Day 7. Beijing - Shanghai. Friday 26th Oct.
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Note: Today was a travel and non-work day. It consisted of a trip from Beijing to Shanghai with some free-time in Shanghai. There was no solar company to meet. It was also the birthday of my Brother Wayne who died in 2003. So forgive me if this day is a little more… reflective.
I woke up with a start at 8am. I had a fast train to catch at Beijing’s South Station at 10am! So checked out, rushed into a taxi to the high speed station and after asking for help EVERYWHERE was at the correct gate at 9.30am. And yes I was hungover (but happy).
The trip itself was pretty unremarkable - if you call going 300km/h on a very smooth train across China unremarkable. It was awesome! Most of the views from the train were near-zero because of incredibly thick pollution. As thick as an airport-disabling fog. So I didn't see much. Another thing about this train was that it was not unusual. We went past large rail yards with many more either loading or unloading people. High-speed rail really is an everyday activity in China, and the people using it are all types of Chinese, not just the rich (or western tourists who were actually few and far between).
I wrote. I slept. I walked to the cafe carriage. I took photos. I slept. I "talked" to non-English speaking passengers. We arrived at 3pm - precisely on schedule.
Like Beijing my start to Shanghai was less than perfect. I had accommodation to book but the online booking website Agoda that I depended on decided that my handy little notebook PC did not have a current enough web browser to work anymore, so it.... didn't.
I looked for help and found it from Jessica, an English speaking recently graduated architect from Nanjing who was in Shanghai to apply for a job with a subway design firm (But her real goal was to just get some commercial experience so that she could qualify for and earn enough money to do her masters at Melbourne Uni). We tried in vain to get a booking but in the end gave up and I had to try one of the very dodgy looking booking agencies at the station. And did get a hotel - but it was overpriced for the quality and location (AUD$42). Such is life...
Onto the Shanghai subway. By now I was really starting to feel crook again. I noticed my white "I Care About Renewable Energy" t-shirt was a little less than white and I felt like a real slob against many of the sharply dressed locals on their way home from work or to see friends in Shanghai for the weekend.
I put my MP3 player onto “Shine on you crazy diamond” by Pink Floyd which I’d promised my brother Wayne at his grave site that I’d play for him on his birthday once I got to Shanghai. I played it loud enough to drown out the subway noise. It was audibly and visually perfect and he would have loved it.
Forty minutes later my station had arrived and it was out into the endless city where I was lost in an instant. Seriously I had no idea where the hotel was so started asking a few people, none of which understood English which I was more than happy with. So after some charades and wild gesturing the hotel was found. It was as dingy and overpriced as expected but that was fine. I checked in and then headed back out into the Shanghai night.
With no plans of what to do in Shanghai the Bund sounded like a good place to start and see what would happen. I ended up stopping for a meal at a street food area with many vendors selling all kinds of things. As I was deciding a man with a thick European accent called out "Yes that one! It is veeery good!” I looked over with a wave to see some people gesturing me to come over. It was Jean-Louie the Frenchman who'd called out and his Chinese friends Charles and Gi. I ended up sitting with them for over an hour, drinking 600ml AUD$1.10 bottles of good local beer - which was poured into four little plastic cups. The food wasn't as good as the beer. I think we agreed to have just "one more beer" at least ten times!
After we finally did finish, Jean-Louie asked what I wanted to do. I said find a live music venue that had a rock band or something like that. He didn't know one so asked around. No one knew. Jean-Louie then took me to see some of the incredible main sights of Shanghai while asking people for me in Chinese if they knew of a “Rock Bar”. He was great, and at 10pm we had success - a district with lots of bands. Jean-Louie didn't want to come so we said our goodbyes and I headed off.
It was much different than expected - as China usually is. A very polished new area with older western tourists eating dinner in quite expensive restaurants. The live music ended up being mostly Filipino cover bands doing either Jazz or Soft Chinese Pop songs. Not really my thing. But I went into one anyway and started to make conversations with anyone sitting on their own. The bar I was in had a band of two female singers, a lead guitarist, keyboard player, and a drum/bass machine. They were pretty good and were playing Beyonce hits while people sat around drinking and talking. Ian & Adrian from England were both back in China on a regular business trip and we talked about what life in Shanghai was like. In a word - Fast.
Anyway it ended up being a great night as the band when into LMFAO style music, then into alt and finally hard rock. By the end of the night the whole place was jumping (which I was happy to take part in). I seriously didn't drink anything but water the whole time. There were some very big Brazilians there who were pretty intimidating at first during the metal songs - but they were okay. My Southern Hemisphere Brothers! Apparently I'm invited to Carnival next year.
I left slightly early to get a taxi before the mad rush, and managed to get back to my hotel at 2.30am.
Day 8. Shanghai-Zhangjiagang. Sat 27th Oct. >>