A Travellerspoint blog

Yes Shanghai IS a long way for dumplings!

By Sara

As a lover of skylines, I had been waiting to see the Shanghai skyline for years! And it did not disappoint! I'd go as fas as saying it gives the famous NYC skyline a run for its money! Wow just Wow! As I stood there on the Bund, with my jaw nearly hitting the pavement, looking up at the famous Shanghai TV tower, in the dark misty sky, with the future in front of me, I thought anything is possible!

For me, looking at a skyline like this is like looking at a piece of great art to other people, I feel emotion when I look at such awe inspiring greatness. I feel a sense of excitement, thankfulness and optimism. I could sit there for hours and just look. And contemplate.

We found a great spot to enjoy the skyline. On the 83rd floor of a skyscraper with an un obstructed view of the TV tower. We blew our budget on the most fabulous cocktail - brandy, hazelnut and Lemon. Well worth it I'd say.


Now, you may be wondering where the title of our blog comes from. This is all about Shanghai and the Shanghai soup dumpling. I first found out about the Shanghai soup dumpling when I lived and worked in NYC about 7 years ago. A Japanese friend of mine, Tsomo, took me to Joe's Shanghai restaurant in China town for these famous dumplings. Well I just fell in love! With these little dumplings of joy! Joes Shanghai soon turned into a regular eatery for me during my time in NYC. But then, as all good things must come to an end, my visa expired and I had to leave NY and my dumplings. I moved to London and searched and searched for these little dumplings of joy. I had no luck, London either didn't do them or couldn't do them. Therefore there was no other option but to go to Shanghai for the real thing (Jon wouldn't let me go to NYC AGAIN!!) The years went by while I banged on about these dumplings but I never made it to Shanghai. Now I am here, in Shanghai and have been reunited with my dumplings and man are they worth coming this long way for! So there you go, now you know the story behind the title. It's all about my search for the perfect dumpling! And yes, it was worth it!

Apart from the skyline and the dumplings there isn't a huge amount to do in Shanghai so one night I decided to spend an evening in the hostel bar while Jon wrote in his room. I thought, if I went to the bar I might get the chance to chat to some interesting people. Well, I was in the bar all of about one minute before I got invited to play some crazy Chinese game with 4 very charming Chinese men. I was playing this game for 3 hours and I still don't really understand the rules! How on earth did I win I wonder! :-). It's like half dominos, half cards. They are chunky dominos but have the style of cards on them and you win by getting sets or something. Oh who am I kidding, I have absolutely no idea! Ha ha. Anyway it was really enjoyable spending the evening with this group. And they were very courteous speaking mostly in English.

We have 1 more night in Shanghai and then we are off to Hangzhou. I wonder what that has in store for us.....

Posted by JonAndSara 21:10 Archived in China Tagged skyline shanghai soup_dumplings Comments (0)

It takes a while to get your head around China!

By Sara

Hello lovely Readers,

As you know, from my previous blog, I was a bit unsure about China and finding it quite hard to take. I think this was mostly to do with the fact I had a horrible cold, I was tired and China tried to make me eat wiggly things!!!

Now that some time has passed and I'm over my cold I have seen that China isn't all that bad. Thank goodness!! As we have 3 weeks here!

Even though the people still don't smile back at you when you smile at them, they are actually really nice and helpful and very funny! I will touch a bit on a few of the characters we have had the opportunity to meet. There was the 2 young brothers, pin and Montan, who worked in their family hostel. I loved them! They were like a comedy duo! They were very helpful and spoke great English. They helped me buy train tickets, do washing, find places to eat, book tours and all the time they were doing all this, they were brotherly bickering the whole way through. It was hilarious! lll never forget the 2 Chinese Bros! And then there was the lovely sisters in our sleeper cabin on the train to Shanghai, so sweet. The one girl who could speak a bit of English was teaching me a bit of Chinese, she also spent a lot of time writing places I could find soup dumplings in my note book. Bless her, she was lovely. Then in Shanghai we (surprise surprise) got lost again! In the rain! So we went into a hotel to get directions, which is where we met Jack, a fabulous English speaking Chinese student. He was so good to us, he went out of his way (missed his taxi) to walk us all the way to our hotel. He invited us to meet him again another time, so we will try and do that I think as he was such a sweetie.
This just shows that actually, when you take the time to stop and speak to the Chinese, it is well worth it.

So that is one complaint smashed, the People are nice! Second complaint was the food. Well that is also smashed!!

