Shanghai Expo 2010
10.09.2010 - 17.09.2010 20 °C
10/9/2011: Brunei - Singapore - Shanghai
The last time I went to Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou was back in 2006. 4 years later, my main aim is to check out the Shanghai Expo. Ever since before the Shanghai Expo officially opened for the public, there has been a lot of commotion on it for months so a lot of people wanted to check it out since Shanghai is not too expensive to go. Since there was no flight to go to Shanghai directly from Brunei on our scheduled trip, we transited through Singapore to go to Shanghai. Once again like in the past, Singapore Airline flight from Singapore to other destination is always after midnight which once again, this time, we left at 1.15am. It's a good thing that SIA have comfortable planes to rest but still not good enough to catch any sleep.
11/9/2011: Shanghai - Suzhou
After only a few hour of shut eye, we landed at Shanghai Pudong International Airport at 6.15am. The airport is fully operational now as compared to back in 2006 where it was only 3/4 complete at that time and I remembered we had to walked down the runway and then get on a bus which took us to the airport building. This time, we just walk through the airport building from the plane. We then met up with our Shanghai tour guide.
The first place we went to is the Oriental Pearl Tower which I've been before. There are some change like now part of the floor is made of glass which you can look down to the bottom of the tower just like the CN Tower in Toronto. Not for those of the faint hearted though as you have this feeling of just falling down from 263m high. Other than that, there's not much changes except that there are some major changes in the scenery around it with more new high rise buildings continuously being built. After that, we had lunch in a Chinese ethnic restaurant and they also had a few dancing performances for us. After lunch, we went to check out a small fruit stall just opposite to the restaurant to see what fruits are available in China. They have the usual peaches, apples, pears, grapes, prunes, berries but most of all, what we didn't expect to find in China are the Thailand mon thong durians!
We then proceed to Suzhou and stop by the Hanshan Temple first which I visited 4 years ago. My intention was to make a wish and strike the bell again 3 times just like what I've done 4 years ago but this time, there was a long queue of people just waiting to make their wishes. Then we proceed to the Suzhou museum which is something new to me. The most impressive article to me in that museum is actually the carving of miniature warriors from one end of an ivory tusk to the other end. I wonder how many months or even years it took the artist(s) to complete the whole detailed carvings.
I never did go to any shopping centre in Suzhou before so it was nice to check out the so called Guangqian Street. In order to get to this street, we had to walk through a shopping centre first and the most offensive smell that strike me at that time was like the smell of bird shit inside an air con room. I thought the shopping centre had very bad air ventilation that even the smell of the bird shit could get in but when we went out of that building and stood on that Shantang Street, I finally realised what that awful smell was. It was actually the smell of stinky tofu because the food cart was just next to that building and they kept on frying that stinky food! Of course since stinky tofu is only sold in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China, this is the opportunity not to be missed! When you stand near to the frying station, it actually smelt very enticing and delicious, nothing like the bird shit smell earlier on. It looks like a typical fried beancurd but when you bite into it, it looks greenish grey instead of the pure white colour. It tasted very nice and I actually ate 2 cubes with the red salty sauce on it but after that, every bite started to taste funny and the smell started to change to something which puts you off to eating it anymore. I wouldn't say I will be specifically looking for it again next time but maybe 1 or 2 bite would be enough. There are high end shops, medium class shops and food shops selling all sorts of titbits like cookies, candies and mooncakes. Our accomodation in Suzhou wasn't that bad, very spacious and has a very big fridge! Too bad there's no kitchen or else it would become and apartment already.
