China: Shanghai & Hong Kong

shanghai_hk_charsThis is the third and final blog post about our recent tour around China. The last two stops were Shanghai and Hong Kong.

I’ve visited Hong Kong before now and I love the place. The plan was to take my family to some of the places that I’ve visited before such as Lantau Island and the Big Buddha as well as Victoria Peak.

As for Shanghai, well I was expecting some ‘sci-fi city’ and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Day 8: Shanghai

After landing from Chengdu and checking in at our hotel, we made our own way to a local restaurant where we decided to skip the donkey meat and bullfrogs that was available on the menu and stick to some safer options. My Mandarin Chinese was still useful which was interesting as the local dialect was now Shanghainese.

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That evening we visited Jin Mao Tower and took a trip up in the express elevator to the observation deck. Fantastic views up there of Oriental Pearl Tower which we would be visiting the following day.

View of the Oriental Pearl Tower

Back down on the ground I took the following photo up into the sky which shows Jin Mao Tower on left (the tower we’d just been inside), Shanghai World Financial Center on the lower-left and Shanghai Tower on the right. If you look closely you should be able to see the cranes at the very top of Shanghai Tower. It’s still being finished off:

Jin Mao Tower (left -- the tower we'd just been inside), Shanghai World Financial Center (lower-left), Shanghai Tower (right)

Then we took a stroll along The Bund to take in the classic night-time view of Pudong across the Huangpo River (photo on the left). The architecture of the Bund side (photo on the right) is completely different: a clear indication of Shanghai’s colonial past.

Pudong The Bund

Day 9: Shanghai

Today we took a stroll around the Yu Yuan Gardens. By some strange coincidence the teahouse in the gardens and the nine-cornered bridge leading up to it — designed to defeat demons who can’t turn corners — are both featured in the book that I was reading at the time, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age.

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After that we took in a river cruise along the Huangpo River. Derek, you’re right, The Bund side does look like Liverpool!

The Bund Pudong

Then we visited the Oriental Pearl Tower and took the elevator to the observation deck where, as luck would have it, they have a glass floor. Good grief. Terrifying experience. I just about managed to shuffle onto the glass. Here’s the proof…

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And here are the guys who clean the windows…from the outside.

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Day 10: Shanghai to Hong Kong

Believe it or not, one of the major highlights for me in Shanghai was a trip on the famous maglev. This thing has a top speed of 431 km/h that’s 268 mph. It takes just 7 minutes and 20 seconds to complete the distance of 30 km (18.6 mile) from the city to the airport. Fantastic!

430 klicks! Want

After that we boarded the plane — an earlier flight than expected due to a cancellation. All very efficient. Then we were off to Hong Kong, the last stop on our tour!

After arriving at Hong Kong and checking in at our hotel in Kowloon, we looked at the cloud cover over the peak and decided that there wouldn’t be much of a view, so we jumped into the hotel minibus for a drop-off in central TST. We took a wander along the Avenue of Stars to take in the sights across the harbour to Hong Kong Island. I think I still prefer the harbour views in Hong Kong over Shanghai but it’s a close call.

View across the harbour to Hong Kong Island Avenue of Stars

We continued exploring TST for a short while but the exhaustion of the last ten days was finally starting to kick in, so we grabbed a quick pizza and headed back to the hotel for some well-earned rest. Nice to have a lie in for a change instead of having to set an early alarm for another day’s touring.

Day 11: Hong Kong

I introduced my family to the delights of the MTR and we were soon heading west to Lantau Island to visit Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha.

Local MTR to our hotel View from the MTR heading out to Lantau Island

The last time I visited Hong Kong the cable car at Lantau was out of operation. This time it was working. Back then I took what I thought was a slow coach up to the Po Lin Monastery. This time we ended up in a queue for the cable car that took the best part of two hours. Just about worth it.

Cable car *gulp* First view of the Big Buddha from the cable car

After leaving the cable car it was a short walk to the monastery and the Big Buddha. The views were incredible, even with the cloud.

Big Buddha is big One of the Buddha's loyal handmaidens

Day 12: Hong Kong

After another lazy breakfast we headed over to Hong Kong Island on the MTR and into another queue, this time for the peak tram. This was, luckily, rather quicker than the previous day’s queue for the cable car and we were soon up at the top of Victoria Peak enjoying the views across the harbour.

The tram! View from the tram

The sky cleared whilst we were up there — it’s brighter than it looks! That’s Hong Kong behind me on the left and a view down to the northern side of the island on the right.

Me trying not to blink View down to the northern side of Hong Kong Island

From there we headed down to grab a Star Ferry back over to Kowloon. Our ferry was called the ‘Silver Star’ which just so happens to be the same name as one of the local takeaways in our village back home.

Star Ferry Silver Star (same name as a local takeaway in Standish!)

Then we took to the MTR again heading north to visit a couple of places I discovered during my last trip. First of all: Flower Market Road. After walking along next to a busy main road, it’s surprising to turn the corner into a street where the air is thick with the smell of flowers.

Flower Market Road One flower shop after another

And then we popped into Yuen Po Bird Garden. My wife wasn’t sure about this place. The birds are somewhat crammed into the cages and a few are missing patches of plumage.

 Birds in the market Busy cages

After that it was back to the hotel to wait for a lift to the airport and then back home to the UK!

Looking Back…

This whole tour has been a mad, exhausting adventure from start to end. China is an truly amazing place and the people are incredibly friendly and very helpful, especially when it came to me practising my bad Mandarin Chinese. One of these days I will definitely be heading back.

I want to thank my wife for helping to make this possible and I want to say a huge well done to my kids for just rolling with the few challenges that we faced. You’re all amazing people. Now it’s time for you to sit back and relax. You’ve all earned a good rest…until the next adventure that is!

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