Friday, December 22, 2017

Shanghai, China - November 2017


All Pictures and Video are at the bottom!

After spending 21 days in Japan we were excited to make our first visit to China.

Entering the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) - we will be staying in Shanghai for under 144 hours.
Our plan is to take advantage of the 144 transit visa program. Normally a United States citizen must get a tourist visa before entering China for a pleasure trip. The tourist visa is good for ten years. In hindsight that is what we should have done. A few cities in China have this special 144-hour transit visa.

The rules are simple:
Stay less than 144 hours
Do not leave the city you are transiting through. In our case Shanghai.
Fly in from one country and out to another.

We will be arriving from Japan at 3:30 PM on Thursday and departing to Finland at 10:05 AM on Tuesday. Let us count the hours.
Friday 3:30 PM - 24 Hours
Saturday 3:30 PM - 24 Hours
Sunday 3:30 PM - 24 Hours
Monday 3:30 PM - 24 Hours
Tuesday 3:30 AM - 12 Hours
Tuesday 10:05 AM - 6 Hours 35 minutes

Total 114 Hours 35 minutes. We have 35 hours to spare.
We are good to go our stay will be less than 144 hours and we fly in from Japan and out to the Finland.

To fly from Japan we pick China Eastern Air. We arrived early to ensure a stress-free process. After three different China Eastern Air ticket folks counted on their fingers and toes the amount of time we
are scheduled to be in Shanghai, they gave us our boarding passes.

Besides being delayed by 2 Hours China Eastern Air was a delight to fly. We even were served a hot meal on a one and a half hour flight.

The Shanghai Airport is very modern. We were told to look for the 144-hour transit line once we got to the immigration hall. Perfect, the one line with only one person in it. All the other lines were packed with travelers. Before getting in line we were told to fill out immigration cards.

When we entered the very short queue the immigration person started barking orders at us. Telling us to give her our paperwork, letting us know we filled out the wrong forms. She gave us new forms to fill out and told us to go sit in the corner and wait for her to return. She then left with our paperwork and the person that had been in line in front of us. Welcome to China!

As other travelers showed up, an immigration officer would show up take the travelers paperwork and then tell the traveler to sit by us. After 30-40 minutes the original immigration officer person returned and called us up. She was very pleasant even calling me charming, and a stud-muffin. She explained she called our airline to validate all our flights. She also explained that there was a 2,000 yen penalty for not registering where we are staying or if we overstayed your 144 hours.

Besides our trip to Cuba  I never worried about traveling without money. I have always hit an ATM once I arrived at the airport. Our first order of business was buying a SIM card for our phone. The PRC controls everything, in order to get on the internet you need a cell phone number that you can receive a validating text. No problem with getting
a SIM card. As you leave immigration there is a person at a desk that sells SIM cards. The price about ten times the going price if you were not at an airport. Fifty dollars later we had a five dollar SIM card. We could now contact the outside world or at least we thoughts we could.

Next on the to-do list, get some Chinese cash. The first ATM, no luck. I got a quick education in Chinese ATM’s. There are local ATMs that only work with ATM cards from local banks, and there are international ATM’s that connect with banks all over the world. I finally found an international ATM. Guess what, it had no power.

No problem there was this nice lady just sitting there waiting to help. I am highly confident she is the one that pulled the power on this ATM machine. Our original plan was to take a subway to the hotel Margarite and I would be staying at. Grandma Molasses had arranged for a car to then pick us up at the hotel and take us to meet her for Thanksgiving dinner. The cost of the subway for three people about $5.00.

This very nice lady was willing to help us get to our hotel, she would even take U.S. dollars. She knew we had no Chinese yen so the subway was out of the question. For $50.00 U.S. Dollars she would get us a ride to the hotel. Yep, ten times what we had planned to spend. Are you starting to see a theme here? What should be X is actually ten times X.

