Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shanghai China

From Hangzhou we travelled back to Shanghai by train and spent a couple of days there before flying back home. Once again the hotel we booked was located on a pedestrian street (East Nanjing Road). Food, shopping, even street entertainment was conveniently close by. If you grew tired of walking, there were special sightseeing “buses” (actually electric-powered train-like compartments) that travelled up and down the pedestrian street. The section where our hotel was located reminded me of New York Times Square.

East Nanjing Road (Pedestrian Street)
Pedestrian Street

Street entertainment
Since we were staying for only had a couple of days, it seemed that the best way to see the city of Shanghai was to take the City Sightseeing Bus. For CNY30 one can hop-on hop-off at different points along the bus route (the ticket is good for 24 hours). There are two routes: one running in the Puxi area (the older city center) and the other in the Pudong area (the new financial/commercial district); one ticket allows you to get on both routes. Passengers are given a map/guide and earphones when they first board. You can connect your earphones to the jacks and hear commentaries about the different places of interest in the language of your choice (eight different languages to choose from: English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Chinese. I decided to complete both routes first to see what was there (it took half a day). 

City Sightseeing Bus

Sights along the Puxi route

Yuyuan Market

Sights along the Pudong route

I actually completed four rounds of the Puxi route and two rounds of the Pudong route during our stay. Unfortunately, my husband was experiencing vertigo and had to rest at the hotel most of the time; he was still able to complete a single round of both routes tho. Why four times for me? Well, I just had to go back (twice) to Yuyuan Garden in Old Shanghai for some shopping.

When we were packing our bags, I realized that I had much more stuff than when we arrived.  No worries, I just went around the many department stores on East Nanjing Road and bought a travelling bag (it was on sale too!).

For more information on Shanghai, you may want to check this out

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hangzhou China

I was excited to see China again; my first trip had been to Hangzhou in 1998 and Chengdu in 2007. After 14 years, I was eager to revisit Hangzhou. My husband and I were meeting up with our son who was had been staying in the city a few months and would be our guide. We landed at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai close to midnight. Since we were going on to Hangzhou we decided to wait out the few hours at the airport until the subway (Metro) trains started running at 6am. We had received detailed instructions from our son on how to get to Hangzhou, including: how to buy Metro tickets from the machine, taking the subway train from Pudong to Hongqiao railway station (complete with exit /entrance locations), where to purchase train tickets for Hangzhou, getting on the fast train, exiting the train station, boarding the bus and getting off at the stop closest to our hotel. We were able to catch some sleep on the airport seats, then after eating breakfast, we were on the train to Hongqiao.

Our instructions

Pudong International Airport to Hongqiao Train Station by Metro
Everything was going as planned until we had to purchase the train tickets. We knew that there was a holiday (Tomb Sweeping Day) but we did not anticipate that it was such a big holiday and that there were lots and lots of people going back to their hometowns. There were long queues; we were still lucky to get tickets for the noon trip. The train station was packed with travellers ; we were in for a long wait and finding a seat was a challenge. Once on the fast train tho, it was quite comfortable and speedy (about 300 km/hr).

Hongqiao Train Station
Our hotel was located on a pedestrian street (Zhong Shan Zhong Road) – no vehicles allowed. We had to cross the street from the bus stop (there was an escalator to get to the overpass); then it was a short walk to the hotel. The cobblestone road made for one rather noisy and bumpy walk due to the luggage we were rolling along. The hotel location was ideal tho – lots of interesting places and things to do within walking distance.

Zhong Shan Zhong Road - Pedestrian Street
Nearby - The Drum Tower 

Hefang Old Street was really interesting; day or night it was always full of activities and people – street food, vendors, craftsmen, teahouses, souvenirs, even old-fashioned movie players. It seemed that everyday we were in Hangzhou, we would always spend some part of the day at Hefang St.

Hefang Street attractions
Hefang Street food
Traditional Chinese Medicine Shop
West Lake district is the principal tourist destination in Hangzhou; from our hotel, it was about a 20-30 minute walk. Exploring the lake area can also be done on foot but there’s really so much to see and it can get tiring. One way to get an overview of the whole lake is to take the tour bus that goes around the lake. The ride starts at the bus terminal at the Hangzhou Tourist Center near the Hangzhou Sports Complex. Another great alternative is to rent a bike. Locals use the card system that allows them to take and return a bike from the many bike racks around; if they return the bike within an hour, the card is not charged so they can essentially get around the area for free.

Tour bus and bike rentals

Around West Lake
Around West Lake

On the other side of the Qiantang River is Binjiang district; this is the modern part of Hangzhou and a rapidly developing business center.

Binjiang district
For more information on Hangzhou, you may want to check this out