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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Shanghai - Day 2

Day two was another scorcher. I set off fairly early to YuYuan Gardens, located just a few blocks West of the hostel. Dating back to the 1600s, these Ming Dynasty gardens contain over 30 halls and pavilions, as well as a huge rockery that forms a labyrinth of tunnels and caves. It was whilst sitting in one of the many mini-courtyards that I suddenly heard my name being called - it was one of my Japanese friends from the boat! Turned out that there was a whole crowd of them there, all almost as delighted to see me as I was them. For the remainder of my time in the gardens I could relax in an environment within which I was happy - speaking Japanese, knowing instinctively how to relate to those around me. It was then that I enjoyed my second tea ceremony (see, just thinking about them leads me to adopt Japanese styles of speech!), this one was free, and unlike last time I managed to leave without a little pottery pig that did a wee when hot water was poured on it...

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

This image is a crop of a photo I took within YuYuan Gardens. This woman deliberately waited until I was about to press the shutter before sticking her finger up her nose!

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

Leaving the gardens I strolled around the mightily impressive recreation of a Ming Dynasty shopping mall, complete with Ye Oldey Ancienty Starbucks.

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In the afternoon, following a visit to the local market (I think they had at least one of everything Made In China there!) I decided to visit the new financial sector, with its 88-storey Jinmao Tower, and the soon-to-be complete 91 storey World Financial Centre. You may have heard of the latter, as just a few days ago a fire broke out inside it, the superficial effects of which were clear to see.

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In order to get a clear idea of the extent to which Shanghai is changing, I decided to cough up the 60 yuen (£4) entrance fee and take the 9-metre-per-second Mitsubishi elevator the top. That was pretty impressive, catapulting us to the viewing platform on the top floor in no time. I must say, it was well worth the entrance fee. The view was absolutely spectacular. One of the most impressive things was the surrounding skyscrapers - they looked like little midgets from our top floor platform. It was like flying!

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

From our vantage point, we could also clearly see the construction workers on the very top of the Financial Centre. OK, so they did have safety harnesses on, but none the less, just watching them go about their jobs made me feel weak at the knees.

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

Click here for my Trans-siberian web gallery

Another impressive sight from up there was that down the centre of the building to the hotel lobby 30 floors below. It made me think of the Matrix, or the big assembly hall in Star Wars.

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After all that sightseeing, I finally felt like it was time for home. Thus it was with a sense of fulfilment that I returned to the hostel, and began to write.

That evening, a new guest checked into our 4-person dorm. I picked up on his accent immediately - he was Japanese. We were both happy to find someone who spoke our language: I wasn't the only one feeling somewhat shocked by the full-on nature of the Westerners that filled the place!

A couple of beers and a lot of chat later, it was time for bed. My two days in Shanghai had come to an end, and I had to be up early in the morning for an all-day trip to Beijing.

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