Monday, 20 August 2012

Day 24 - Shanghai's Saturday surprise - August 18th

An early sunrise so we were awake fairly early but certainly not on deck for the 5:30am docking.  Wow!  Looking out of our starboard/dock side we saw an immaculate park with a fancy foot-bridge and several very modern buildings and a clear sky.  This we did not expect.  Heading up to the buffet, the view across the river to the financial district was better still, with the futuristic towers, right across from where we were berthed.

We were booked on an 8:45am city tour with “easy walking”.  That is ship speak for “loads of mobility challenged; width challenged; fitness challenged passenger son each and every coach.  By the end of the tour, several fit and able passengers were losing their patience with the inconvenience some of them cause.  One such specimen occupied two seats on the coach; sat half way down and insisted on getting up and slowing all the other passengers behind her, as she waddled up the coach, struggled down the steps, then blocked the door as the driver had to scoot round to unload her walker from the luggage compartment.   Our ten minute stops often got shrunk to nearer 6 minutes for those seated further back.

Suggestion to Princess: Allocate 1 specific coach on each tour for these people, instead of inconveniencing everyone else on each coach.  If they are overall slower and have to miss out on a couple of photo stops, or their tour takes 30 minutes longer, who cares?  They too have to expect that tourist coaches in these countries are not built the same as local transport in NZ & Australia with kerb level floors.  They are indeed tourist coaches that need to be higher to accommodate the luggage – and wheelie walkers – so steps are inevitable but some passengers insist on moaning about them.  For many of them, not piling their plates at the buffet or adding extra pork crackling might help.

After the first photo shop at the futuristic rocket ship (this may be the Post office tower), where there were at least 30 coaches, our next door neighbour Alastair tried out his new wide angle lens, as we headed for the Jin Mao tower, 88 storeys (not stories Princess!) high.  Here, there was an escalator down to the lifts and a bit of a queue for the lifts up to the observation platform.  The lifts featured a picture mosaic in mirror glass but with an orange light showing the progress.  At 9m per second, one or two people experienced the old ear problems, but once up there, it was just fantastic.  Alighting from the lift, our first view was across the river where we could see the ship. For those not too good on heights, you know, those who get dizzy licking airmail stamps, this was no problem at all and well worth the view.  (The cost was included in the tour.)

We even did a bit of shopping up there - 2 Magnum ice creams and they cost us $2 each – with change in local currency for the $5 note offered.  We may present these Chinese notes back in Auckland at our favourite local cafe, where the owner is Chinese...  Paula also bought a nice glass ornament of the futuristic post office tower - and it came with a free coffee mug.  For future visitors, don’t forget to go to the centre and look down the inside.  A note of caution too. Despite the thousands going up the tower, there are only a couple of toilets at the top.

Our guide was more than a bit disorganised on this trip as meeting places weren’t specified, so several were in the wrong place again to get down to ground level and others made their own way.

Outside there were a couple of very persistent hawkers and one was flying an impressively long string of pennants.  One lady dug deep but then found out that the string wasn’t included.  Once on the coach, she unwrapped the package to find just three pennants and the hawker was tying several together for his display.  He saw her disappointed face on the coach and gave her a big grin (for free).  Another tourist suckered.

The coach then headed into the older part of Shanghai where it was interesting to see washing lines strung out between lamp posts at street level! Most on the coach were quite positive that they wouldn’t be hanging their smalls (or bigs in many cases) at street level.  

We stopped at Central Square for a photo-stop, but some passengers obviously didn’t take note of the return to bus time and a couple of others were obviously suffering from the heat. The sound system on this bus wasn’t too good - and I still don’t know the name of our guide.

The last stop was only a few minutes from the ship so several passengers elected to make their own way back.  This was the Bund.  A pleasant walkway along the river but it was far too hot for us to venture far, so we were back in the comfort of the air-conditioned coach, well before the 30 minutes allowed.  We were back at the ship at 2:15, but one elderly chap was a bit sick on the coach and didn’t look too well when we got off.

Back on board, once again, we attacked the buffet and Paula was quite tired. (Not from attacking the buffet, but from the heat.)  After a nana nap (both of us) we were ready for M & M calling at 6:30, but Paula didn’t feel up to eating, so stayed in the cabin.

As darkness descended, this Saturday night on the water really came alive, as there was a constant procession of LED lit up pleasure craft going out past us, then back again about 20 minutes later.  Some of the lights constantly changed colour, as did the lights on several buildings.  The waterfront was brilliantly lit and sorry Hong Kong, but Shanghai knocked you into a cocked hat with this one.  The view was just stunning.  It was so good that I dragged Paula back out of the cabin to the rear deck for the 8pm sailaway, as I knew she would not be pleased at missing it.

We were a bit late leaving but the ship had to be towed into mid stream, then almost 1km, backwards, before the river was wide enough for it to turn 180 to head back out again.  Once under the bridge, Paula returned to the cabin and I went to banjo player Jim Coston’s second show.  Sadly, not a huge crowd in the vista but this is normal after a heavy port day.  Those who did make the effort were treated to another superb show.

Back to the cabin afterwards and bed a bit early. Two days at sea now to look forward to and we also expect the weather to start to get a bit cooler, especially at night, though  it is still about 30 degrees during the day.

Although we didn’t really do any shopping as such in Shanghai, the wide clean streets and well manicured greenery were a surprise, but there again, most of Shanghai is a modern city.  The bonus of a great spot on the river and the Saturday night river traffic made this a very pleasant stop indeed.  Hopefully, the memories of the mobility challenged will soon fade, though I couldn’t resist that pic...  of Alastair taking a video of course.   


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