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    Tuesday 20 September 2011

    Day Fourteen - Home

    After our 11 hour flight, we arrived into Istanbul around 5:15 local time. We didn't sleep at all during the flight. Turkish Airlines is a fine airline, but their economy has to have the tightest seats possible. Usual long distance planes fit in 8 seats per row, Turkish squeeze in 9. The flight into Seoul was more comfortable, so it must depend on the plane.

    The airport in Istanbul does have an airside hotel. We did price it and were tempted to book a room for 3 hours, which is the minimum stay, but at over €100 we opted to find some seats to pass in the 5 hour window between connecting flights.

    Our flight for Dublin left at 10:45am and we landed back into Ireland 4 hours later.

    What an incredible holiday, two very contrasting cities and people. Thanks for sharing our holiday with us. Until the next time!

    Patrick & Vinnie

    Monday 19 September 2011

    Day Thirteen – Goodbye Shanghai

    Today is our last day in the city and of our holidays before our long journey home, which should take around 24 hours. We booked our apartment for an extra day so we could take our time today and not have to check out at noon. We aimed to check out around 7:30pm, as our flight was not due to leave until round 11pm.

    We stayed at the Citadines in Shanghai and it’s bigger sister chain The Somerset in Seoul. The Citadines is a basic apartment style hotel whilst the Somerset does try to recreate that home from home feeling with great amenities. Whilst our apartment in the Citadine was furnished nicely with separate spacious kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom the overall upkeep and appearance was not up to the usual standard of a Citadines. Perhaps we had been spoiled from the Somerset the week earlier.

    We arose early to start the packing before heading out for a last walk around the city. We focused our walk around the Nanjing Road and the Bung. The touts that had been annoying on the first night were now hilarious. We had gotten so used to them, as we loved to annoy them by taking pictures and videos of them, which soon made them flee.

    We checked out around 7:30pm and took the underground to the maglev station. On our return journey the train reached it’s max speed of 431km/h. At that speed the 30km to the airport takes just 8 minutes. We took off from Terminal 2 that was more modern then Terminal 1 that we had arrived into.

    Our flight with Turkish Airlines took off around 11pm, taking 11 hours to arrive into Istanbul for our connection flight back to Dublin in the morning.

    Goodbye Shanghai - Thanks!

    Thanks for following our holiday blog. We are on our way home. Over the coming 24 hours we'll write up the last few days and post before we land back in Dublin. Until then.

    Pat & Vinnie.

    Sunday 18 September 2011

    Day Twelve – Jin Mao Tower

    The Jin Mao Tower was the first scraper to be built in Shanghai. It paved the way for the thousands of others to quickly follow. At one point this tower was the tallest in the city, only to have been replaced by the neighbouring Shanghai World Financial Centre.
    Walking down the Nanjing Road, the biggest Apple Store in China is soon to open
    The Statue to Mao along The Bund
    Bamboo used as scaffolding
    The observation deck is located on the 88th floor. We took it easy this morning and headed up this tower for dusk to witness the magical transformation from daylight to nightlight within which the city jumped to life with all kinds of neon illuminations.

    Heading to the Jin Mao Tower today
    The viewing deck (on top) of the Shanghai World Financial Centre
    Most of the buildings are switched fully on around 7pm, but they stagger their lighting up in the hour proceeding. The building is built around the number 8 and reminded us of the empire state building in New York City. It’s not just another skyscraper, it was the first in Pudong and signal the start of the building boom. The views from the 88th floor where incredible. You are just below the Shanghai World Financial, so you can see it’s observation deck clearly. Beneath you is the Oriental Pearl.
    Vinnie with Shanghai below from the Jin Mao Tower
    Shanghai beginning to light up
    The mid-section of the Shanghai World Financial Centre from the Jin Mao Tower
    Shanghai illuminated with The Bung area lighting up the banks

    Inside the Jin Mao Tower is a Hyatt Grand Hotel. You can look right down it's atrium from the viewing deck on floor 88.

    We took the sightseeing tunnel over today. It’s not worth the money, around €5 for a single ticket, you board a small carriage and get taken through a tunnel under the river. The tunnel is decorated with flashing lights and named sections such as starlight’s and meteor shower.

    We rounded off the evening with a visit to a veggie restaurant in the super brand mall that we had spotted two days earlier. The menu was massive, with everything made using mock meat. We worked up a hunger and ate lots.
    Mock Pork Balls

    Tomorrow is our last day in the city before we set off on our return journey to Dublin.

