June 09, 2016

Visiting China - first impressions

When you tell friends, family and colleagues that you are going to China, most get quite excited and then ask 'Oh, what are you going to see?'

'Are you going to the Forbidden City? The Great Wall of China? The Temple of Heaven, or maybe the Terracotta Warriors?

For BB and I, we couldn't really answer this question. We didn't even know where Shanghai was geographically within China! We were heading to Shanghai for 6 days with BB's business clients, to check out a supplier in his industry (asphalt production and road construction, which I know nothing about), and had never even talked previously about travelling to China. We have such a long list of places we'd love to see around the world, and China was way down that list. Whilst we thought a little about not going, being hosted for six days by a company who wanted to impress us with their manufacturing business was too tempting and we organised a friend to house/puppy-sit, and we flew out of Brisbane last Thursday morning.

After a long day of travel (Brisbane-Singapore-Shanghai), we arrived in China's largest city late at night, and our very welcoming host Joy helped us get through Customs, Immigration and even scarier... the taxi/pick-up zone at the Arrivals terminal of Pudong International Airport.

From this moment on, I took only a few photos. The combination of dodgy internet, no access to Gmail and Facebook (waaaaah), and recently deciding to spend less time looking at life through a camera lens meant that I only took a handful of snaps on the first few days.

Day 1 started with a Western buffet breakfast at our hotel, The Eton; and quite clearly, this was a hotel marketed to foreigners doing business in Shanghai and western tour groups. Whilst this made starting each day in such an exotic and bustling city a little easier, my teeth were definitely grating every time I heard an Aussie accent complaining about the lack of Vegemite for their toast. My pet peeve was that there were no spoons for my cereal or to stir my coffee, but once I started laughing at adding sugar to my morning cuppa with a fork, it became more amusing than annoying!

Joy (the funniest guy on the Asian continent, I'm sure), picked us up in his 7-seater Buick, and we hit the roads - me thankfully in the very back seat, where I couldn't see too much of the utter craziness on Shanghai roads - to head south-west to Wuzhen. Wuzhen Water Town, known as the Venice of China, is one of the most famous ancient water towns in China and has a history of more than 1,500 years. Embraced by the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal, canals crisscross the two town areas, with camphor laurel and willow trees draping their branches in the water. Ancient residential houses, workshops and stores stand on the banks of the East Area canals, and attractions include folk performances. The West Area has been restored for antique-style accommodation, but authentic ancient elements are also easily found.


This area of traditional blue printed cloth hanging on giant bamboo drying racks was so beautiful, and evocative of an older era of craftsmanship. 

Our happy little travelling party laughed and laughed our way around Wuzhen.

Our first impressions of China were fantastic. Having a very friendly host makes arrival anywhere easier, and the city was 100% cleaner and greener than either of us had expected. For many reasons, it felt like a more organised, tidier version of any Shanghai portrayal I've seen in movies. Shanghai has the look of an old city undergoing renovation, and I particularly loved how so many shiny new modern buildings manage to coexist with old Shanghai - it seemed incredibly liveable.

As I discovered by accident on day 3 of our trip, my phone was using data even when I had it in flight mode... what the! so I ended up turning it off completely and hardly snapping any photos throughout the rest of our trip.

I'll share more about our trip soon... I'm still catching up on laundry after so much travel in the last month!

Ever travelled somewhere you never thought you'd be interested in? What did you think of it?

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  1. Was interested in how you enjoyed it as my niece is living in Shanghai at the moment and my SIL flying over tomorrow to visit for a week or two.

  2. I've never thought about China as a holiday destination but if I won a trip or was paid for somehow, I'd go just about anywhere!

  3. I think a few people I went to school with are working in schools in China now - it would be interesting to see how different education is! My husband would love to go to regional China - he has a thing about how their hills look.


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