Between the flight delay and other issues. It was now more than three hours past when we thought we would be leaving the airport. We texted Grandma Molasses and let her know we did not think we could make Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Grandma Molasses said no worries she would bring Thanksgiving dinner to us. On our drive from the
airport to the hotel, we kept talking about when Hot Spot would show up. Princess Finnegan kept getting a guilty smirk on her face. Finally, we convinced Princess Finnegan to fess up. She let us know Hot Spot was her older brother. He was concerned with her traveling alone so follow us and check up on her every few days. She said he hates China more than he likes her so she did not think he would be showing up anytime soon. That answered our question of who this Hot Spot guy is an how he always knew where we were.

We are staying at the Hyatt Global Harbor. We normally try to stay at local boutique hotels but in this case, we were going for ease and simplicity. The Hyatt is just minutes from Grandma Molasses’s apartment.

Tomorrow we have a big day so off to bed, we went. Grandma Molasses offers to let Princess Finnegan stay with her which Princess Finnegan quickly took her up on. Somehow the Princess always has things go her way.

Day 1 - Shanghai

This morning we are taking the subway to Thamestown. The subway is very easy to use. A computer screen shows all the stops you simply pick your stop and the fare shows, deposit your money and out comes your ticket. Thamestown is a small town created to mimic an English town on the Thames River. It was built by a Chinese developer before the Housing crash of 2007-2008.

Thamestown - There are few places in this world that will make you scratch your head and doubt the entire premise of your existence, but Thamestown is one of them. A semi-ghost city designed entirely to look and feel like a British town, Thamestown boasts that Insta-worthy trifecta of a cathedral, neatly trimmed bushes, and Chinese couples on their wedding shoots. To this day there are very few people living in Thamestown it was like walking through an English ghost town. The few shops that were opened followed the Chinese pricing model X times 10. Even items like a bottle of water.

We took a taxi to and from the subway. Taxis actually have a different pricing model. The price of a
normal taxi divided by 10. What a great deal.

Our next stop Qibac which is a small water town outside of Shanghai. We walked around Qibac it was like a small Venice, Italy. The town was crisscrossed with small canals and footbridges.

Next stop the Muslim Market. Grandma Molasses is a great tour guide she takes all the pressure off of figuring how to get from one place to the other. The Muslim Market is an outdoor market that is only open on Fridays. They sell all type of products, but most of the vendors are selling traditional Muslim food. It was a great mix of both the Chinese and Muslim culture. We bought food from several vendors and had a delicious lunch.

After the market, we visited the Huxi Mosque which was just around the corner from the Muslim Market. The largest Mosque in Shanghai. It must have been some kind of holiday or a special event as the Mosque was very crowded with worshipers. We did not want to disturbed anybody so we did a quick walkthrough.

We had not seen many beggars in Shanghai but outside the Mosque there were maybe a dozen disabled folks begging in the streets.

From the Mosque we walked through the French Concession to the Propaganda Museum. The Shanghai French Concession was a foreign concession in Shanghai, China from 1849 until 1943, which progressively expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The concession came to an end in 1943 when the Vichy French government signed it over to the pro-Japanese puppet government in Nanking. For much of the 20th century, the area covered by the former French
Concession remained the premier residential and retail district of Shanghai and was also one of the centers of Catholicism in China. Despite re-development over the last few decades, the area retains a distinct character and is a popular tourist destination.

The Propaganda Poster Art Centre is a museum located in Shanghai which exhibits posters from the Maoist period of communist China, especially from the Cultural Revolution period. Unfortunately, we could not take pictures, but it was interesting how they used, posters, comics, and art to spread their propaganda.

It had been a long day, we have an early wake-up call the next morning, off to bed we go.

Day 2 - Shanghai

Today we are doing a bike tour called Wake Up Shanghai.

Here is the description of the ride. "Leaving at 6:30 in the morning, Wheely Bike Tours takes you to one of Shanghai’s parks to see the city waking up in the traditional way. In the park, you’ll see people practicing different kinds of T’ai Chi, flying their kites, ‘walking’ their birds and brushing up on their dance routines. It’s a great sight to take in – it’ll almost make you forget it’s really early! From there, we’ll go on to the Old Town for a local breakfast and a taste of Chinese tea, as well as a look around the traditional neighborhoods. After that, we’ll visit the insect market to find out more about another favorite pastime of the retired Shanghainese. All in all, this tour gives you a taste of the real Shanghai – definitely a side of the city you haven’t seen before!"



