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China (Shanghai)

An eel meal.

overcast 10 °C

After two nights in transit (overnight train in upright seats from Ljubljana to Zurich, overnight flight from Zurich to Shanghai) we arrived in Shanghai very stinky and almost comatose from lack of sleep and serious head colds.

We took the MAGLEV (one of the fastest trains in the world which operates by magnetic levitation) from the airport to the outskirts of the city at a very tidy 431km/hour. The cars on the parallel freeway looked like they were going backwards and the whole trip took only eight minutes. After a bit of confusion at the metro station over trains not running, we eventually made it to our hostel and got into beds we didn't get out of again for two days.

The Maglev's speedo at 430km/hour

We'd been really looking forward to getting back to Asia. We love the food, the smells and generally just the feel of Asian countries and we weren't disappointed when we finally woke up to look out our window and find a woman cooking noodles on a street stall. We woke up to the smell of her cooking every morning for six days.

Mmmmm, street stir-fry

On eventually leaving our hostel, we wandered along the Bund (Shanghai's riverside) and watched the hundreds of barges and cruise boats go by and then strolled through the neon madness that is Shanghai's Nanjing Road. We fobbed off countless entrepeneurs keen to sell us knock-off watches and skate shoes, determined to do our own bargaining in Shanghai's clothing markets.

Ad boats on the Bund

Neon on Nanjing

Our shopping mission started out with a research trip to a few big-name department stores to find that the prices were all very western and that the best bargains would be found in local markets. Glenn made an absolute killing at the Shanghai Motorcycle Market where he bought gloves, knee guards, elbow guards and body armor for well below retail cost in Australia. Bec wasn't quite so successful in her boot-buying mission coming away with only three pairs. We sent our first carton of Chinese acquisitions home three days after arriving in China.

Shanghai Motorcycle Market

Shanghai seems to have a bit of a reputation for being Beijing's poor cousin in terms of tourist attractions. This may be true, but we still enjoyed the very kitch (and again very neon) Bund Tourist Tunnel and an eye-popping performance by a group of Chinese acrobats.

More neon inside the Bund Tourist Tunnel

The food in Shanghai was excellent, though we seem to have lost some of our ability to eat with chopsticks. We often eat from street stalls so that we can point and order, rather than play the food lottery in restaurants with no English menus. Not all plans are foolproof, however. We went to a restaurant next door to the hostel which had a vague kind of English menu. We pointed at beef and chicken and then said 'noodles'. The waitress looked confused for a minute before holding her hands far apart to indicate something long. Yep, excellent, noodles thanks. Not so. What actually arrived was a big eel, chopped into bits (with the exception of its head which sat proudly staring at us through seared eyes atop the plate) and stirfried to death in oyster sauce and it took us about half an hour to pick the bones out of it with our chopsticks. Entertainment ++ for the locals. Naturally we were wondering how much our eel speciality was going to cost us.The whole meal cost us 55 yuan ($12) for three mains and a beer so we were thinking that we got the food poisoning fish (the fish sit in tubs of water out the front of the restaurants, this particular eel shared its water with a bunch of cane toads about to become Braised Bullfrog) rather than the super-expensive tourist fish and set about drinking copious quantities of preventative beer in keeping with the theory that alcohol on the skin kills bacteria, thus alcohol in the stomach will do likewise. We were naturally very grateful that we got a plate of eel and not a plate of stirfried snake or braised bullfrog.

Toads, fish and squid await their stir-frying in plastic tubs in front of restaurants

After a week in Shanghai, it was time to head for Beijing...........

Posted by TDL 23:10 Archived in China

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