We found this place that does the best crispy duck and pancakes!! Called Dodong restaurant and it was amazing!! I have never tasted duck like it! Wow! They cooked them in what look like pizza ovens and then they carve it at your table. It was quite a pricy restaurant so we just had duck and pancakes and a soft drink, but well worth it! Our other meals have been costing about a fiver for both of us with beer so that has been great. We have been trying to stay away from the tourist areas so we can get the most authentic food at the best price which has worked out pretty well apart from the one time that there was no English menu at all so I just got up, and took the waitress around all the other tables and pointed at what I wanted. It was a great way of ordering and also having a laugh with the other diners.

I'll just finish off talking a little bit about a couple if experiences in Beijing.
We went to an acrobatics show and oh my god it was out if this world! It makes cirque de solei look like child's play! They managed to fit 8 motor cycles going about 60 mph in a large metal ball and also a man with another man on top of him jumping up and down high steps using only one hand!
And then there was the Great Wall of China and my goodness it is a Great Wall!! I'd describe it to be half wall, half massive long castle. It was spectacular and so pleased I went to see it as I was just thinking, it's only a wall - boring! How wrong was I! Once we made it huffing and puffing up the million billion steps, the view was to die for. All you could see for miles was this spectacular man mad wonder amongst the awe inspiring mountains. I just sat there for a bit and appreciated where I was.

So in conclusion, China isn't so bad after all.

Posted by JonAndSara 21:01 Archived in China Comments (0)

Tiananmen Square & The Great Wall of China

By Jon

The only thing I knew about Tiananmen Square before I came to Beijing was that it was the focal point of the pro-democracy protests in 1989 when several hundred protesters were killed by the military. From those protests the world viewed the iconic scene of a protester standing in front of a tank, refusing to move.

Now I’ve visited Tiananmen Square, the second thing I know about the place is this - it’s fairly uninteresting. I now believe the army made a huge mistake in 1989, if they’d just waited a few hours the protesters would have got bored and gone home. In fact I think the protester standing in front of the tank probably wanted to get run over just to end the dreariness of the place.

Don’t get me wrong, if there’s anything to be said about Tiananmen Square it’s that it’s big. If you like big, mainly empty squares (well rectangles) then this is the place for you because if it has one thing going for it, it’s the size of it (440,000m²). There are also a couple of things of note in and around the square, most notably Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum, which goes to show what a forgiving race the Chinese people are, I mean, providing such a memorial to someone who contributed to the deaths of 40-70 million of his own people through starvation, forced labour and executions, ranking his tenure as the top incidence of democide in human history shows an incredible level of tolerance.

It’s like they’ve thought, well killing a few people is plainly wrong, but killing 40-70 million, well, wow, that’s impressive, that shows dedication, he must have got up very early in the morning to get all that done, let’s build him a huge shrine.

They couldn’t even work out how many people died under his rule, there’s a difference of 30 million deaths between estimates, that’s how impressive his figures are! Mathematicians of the day couldn’t even keep count (and given they were Chinese they would be good with numbers), they tried to keep a tally of his killing sprees but meanwhile Mao would sneak off on their lunch break to slaughter another 20,000 or so citizens.

The Great Wall of China

If there’s anything to be said about the Great Wall of China it’s that it’s big. If you like big walls, then this is the place for you because if it has one thing going for it, it’s the size of it (13,170 miles long). Unlike Tiananmen Square though it’s pretty damn impressive (flattening out a big square is easy compared to building 13,170 miles of wall, that’s some pretty serious man hours required, I wonder if they used Poles and Romanians like we do in the UK).

If you plan to go there though be aware of the number of steps – they’re everywhere along the wall, and not even at regular sizes, some are shallow while some are as high as your knee and so steep you have to crawl up them, in fact part of the entertainment is watching other tourists climbing up the steps, dripping with sweat, puffing for breath and cursing the damn wall. (Perhaps Romanians are no good at installing escalators). To make up for this the Chinese have added a fun toboggan slide which can be ridden from the wall at Mutianyu all the way back down the mountain to the car park. Top tip: try to take the ride when there’s no one in the queue in front of you so you can race down the hill, otherwise, like us, you might get stuck behind an old woman who’s slower than a clock with no battery.

Myths about the Wall

1) It can’t actually be seen from space. Probably due to the amount of pollution coming from Beijing (in truth it’s just not big enough to be seen from space)
2) It wasn’t impenetrable. Because the wall was originally disjointed (it was built by Romanians!) attackers such as Genghis Khan just went round it.
3) It isn’t actually a wall. (Actually it is, I just felt I needed a third point).


Posted by JonAndSara 02:35 Archived in China Tagged china beijing great_wall tiananmen_square Comments (0)

I'm not eating that!!

By Sara

After sleeping rough in Beijing airport, 1 train, 2 rush hour tubes and a wild goose chase later, we finally made it to our hostel. We are knackered and I'm sure I'm coming down with a cold!! Not a great start to China but who said this was going to be easy? Oh yea, I did! Silly me!

