Thursday, November 5, 2009

A lost nights sleep and a fast train

The flight from Phnom Penh to Shanghai was at the inhospitable time of 11.45pm and our plane was delayed another hour and a half. We waited in the terminal, eye lids propped open with toothpicks and caffiene, trying to recall how we had so nochalantly taken midnight flights in and out of Samoa a few years ago. The darkness unhelpfully closed in as the duty free shops switched off their lights, slowly pulled their roller doors down and the queue at the gate grew hopefully longer. Eventually the flight was called and people shuffled towards their polyester clad seats, pulled their blue polarfleece blankets towards their chins and determinedly squeezed their eyes shut. We managed to stay that way, dozing fitfully through the 4 hour flight despite food being served shortly after take off.

Shanghai airport is a massive, shiny hangerlike building with all the mod cons including Singapore clean toilets, fast moving customs queues and uneventful speedy baggage collection. The delay meant we were able to ride the maglev, short for magnetic levitation, which has since January 2004 provided a fast way of getting from the airport to Shanghai's Longyang metro station Pudong . A very fast way. The maglev, with a top speed of 431km an hour makes the 30km trip in about 8 minutes.

For reasons I haven't been able to uncover the train's speed varies depending on time of day and at about 6-30am, one of its first runs, it maxed out at only 301km hour but on our way back 6 days later (at 4-30) we hit 431. We transfered from the maglev's spacious comfort to the Shanghai metro line 2 at rush hour and standing room only. By 8am we were spread out over a comfy chair each in a 15th floor 2 bedroom apartment at New Harbour Serviced Apartments five minutes walk from People's Square downtown Shanghai, ready for a couple of hours catch up kip before exploring our new city.

Driven out by hunger and still a little foggy we made our way back towards the huge park that is People Square and a Starbucks we had spotted earlier. Fortified by coffee and scone we headed back across the road and into the park.

Peoples Square is as it name suggests is a large public square in the Huangpu district of Shanghai, the same area as the infamous pedestrian street, Nanjing Road-'Bag, watch, DVD?' Before communism, and the subsequent outlawing of horse racing and associated gambling, part of the park was The Shanghai Racecourse. The park now includes some pretty architecturally distinct buildings; The Shanghai Grand Theatre, The Urban Planning Exhibition Hall and The Shanghai Museum, where we thought we'd head to next.

The museum, which used to be housed in an office building somewhere nearby, is designed in the shape of a 'ding', a bronze carved bowl which sits on four stout legs used in times gone by for cooking. More specifically the 'Da Ke Ding' which you can see inside. It has a solid square base and round open top which symbolises the Chinese, 'round sky, square earth'. The museum is currently free after a recent Chinese government edict to make some of Shanghai's museums and galleries more accessible to it's people. Eleven galleries and three exhibition halls over three (or four I can't remember now) floors hold ancient bronze works, cjade, eramics, beautiful historic examples of calligraphy, fabulous ancient sculpture and a whole gallery full of seals. We wandered through the galleries until our previous nights lack of sleep began to steer us back to the apartment.

(I have loads of picture I have spent the last week or so trying to upload with very sporadic success. Hopefully I can figure out whats going on and add some more at a later date)


Shalini said...

Wonderful reading about your trip. Love the shot of the cycle against the wall.

Natalie said...

Ooh, another bicycle photographer! I need some sort of 12 step program to get me off that. Love the travels, totally empathise with the attempts to sleep.