermals will be well redundant until we get to the UK I'd say. An excellent lunch just down the road from the hotel at a Dim Sim was followed by a short sojourn into the claustrophobically crowded back alley markets. We ended in an up market plaza getting replacements for my missing undies and swimmers. What was I thinking?
A refreshing swim in the hotel pool was a real win. Now off to the museum and theatre.
Bella had found our minibus and Mr Tong our driver seems quite sane compared with the other locals. On arrival the museum was still open however the authorities have made it free of charge for entry with the result that there is a goodly queue to get in. Our guide, Bella, reckoned the queue would be an hour so this visit was deferred until tomorrow.
Instead we went on to the TV Tower, a poured concrete affair, which, like the Auckland Sky Tower, has the sole attribute of interest that it is very high. There's even a revolving restaurant but this is even more than usually pointless as the spectacular view is completely obscured by the 'fog'. We were more impressed by the scale of the city and the stream of barges, two and three abreast flowing both ways along the river.
Next stop was the Bund, an interesting riverside street which has retained its old(ish) commercial buildings. The recommended Peace Hotel (thanks Derek) was closed for refurbishing and the esplanade was full of tourists and the ubiquitous parasitic hawkers.
It gets dark quite early and by 6pm we were in the French Concession for an excellent early Chinese dinner at a restaurant called Zen. We had to be out by 6:55 for the 'optional' (read extra charge) theatre and to my surprise we were back on the street within 45 minutes.
The traffic still hadn't let up and so we were slightly late for the show which turned out to be more by way of a circus culminating in eight motorcycles been ridden around inside a wire sphere, simultaneously, something I'd have said couldn't be done. The circus is in its own building and called ERA 'Intersection of Time' according to the quite unnecessary programme. Check out 'www.era-shanghai.com' if you want to go. The show finished around 9pm, it's less than and hour and a half even including the intermission and hugely entertaining.
We'd convinced Bella that we'd be able to get back to the hotel by ourselves but the threatening rain had stopped threatening by the time we got out and turned into a downpour. Taxi in the rain anyone? Actually it was dead easy and we were tucked up in bed just after 10.