On to China it was, first stop; Shanghai. We didn’t really know what to expect from Shanghai, we hadn’t done much research about it and was really only using it as a route to get from Japan through to Harbin. We had booked to stay in a traveller’s hostel there so we were hoping to meet up with some other travellers and get some ideas of what to do around the city and around China in general.
After everything taking way too long to get anywhere, we got the maglev train to the city and we finally arrived at the hostel around 7pm, got our room and went straight out for some food. It immediately became apparent that not many foreigners travel to China in January around spring festival, transport and services were already crazily busy and people looked at us as if we were from another planet to travel there at such a busy time.
The couple of days in Shanghai went by with nothing eventful happening, we walked around the city, we had some good food, particularly the Shanghai Soup Dumplings, they’re excellent. On the second day, we had been out around the French Concession area, big buildings, expensive shops and cars, and still not much really to do for a traveller. When we got back to the hostel, we relaxed in the common room and met a Spanish-American called Manuel, a really cool guy, we had some beers, went out for some food and had a great time. I think we all realised that night that travelling isn’t always about the place you go to, but it IS always about the people who you meet. Definitely the best part about Shanghai was this night and the respite from being stared at and people trying to con your money out of you.
After just a quick couple of days it was now time to fly to Shenyang, the 4th flight of the trip in the first two and a half weeks, the only reason for this stop was that flight tickets to Harbin were insanely expensive, whereas flights to Shenyang and then a train to Harbin was only annoyingly expensive. So it had to be done.
There’s not too much to do in Shenyang, but we saw the second Imperial Palace, the first is the Forbidden City in Beijing. It was cold, around -5 to -12 but people were still shopping in the town centre, eating street food, and some not even wearing coats or gloves, which i still can’t quite understand. We actually got less stares here than in Shanghai, which seemed strange as we didn’t see another westerner in the two days we were there and we went out dressed like we were expecting the ice apocalypse. The people were also friendlier in general, but the apartment we stayed in, although cheap and central was another level of rubbish. Rice on the walls… dirty. I also had a small meltdown at the functioning of the shower, don’t think Stac has stopped laughing about that yet. It wasn’t ideal, but manageable.
Two days passed quickly and it was time for the first long distance high-speed train in China, from a massive city, to the place millions of Chinese were trying to get to for holidays and Spring Festival, obviously the station and trains were extremely busy, but all went smoothly and we arrived in Harbin ready to brace the unearthly temperatures there, but more to come on that…