    Saturday 17 September 2011

    Day Eleven - Bazaar and The Worlds Highest Bar

    The Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar where the main destinations today. Surprisingly Shanghai is a very walkable city. The metro, whilst very cheap at 30 cent a ride, doesn't really connect the city. Sometimes it's just quicker to just walk or alternatively take a taxi. Taxis here are very cheap. They start at €1.80 for the first 2km and don't really increase much more after that.
    A local postbox
    Our walk today took us from the French Concession into the Old Town area. The contrast between the both were strong. The old town is still relatively flat and much more local. Here women hang their washing in the streets, kids play on the pavements and old folk gather in the parks to play board games or just catch up on some gossip.
    Food seller along the street
    Old Town area
    Some washing out on public view
    The Bazaar or tourist market area is well worth a visit. It's Disney in the fact its all fake, or at least felt that way. We had seen a similar area being constructed in Beijing a few years back. Its a tourist trap of old streets in traditional Chinese stylings. It is beautiful architecture, but it's really is out of character with the surrounding old town.

    Patrick at the Bazaar

    Vinnie at the Bazaar
    The temple to the city god sits at the centre including original gardens. A tea house sits dead centre where Bill Clinton and the UKs Queen drank tea! Adding to the Disney element are the numerous American outlets from Dairy Queen to Starbucks. Not a single photo could be taken without some corporate logo getting into shot.
    Vinnie with some decorative Chinese buildings behind
    A must application for vegetarian travellers is the vegout guide to worldwide vegetarian restaurants. Covering ever city and updated daily, it allows you to pinpoint your nearest restaurant using Google Maps. We noticed a veggie place was located in the area! Like the others we have found here, it specialised in mock meat Chinese food. Truly delicious. The place is a little bit of a sham as downstairs is all Chinese, and cheaper. A single sign in English directs foreigners upstairs for table service, which is more expensive. That said a main course was still only sets back around €2. Just as we were tucking into some mock chicken the chefs came up and set on the table beside us and started smoking. Numerous no smoking signs were displayed around the walls. We were not impressed and made quite a fuss about it. The waitress communicated this and they stopped. It put us right off.
    Our mock meat Chinese Food
    Patrick enjoying the noodles
    After our local experience we opted to have some desert at the Dairy Queen. It was both our first times to ever eat at this place. It's American and only sells iced cream based items. We had green tea and cheesecake blizzards, which are similar to a McDonalds McFlurry.
    Vinnie having a Dairy Queen
    We walked back to the hotel via some of the local food and fake goods streets. We have read that Chinese like to eat in groups in public. All of the stores along these back streets sold the strangest of food and all were packed. We have learnt these food streets days are numbered, the land is going to be used to build more skyscrapers. This is the story of Shanghai, displace people and build higher and bigger. I can expect this city to be totally different if we return in a few years time.
    Patrick outside the Bazaar at night
    Some fake iPod Shuffles on sale
    As its Saturday evening, we heading out to the Park Hyatt's 100 Century Avenue bar, located on the 92th floor of the Shanghai Financial World Centre. As its across the river on the other side of town we had to take a taxi over. This is the worlds highest bar and club. Dress code was smart, all we had was shorts. It didn't stop us. We just tried to blend in. Arriving at the hotel we could tell this was a classy place. Our cab doors were opened for us and we were welcomed. We tried to look as if we knew were we where going and eventually found the elevator to the hotel.
    Heading up to the 92nd floor
    Patrick and Vinnie at the 100 Century Avenue Bar
    The Park Hyatt only occupy floors 81 to 93 of this 101 floor building. At 492 metres the building holds the title of the worlds highest observation deck. Rather then pay for ticket to the deck, we rode the elevator for free to floor 92 the location of the club. Cocktails set you back a reasonable €8. Surprisingly the place was not full. The DJ was great. All pop music mixed with the videos in time. If the setting and views were not enough, the loos here feature Japanese automatic toilets with built in controls for water and drying the behind. The bar closed at 2, so we took a cab over to the Cool Docks area to round off the evening.

    Friday 16 September 2011

    Day Ten - Oriental Pearl TV Tower

    It was warmer today, the temperature topped 40! We did our best to try to stay indoors as much as possible. It’s too warm to be outside.
    Vinnie and I around downtown Shanghai
    We visited the Shanghai City Urban Planning Exhibition Centre that takes you on a tour of how the city grew to what it is today and what it will be like in 10 years time. It's a massive exhibition covering some five floors, with windows providing amazing views out onto The Peoples Park.

