Usually these blogs are written and posted whilst I am away in the country that I’m visiting. Thanks to the Great (Fire) Wall of China many US and western websites are blocked – including wordpress. What this has meant is this entry will be a bit postscript-esque as many things that I am doing are going to be plastered all over facebook and twitter whilst I’m away (courtesy of something called a VPN on my mobile phone, ssshhhhhh)
I’m not one for keeping a diary – in my early travel days in Sri Lanka I wrote something quite sweet to look back on but in all honesty was long, drawn out and included way too many unimportant, fairly boring details. I was pretty new to writing then though and I like to think I’ve learnt to cut out the mini details that really aren’t interesting (if you are wondering, yes my 5* hotel is amazing, the breakfasts are superb and the bed extremely comfy) I also hear someone at the back whispering that ‘I’ve changed’ due to the fact I’m residing in such plush surrounds; gone are the days of £4 a night dorm rooms in South East Asia!
Anyway I’m rambling. Here’s some scribbles from Shanghai.
Pie in the Sky –
OK, I understand people taking a bag or a suitcase that might be slightly oversized when heading on a hand luggage only Easyjet or Ryanair European weekend break. I also understand the need to take a bigger bag (or maybe a second one) if you are carrying a baby or a small child. But long haul, checking a bag in and still bringing something onto the plane the size and weight of a Shanghai Skyscraper really annoys me. Where are you planning on putting that case that is bigger than you? Oh, that’s right. Right on top of my correctly sized and weighted laptop bag….hang on, it’s now crushed. Thanks for that. Seriously, what do people need to bring with them that takes up that much space. And whilst I’m having a moan about fellow plane passengers – what is it with the growing number of morons that cannot sit in the correctly allocated seat? There is a diagram, pictures and words. Sit down for goodness sake and we can get going!
Who needs Facebook or Twitter? –
Not the Chinese lads and lasses it would seem. The large number of adolescents that ride the subway/metro system on a daily basis seem to find plenty on their smart-phones, ipads and tablets to keep themselves entertained without the above two websites thanks to China’s watchful, dare I say controlling government. I’m not sure what else there is to look at as my iphone’s battery has never had it so good with me as this week. Away from the hotels wifi (and beloved VPN) I cannot update my status, tweet my thoughts or have a little flutter on one of several betting apps on my iphone. Naomi always says I look at my phone too much – try coming here, its incredible – eyes glued to the screens whether sat down, stood up, or walking! The metro to Sheshan Golf Club is around an hour and fifteen minutes there and back every day. I’ve lost count at the number of people I’ve walked into because they are starting into a screen – technology bonkers.
Beautiful Bund –
The highlight of this weeks jaunt to Shanghai. Bund is the place to see and be seen in this part of China – a modernised promenade that stretches opposite Shanghai’s New and Financial District of Pudong, the walk along the banks of the Huangpu River is about as spectacular as it gets. Yes, the skyscrapers and the magnificently showy Oriental Pearl TV Tower are incredible feats of engineering. Yes, the excitement as day turns to night and the buildings neon lights kick in is evident. But what I liked most about this stretch was the fact the river was constantly in use as a busy shipping lane; bringing goods and people in and out of Shanghai – all whilst we were sat down or walking along admiring the sights of Pudong. You could imagine these same old fashioned, rustic boats and ships being in use fifty years ago before any of the skyscrapers even existed. A brilliant place to spend a few hours.
Never argue with the caddie –
Patrick Reed was the star of the US Ryder Cup side several weeks back. He’s won three times on the PGA tour in the last year or two and has won millions of US dollars on the way ($6.4 million apparently) I’ve just spent my golfing week alongside his wife, and ex-caddie, Justine Reed! I decided to follow Reed round on Thursday as he is a great golfer to watch, a bit of a marmite style character (you either love him or hate him) He splits opinion due to his outspoken interviews and most famously his silence gesturing to a baying Scottish crowd in the Ryder Cup whilst taking down Henrik Stenson in a win for the US. Personally I’m a big fan – he’s real. And so is Justine; a proper down to earth all American girl. As I was stood next to the green of his first hole a small blonde woman came up to me in a broad Texan accent and struck up a conversation with me. Anyway, over the next few days I walked the course with her watching her man going about trying and winning some more millions of dollars whilst I’ve backed him modestly at 50/1! Every shot, every hole, we’ve chatted golf, life, our partners (!) and gambling. The funniest thing is watching her take notes on her phone like she’s still his caddie (she gave up due to recently being pregnant and giving birth to their first child) whilst throwing grass in the air looking at which way the wind is blowing. Never argue with the wife, or the caddie…..top woman. Missed the last day due to an eye infection – had a chat with Patrick who confirmed it was hospital when they get back to the US on Tuesday. Get well soon Justine!
Travel has never been easier –
The mention of the metro above might make a few at home sit back and sweat (Not just the thought of being crammed in like tinned sardines at rush hour) The prospect of buying tickets, getting on the right platform, changing at the right station and finding the correct exit terminal is a terrifying prospect for many, especially somewhere like China where over three million people use this system daily. Imagine my surprise when I found the ticket machines had an English option, the signs were all in Mandarin and English and even the people on the help desk speak enough English to assist. When you throw in the fact you can take a screenshot of the metro map on your mobile and bring it up in three clicks, travelling round this mega city couldn’t have been any easier (ah, there’s a use for my iphone after all) And the other thing, a 25 mile ride out of town to Sheshan over two metro lines costs 60p. Incredible, take note Arriva Wales West you shysters.
Respect for Shanghai –
I must admit I expected to be culture shocked by China and its financial capital. I visualised a lot of poverty, language barriers, straight faced, nervous people (due to strict government) and chocking levels of pollution. What I found an extremely modern, reasonably relaxed and pretty darn clean city full of smiling, inquisitive folk in love with their gadgets. Perhaps I’m just mellowing and being less blown away or surprised by new countries or cities but Shanghai really wasn’t anything like I have read about in the negative sense. Fair play, an example to many big cities I haven’t seen eye to eye to, mainly due to rude folk or people pissing and shitting in public (thinking Calcutta here)
Sport abroad is cool –
The title says it all. My bets may have been disappointing but it was a bet that paid for this trip so I can’t moan (much) An awesome six nights in Shanghai spent in the company of a sporting giants wife from Texas and a nice guy from Colombia called Antonio who was in Shanghai studying. Travel is superb when you meet people like this, and once again sharing it with others made it so much more enjoyable. Now if only Jonas Blixt could of shot a good round Sunday……
Next Up –
Nothing booked, all holidays till December 24th used up. We have hit country number 41 and the semi-dream of hitting the half century before I turn thirty in March 2016 is still just about alive. I’ve got a few ideas for next year but really could do with a winning bet or two to make them happen……gotta’ be in it to win it!!