We slept in the airport as we arrived at midnight and didn't want to try and find our hostel in the dark, so we waited for the first train of the day. I don't think we will be doing that again! I got about an hours sleep all in all. And Chinese people are noisy!!

Good job we decided to wait until daylight to find our hostel as the directions we had been given by the hostel were completely wrong and it took us a very grumpy hour long walk around back ally ways to find this damn place!! Although once we got here, the staff were very nice. They gave us a free breakfast and early check in to our 4 bed dorm. The dorm is clean and comfortable with en suite shower / toilet, so I think we will be fine here for the next 3 nights.

For our first meal in China we decided to hit the street market, I think we should of eased ourself into it rather than going straight for it, as it is completely and utterly shocking what was on offer!! I'm talking tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, wiggly bugs, centipedes, whole baby birds, and a load of other things I couldn't put a name to! (Did I accidentally end up on 'I'm a celebrity, get me of of here'?). Its safe to say, I didn't have the guts to try any thing!!! I ended up with a plate of noodles. I have a funny feeling I won't be eating much for the next 3 weeks. Silver lining? Best diet ever? Let's hope one good thing comes out of this and I loose a bit of weight! I really don't think I can bring myself to eat that stuff. Here are some photos of what was on offer.....


I think it's going to take me a little while to get used to China, it's very harsh here. One thing I've noticed is the people don't smile back at you when you smile at them. After Sri Lanka where everyone is super welcoming, it feels quite lonely here. Also the Chinese spit EVERYWHERE!! Including right by my foot on the subway!! Not cool!! Really not cool!

After all of the above, I was in need of saving! I spotted a GAP shop and headed straight for it. I did a bit of shopping and started to feel instantly better. It was nice being in a western environment for just half an hour, it did me the world of good! Although they only stock sizes S and XS!! Which is no good for me!! Luckily I managed to find what I think was the only size M T-shirt in the store!

It's all been a bit crazy today and pairing this with being super tired, it's been a hard day.

Hoping tomorrow will be better.

Posted by JonAndSara 00:54 Archived in China Comments (1)

Our Escape from Sri Lanka

By Jon

View Round the World Trip on JonAndSara's travel map.

When we booked our final hotel near Colombo airport we expected a nice, leisurely, uncomplicated journey to the airport in the morning to catch our flight to Beijing. Instead, we ended up fleeing an angry hotel manager, escaping in an unlicensed Tuk Tuk and fearing for our lives over unpaid hotel bills.

Today we learned a valuable lesson in our budgeting plans: if you book a place online, ensure the stated price includes tax and other extras! It came as quite a shock when the bill for our night’s stay came to over 1,000 Rupees more than we were expecting, especially as we only had enough spare cash left to cover a Tuk Tuk ride to the airport and a bite to eat in the departure lounge.

Several minutes of arguing and negotiating couldn’t reduce the price, with the manager threatening to detain our baggage if we didn’t pay in full. Eventually we decided to pay the overinflated price for the room but then the irate hotel worker didn’t have any change. Given our rush to catch our plane we decided we couldn’t wait so took some of our money back (leaving a slight underpayment) and made a break for it.

Making a break for it when you have 12Kg rucksacks on your back isn’t exactly the chase scene from the Blues Brothers, but fortunately the hotel staff didn’t follow us as we made the slowest getaway since George the tortoise escaped from the Blue Peter Garden.

As we slowly walked along the road in the direction of the airport we tried to flag down a Tuk Tuk as quickly as we could. Normally you can’t walk five metres in Sri Lanka without a taxi driver asking you where you’re going. Now, when we actually needed one, every single Tuk Tuk zooming past was already full.

Finally one stopped and we asked how much it would cost to the airport. “No charge”, he answered.

Really? That didn’t sound like a Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk driver. We asked again.

“No, no charge, not trading, not taxi.”

Hmm, was this guy just being nice or had he been hired by the hotel owner to pick us up? (Guess which one Sara panicked into thinking it was).

With the threat of the irate manager finally getting his arse out from behind the reception desk and chasing us down the road we decided to risk the Tuk Tuk.

While I try to keep faith in human nature and like to believe the best in people, Sara spent the whole journey worried that we were being abducted by the Sri Lankan mafia and that the hotel manager had arranged someone to beat us up and kill us for our 100 Rupee underpayment.

It turned out the driver wasn’t a member of the Sri Lankan mafia or a hired assassin, he was just a friendly local giving us a lift, and true to his word, he didn’t ask for any money.

Sara still believes that was the worst journey she has ever experienced, mind you, she says that after most journeys in this country. All I know is next time we’re going to check whether tax is included in our online bookings.


Posted by JonAndSara 07:29 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka Comments (0)

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