the 10-minute travelogue.

jan 2005


China rocked. Make no mistake about it. Around the 20th of January I was getting pretty excited. It was a return to a country I'd not visted in 4 years, and didn't really see much of the first time. The agenda this time, however, would be different. A lot of people might have gone when the weather was nice, had some sort of plan laid down - get in some culture. However, I was hitting the road with toucs. This was definitely going to be a drinking holiday.

Lufthansa Star Alliance 747

So - you learn these things by doing, and I got a seat right at back next to the toilets on the fine aircraft there. Mo's star alliance upgrade vouchers hadn't really worked out as planned and so needless to say I couldn't sleep whatsoever. I hate flying anyway, but what do you want for 340 quid?! I turned up at Shanghai Pu Dong airport (from Manchester via Frankfurt) rather tired, but good to his word, toucs showed. First major hurdle out of the way.

Toucs demonstrates the Shanghai Transrapid - a Magnetic Levitation Train

The first attraction to hit you in Shanghai is just round the corner. The wonder of the, and I really should use capitals, MAGNETIC LEVITATION TRAIN! This fantastic piece of er, German, engineering takes you from Pu Dong aiport to downtown Shanghai at a leisurely 431kph (236mph), and for a bargin price of about 50 yuan. You can't really see that it's floating - it doesn't have tracks to speak of, just a concrete 'road'. They've taken the terror of air travel, and put it in a railway, which is fun. Feels like it could fly off the tracks at any moment.

[Image: View from the Captains Youth Hostel

View from the Captains Youth Hostel
The Jinmao and Pearl Oriental towers are particularly cool

So we arrived in downtown Shanghai and toucs had already sorted out what can only be described as top-class accomodation. We'd be berthing in the 'Captain's Youth Hostel', right on the Bund. This place is well worth checking out if you're ever in Shanghai. It has a nautical theme - which means you get a 'sailor bunk', and all the staff are forced to wear full naval regalia. Hilarious. It's also about a fiver a night, and has a great, if pricey, bar on the roof. The view is advertised as 'the best on the bund', and they're probably not far short of the mark. Absolutely stunning.
The 15 hours flying and what have you were catching up with me at this point, but toucs rightly pointed out that the best way to overcome jetlag is to drink through it. So we set out in search of the finest nightlife Shanghai had to offer. After not finding it, we ended up in a pretty decent club that began with a P... maybe Paradox, or something, but not like the one in Liverpool. I had no idea where we were staying (in Chinese) or anything, so when I lost toucs around 4am it was a tad worrying. However I was pretty confident he'd be passed out somewhere close, so set about finding so friends with staying power.

[Image: Heather Tomasetti and 'Dave'

Heather Tomasetti / 'Dave'

These arrived in form of Heather Tomasetti and 'Dave', a couple of yanks who knew how to party. We finally managed to find toucs comatose on a sofa somewhere, and moved on to another club. Sadly, much to everyone's amazement, it was closed when we got there. It was about 5am though. So we got back to the Captains (no curfew here), and were pleased to find 24 hour service of Tsing Tao's and food, sat up till it got light, before hitting the sailor bunks.

I suspect some other stuff might have happened in Shanghai, along the lines of going up the world's 4th tallest building, and suchlike. But I can't really remember it. Toucs had suggested we get trains all over China, but since this would have made the holiday last about 8 weeks instead of the 9 days I had, I had other ideas. So we took a flight from the other airport in Shanghai (no magnetic leviatation this time!) all the way to top chinese tourist destination - Guilin.


World of pointy mountains, cormorant fishermen, endless gift shops, and ever so slightly warmer climate than Shanghai in January, Guilin was our next stop. We took the bus from the airport as an economy measure, and it dumps you in the middle of nowhere. Well, not exactly nowhere, but right next to a taxi rank in fact. By pure chance, we met the most friendly, most clued up taxi driver in all of China.

[Image: Our man on the ground in Guilin

Our man on the ground in Guilin

He became our man on the ground, and a lynchpin for what was to follow. What was to follow? Well, that rat bastard travelling companion of mine had decided to get organised and book us into a hotel. We got a good tour of Guilin by night in the process of looking for it. It's all very prim, ethereal lights and slight fog hang over a river, with stunning mountain vistas all around. Impressive. Unlike the hotel.
It was a pretty amazing please. I'm not sure I even bothered taking any pictures. One thing I've not been going on about in this story is the terrible cold in China. I'm over it now. But it was bloody freezing the whole time. Anyway - Toucs had managed to book us into the only hotel in China that was colder on the inside than out! Incroyable, as we might have said a few years previously. Fair enough, it was probably marginally better than the Hotel Pierre in Toulouse, but that was only by virtue of the fact it didn't smell of stale urine. Actually thinking about it, there was always hot tea, and the staff were friendly enough. just a bit stunned to have English people staying there in winter I think. The rest of the place was empty.
The following day we decided to hit the (Chinese) tourist trail, and take a river cruise down the, er, (let me get a map), Li river. This meanders through some of the most stunning scenery in China, and is epecially good if you like your moutains pointy. It turned out to be overcast on the day we went, bit a of shame considering it was the first outing for my new camera, but still.

[Image: Comorant fishing. River Li, Guilin, China

Comorant fishing. River Li, Guilin, China

The tour was organised in a such a way that it was possible to visit an incredibly diverse set of giftshops. All these shops sold what can only be described as junk. The chinese loved it. Anyway, after waiting for 40 minutes to get out of the first one, we were led down to the boats. I was pretty impressed by the fact they all had outdoor kitchens on the back, especially as we'd brought no food with us. We had around a 4 hour voyage in front of us, and it was constantly punctuated by tiny, but faster fishing boats pulling up alongside ours and selling whatever they'd just caught in the Li to our kitchen.

[Image: World's most remote internet cafe?

World's most remote internet cafe? River Li, Guilin, China

These fish were then flash fried whole, as all fish seems to be in China, and served up at lunch. I'm not sure how they managed to cook a small feast for the 50 or so people on the boat with only 2 woks, but it wasn't a problem. We ordered a few dishes, not really knowing what would turn up. The people opposite us turned up whole tiny crabs you can eat in one go, and various other oddities. It was rather nice. The boat continued on, and various other traders selling products in jade, Chairman Mao souvenirs, musical lighters etc. attempted docking, and indeed there were some takers. We stood up on deck and watched herds of what looked to me like water buffalo, cormorant fishermen, and even an the most remote internet cafe I've ever seen drift by.

hainan island

Tropical paradise and home of Miss World for the last three years, Sanya City certainly sounded like somewhere toucs and me should be hanging out.

return to shanghai

Murels. Man!