    Inside the Exhibition Centre. The blue guy was the symbol of last years Expo.
    Vinnie reading up on the history of Shanghai
    A small replica model of the city is on the ground floor, but a huge predicted model of the city is on the third showing all future skyscrapers. The next major one to open will be the Shanghai Tower. It will be the world’s second tallest building when complete at over 120 floors! A must is the 360 virtual tour of future Shanghai. It's very realistic.
    Vinnie with the model of Shanghai in 2020 behind him
    Shanghai as it's expected to be in 2020
    Conveniently the tour bus stops right outside, so we connected with the second line to finish the city tour. This took us over to Pudong, passing under the river in a 1km long tunnel. This eastern part of the city is the financial centre and home to all the famous new skyscrapers. Not long ago this site was wasteland used to grow crops. How it has changed.
    The Shanghai Tower will be ready and open in 2014. It will be the worlds second tallest building.
    Vinnie with the Jin Mao Tower on the left (the second tallest in the city) and the Shanghai Financial World Centre on the right (the current tallest in the city)
    Patrick in front of the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower
    One of the many veggie restaurants here, all offering mock meat meals
    After a visit to the massive Super Brand Mall, we headed over to the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower, the most iconic building in this city. Thankfully there were no queues. We got there around 8pm. It costs just over €15 for a ticket taking you to the very top, the Space Module at 350 metres high. Cheaper tickets take you some 263 metres up and really you are not missing anything going that extra bit higher as the views, whilst remarkable are almost the same, also the windows are dirtier on the top!
    Vinnie before we headed up the 350 metres of the Oriental Pearl
    The middle sightseeing floor features a glass balcony which circles outside and right around the building. It's frightening stuff as you can see right out and beneath you. It's made more frightening when you see other skyscrapers below!

    Patrick on the glass balcony of the sightseeing floor at 263 metres up
    Vinnie on the glass balcony of the sightseeing floor at 263 metres up
    The view of the Jin Mao and SFWC from the top of the Oriental Pearl
    Vinnie at the top of the Oriental Pearl
    Patrick at the top of the Oriental Pearl
    The view down on the Apple Store under the IFC Mall from the top of the Oriental Pearl
    Unfortunately it was approaching 10pm when we descended, so we had no other option but to head back to our side of the city due to the public transport shutting down around 10:30. We took in a walk along the Nanjing Road before freshening up at the apartment for a few drinks at the Cool Docks area. Like home, all pubs/clubs shut around 2am.

    Thursday 15 September 2011

    Day Nine – Exploring Shanghai

    Our first full day in Shanghai, and boy was it warm, around 36 degrees. Our hotel/apartment is located right in the heart of everything, so very handy. We were very tired walking around due to the heat! We took in the peoples park first before an exploration of the French Concession Area.
    Peoples Park area of Shanghai
    Patrick in The Peoples Park
    Vinnie in The Peoples Park
    Shanghai is a city of amazing buildings likes this Radisson Hotel!
    Locals playing games in the park
    The buildings in this area are very European in styling. We wandered around to an area called Xintiandi which is a pedestrian only shopping area made up of re-build tenement style houses.

    After a lot more walking we found our way to a rather impressive vegetarian mock-meat restaurant called Godly. Vinnie and I were treated to traditional Chinese food including spring chicken and shredded pork, all meat free! It was amazing. We left there stuffed to take a bus tour of the city.
    Lots of Western Labels here in China, moreso than South Korea
    Another Sky Scraper in Shanghai, 1 of 3000.....
    An Apple Store at what Vinnie and I called Shibuya crossing due to the pattern of the zebra crossings
    Another beautiful building. There are so many here.
    It gets dark here around 5pm, so we thought an open-top bus tour would be best taken a night. The bus operates over two lines, with your €3 ticket covering both over a 24 hour period. We took one route this evening and plan on taking the second tomorrow.
    Vinnie and I at the Xintiandi shopping area
    Marriott gets some attention!
    Incredible top to this building!
    After the bus tour, we ventured around the crazy Nanjing area where 1000’s of people milled about. It’s a very futuristic shopping area, in fact 1.2km long with skyscrapers and bright lights fighting to grab your attention. The only downside to this area and most tourist areas in Shanghai are the touts trying to flog their wears. We’ve learned the best way to deal with them is to just ignore. Trying to engage is useless. They don’t speak English so they see any contact as you showing interest. It is hard at first, but ignoring works. It’s also fun talking in another language other then English, as they totally get confused and walk away quicker. Vinnie and I just short doing rounds of the Hail Mary in Irish if required.
    27 degrees at night!
    Just after our Sightseeing tour. Notice the brand, it's a copy of the Sightseeing company in other countries!
    The Nanjing Shopping Street at Night
    We stumbled across a night time parade and an outdoor dance/light show by Canon to grab peoples attention. It’s all very commercial. All very futuristic!
    A night time parade of advertising, this one for Air China
    The very impressive Canon Stage, where dancers came out and danced in each window. This was set up on the Nanjing Shopping Street.
    All stores close at 10pm sharp. It’s mental, when they say ten, they mean it. They start the shutting down before, so at 10pm, like a line of ants, all the workers march out and rush home. It’s like rush hour only at the end of the night as the last trains and subways leave at 10:30pm. The city is closed for business. We can’t understand this; Shanghai is rather cosmopolitan city, yet everything closes early. Weird!