Our guide Martin has a degree in economics and did some of his studies in England. While the description of the tour is brief, Martin added sites that he thought we would enjoy. He even took us to a local vendor for Breakfast and a traditional tea serving in the late morning. One of the sites we
asked to see is the local marriage market.

On the weekends, People's Park becomes a maze of personal advertisements. Sheets of paper stating physical features, salary, education and car/property ownership, are taped to umbrellas for easy display. Most of the advertised individuals are nowhere in sight, but parents and grandparents peruse the listings, chatting up other passers-by in hopes of finding a match for their unmarried offspring.

The bike tour was over 5 hours in length, starting at 6:30 am and ending close to noon. We even visited the insect market where you can buy crickets to enter into a competition.

For the afternoon we wondered Shanghai visiting the fabric market where you can have a custom suit made while you wait. Have a favorite pair of pants that you can no longer find. Bring it here and they will make you an exact copy. Margarite bought some silk for a price about 50% of the cost elsewhere.

We also visited the commodities markets, several floors like the fabric markets with tons of stuff you would never need. Dinner was at the Lotus Eatery which is not too far from Grandma Molasses’s apartment. It was great traditional Chinese food from a region not to far from Tibet.

Day 3 - Shanghai

Today we hired a private driver to take us to Shuzhou a larger water town than Qibac, an hour outside of Shanghai. The cost for the driver 1,800 yen for a full day 12 Hours. He had a very nice minivan it
was luxury travel. Our first stop the Humble Administration Garden is the largest of Suzhou’s gardens, originally built to serve as a private garden by an Imperial Envoy in 1509. With a large lily pond at its center, as well as a bonsai garden and lots of beautiful pavilions and bridges dotted throughout.

It was a nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. The gardens were very nice but being Autumn there were not a lot of flowers. The bonsai trees were very interesting or as Princess Finnegan calls them the small trees.

Being a water town Shuzhou has many canals. To get a different perspective we hired a small boat to paddle us around the canals. The paddler even sang like a gondolier in Venice would. The Main Street in Shuzhou was lined with many shops geared toward tourist. We moved a few blocks off the Main Street to some less traveled roads. We found a great place for lunch.

There were no menus, the place was packed, all locals. They put us in a back room with a family of 9. We never ordered, they just started bringing us food. Each dish was perfect. We thought the food would never stop coming. Finally, as we thought our bellies would burst they let us know we had finished. The total coast 120 yen about $20.00 USD for four people.



After lunch, we walked toward Lion Grove Gardens The Main attraction is a several story rock maze. We found the maze was very easy to get lost in. Some say the rocks look like lions so that is where the name comes from.

On our first day we saw the small water town of Qibac, today we saw the large water town of
Suzhou. Grandma Molasses suggested we visit a medium size water town that was not that much out of our way on our drive back to Shanghai. We stopped at Jinxi Ancient Town about 40 minutes from Suzhou. What a great town much less touristy than Suzhou, we felt like we got a better feel for what life is really like in a water town.

We had dinner at a very nice Italian Restaurant, Mercato on the Bund. The Bund is a waterfront area in central Shanghai. The area centers on a section of Zhongshan Road (East-1 Zhongshan Road) within the former Shanghai International Settlement, which runs along the western bank of the Huangpu River in the eastern part of Huangpu District. The area along the river faces the modern skyscrapers of Lujiazui in the Pudong District. The Bund usually refers to the buildings and wharfs on this section of the road, as well as some adjacent areas. It is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Shanghai. Before dinner, we walked on the Bund and took pictures of the lit up cityscape.

Day 4 - Teaching in Shanghai

Today is our last day in Shanghai. Grandma Molasses has to teach school today. Grandma Molasses is a first-grade school teaches in Shanghai. We invited ourselves along. Grandma Molasses said that was fine but we had to teach a class. We chose social studies and the topic was “American Thanksgiving”. The highlight of the class was the kids meeting a real princess.

We are off the parts unknown. The questions to ponder. Will we ever see Hot Spot again? When of will we get rid of Princess Finnegan?

Cheers,

DUG


Pictures
Shanghai China Nov 2017

Video