Mon, 21 Aug 2006

Day 1: Shanghai (上海) // at 21:00

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An hour and a half this morning in Changi airporty in Singapore, time enough to walk around and look at the pools of Koi and orchid gardens, then back on the plane for the flight to Shanghai (上海).

Long queues at Chinese immigration, video cameras everwhere filming the arrivals in the hall, then quickly through a very prefunctory customs check and out of the aiport. Do we change money insider or outside the immigration? The rates inside didn't look so good so we waited until outside — should have known, the rates outside were exactly the same. Luggage and money, now time for transport — woohoo, the maglev train! Only one small problem, we couldn't find it!

RMB40 and an aircraft boarding-pass stub and we were onto the train. Very ordinary looking on the inside, apart from the groovy illuminated signs that tells you how fast you're travelling; 100, 200, 300, 400 — ticking away up to 432km/hr! Only a little bit of noise and shaking, it was all quite amazing really. Eight minutes later and we were in the station in the centre of the city, this is definitely how it should be to get from an airport to the city!

Struggled across to the metro station and puzzled our way through tickets; machine or person? The machine has English text, but is slightly confusing, as every ticket machine in every city always seems to the visitor. We made it though, two RMB4 tickets and onto the train, then across Pudong, under the river and off at the correct station of Middle Hunan road — Yay!

I'll blame the northern hemisphere! Subconsciously navigating by the sun we came up blinking into daylight from the metro station, confidently turned left and strode off in precisely the opposite direction to where the hotel was! Luckily it was only half a block before the rational part kicked in and had us make an about-face, then down the side street to the Nanjing hotel and inside to checkin and get a well-earned shower!

After getting established in the Nanjing hotel we headed back out for an exploratory walk, once again I got confused about north and south, that subconscious is a dangerous thing! Nanjing Lu is one big pedestrian mall, the crowds and shops and stonework making it all look vaguely reminiscent of Bourke street mall in Melbourne — but maybe that's just because I don't spend much time in Bourke street mall! Maybe not so similar after all, the architecture and neon signs all straight from the 21st century.

Early in the evening we met the rest of the Intrepid group for the first time, handed over our wads of cash for the “local contribution” then headed out dinner. Damian and Amy from down near Geelong, Peter and Rachel from Ballarat, Steven and Kristine from Toronto in Canada, and Julie from Adelaide, to be led around the country by Dan.

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