We zipped down to Hangzhou from Beijing on a 300km/h train. We had a decent time in Hangzhou, which is mainly visited for its excellent lake, West lake. Our accommodation wasn’t in a perfect location, but it was a pretty sweet place - we even had a pool!
Sadly our smog party continued. West lake is pretty gorgeous, so the smog couldn’t completely ruin it, but it was definitely not as great as it could have been. We had a nice cycle around it. We ate in a great restaurant here, called Green Tea I think. It’s a chain restaurant, but that seems to be common here, to have some great chains. It almost seems that most of the best places (apart from say the proper $£€ places) tend to be chains.
On to Shanghai! Unfortunately some minor illness cost us some time in Hangzhou and Shanghai, but not the end of the world. Our hotel was just off the Bund in Shanghai, and we arrived to blue skies - a great combo. We took a bunch of photos on either side of the river here, at multiple times in our trip. It’s easy when you’re staying right next to it… It’s a great contrasting view, with the old 1920s - 1930s buildings on one side of the river and the new skyscrapers on the other.
I guess we didn’t “do” very much in Shanghai, apart from walk around it. We did go up the bottlecap building (has some boring real name), and it’s cool that you get to actually walk around the top and bottom of the bottlecap thing itself. Also we took the ridiculous but hilarious “sight seeing tunnel” across the river. Lots of flashing lights, no views of the water, and… inflatable people whose arms brush your tram car. Hilarious.
The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center has a fecking awesome little scale model of the city - with some future plans built into the model. Well worth a visit.
I must note that at least some parts of "old" Shanghai still exist... even in potentially tourist-trap versions of themselves. "Old" being pre-1900, rather than say pre-1990, when parts of Shanghai were designated as special economic zones, hence the modern huge skyscrapers.
Our main walking area was the (former) French concession. The French had the foresight to plant trees all over the place so it’s great to walk around - as well as the buildings themselves being gorgeous and varied. Gotta mention: the coffee scene here is great! I’m writing this post from Taipei, which some claim has the best coffee in Asia, but I’d have to pick Shanghai (obvious concerns about sampling variation here…). Unfortunately the coffee is just as expensive as back home, but the baked goods are cheaper… In one place, MQ Coffee, we accidentally ended up at their training lab - they were super nice about it, gave us free espresso! We then went to their actual café, where we saw our second Slayer espresso machine in Shanghai, pretty cool. The food is also very good in Shanghai, but definitely a price hike from Beijing. After a lot of Chinese meals in a row we got bold and had a few decent western meals.
Other than that we visited a propaganda poster museum, from the early days of the PRC’s regime. Very interesting, I highly recommend it. We went to the first meeting place of the commies in China, not bad. A modern art area, not a bad way to burn up a few hours. Most importantly, we took the MagLev train! 30km in 7 mins and 20 secs, with a top speed of 431km/h. Beautiful.
Almost forgot, we also had a rainy day (or two):
Shanghai is great. Couple of smoggy days here and there, but I feel it’s a city I could actually imagine myself living in, at least for a few years. If nothing else, it’d be a great excuse to make my parents drag themselves to visit China!