12/9/2011: Suzhou - Hangzhou
Today, our first destination was to the silk factory. Very different from the one that I went to 4 years ago as this was located near to town area. It's a very small building where they show how silk quilts are made and how they stretch the cocoon of the silkworm to make the silk sheets. We had a try to pull 1 sheet of the stretched cocoon on a quilt before they push us through the big business area where the quilts and silk bed covers were displayed. One thing that I forgot to mention is that we had 2 guides in Suzhou, one is our Shanghai tour guide and the other one is our Suzhou tour guide since our Shanghainese tour guide said that she doesn't know Suzhou as much as her colleague. We have no problems with having 2 tour guides at all but what we don't like is being forced to buy something so expensive which we are not even interested in and that Suzhou tour guide was rude to us, being impatient because none of us wanted to buy the quilt blankets which was already prepared before hand for each of us. No one told her to wait around since she had to go off at noon time and expect us to buy so that she can get commission when we were just waiting to leave and move on to our next destination since we have nothing to buy. But no, we had to be stuck there for 30 mins before that Suzhou tour guide left and then our Shanghainese tour guide finally took us to the next room to watch a silk fashion show. Never in my whole life have I come across a tour guide who force people to buy things when they already told her that they do not want to buy it at all!
After lunch, we headed to Hangzhou and went straight to the Dragonwell Green Tea village, the same one I went to last time. Bought 500g of Emperor's green tea because they don't sell in small tins anymore. By the time we left the tea village, it was already time for dinner in a very busy street. We didn't expect people to spit again since we haven't come across anyone doing so for the past 2 days but we were so wrong about it. An old man actually spitted on the restaurant floor while we were still eating! Ewww.. so gross! Good thing I wasn't sitting near to that old man. Mingqing Hefang Street was just walking distance from the restaurant where we had our dinner. They have all sort of shops and even small stalls in the centre of the street. They had one shop selling peanut candies where they smash and cut the peanut candies freshly right in front of you. The hotel we stayed in was in the middle of nowhere, so far away from the town centre. Even though the surrounding and the hotel itself look nice, the room we were given is so pathetic. With our 2 luggages and 2 single bed inside that small room, there was even hardly any space to walk around except to walk in a straight line just to go to the bathroom.
13/9/2011: Hangzhou - Shanghai
When we complained about the room to the tour guide the next day, she said it's because there were 2 of us in a room. Apparently 3 groups stayed these small rooms while the rest stayed in a spacious big room even though we paid the same price for the tour package like them. We were really not happy with it because we felt we were being ripped off so we told the other members of our tour group about it. They also brought up why we had to pay for some of the places she took or is going to take us on the first day of our trip since it should be included as stated in our package itinerary. So we confronted the tour guide about this and she said it was her company who told her those things weren't included while we showed them the itinerary we got from our Brunei travel agent. Apparently, there was no communication between both travel companies and the China's travel company's policy is, once they get the money from you, they cannot pay you back in cash at all. So in the end, we were only given the option to either see the Madame Tussaud's wax museum or 1 other option which was not even worth up the amount we had already paid.
Our final destination before leaving for Shanghai is the West Lake. We took a 1 hour boat cruise around the lake on a dragon boat before taking a walk around the park. We saw a lot of people eating black coloured corns so 2 of them went and bought it because they wanted to have a taste of it. Although the black corns looked unique, the taste is otherwise, nowhere even near to it's so called "sweet" black corn at all because it was tasteless. No one finished it and ended up throwing them away only after a few bite. Before heading our way to Shanghai, we had a very nice Hangzhou lunch before going for a free foot massage at the Beijing Tong Ren Tang. Now, I do understand that businesses are trying to make money as much as they can but they should not just stop the foot massage halfway and tell you to leave because they want to accommodate the next tour group coming in. The result of a 1/2 completed foot massage was an aching foot which i had to walk on for more than half a day! The worst foot massage I've ever had in China!
The ride back to Shanghai was at least 2 hours long and the scenery changed from farmlands to the modern buildings as we got closer and closer. Have I also mentioned that traffic jams in Shanghai after office hours are unbelievable! Barely even moved 500m after 5 mins. Anyway, we got a glimpse of the expo site from the highway. Very fascinating to look at how big the whole site is (and not to mention how far we have to walk from one end to the other too!) Looking forward to 2 full days of exercise tomorrow with an aching foot! After dinner, we had a relaxing cruise around the Huangpu river and we could actually see a row of people with their camera flashes taking photos from the Bund as we cruised through slowly. Full of colourful neon lights on all the buildings, it makes you wonder how much of electricity Shanghai use in 1 day. Once again, our hotel is way out of location but the rooms are very big and spacy. Didn't even realise that it's located in the automotive area where one of the car factory is just visible from our hotel room.
14/9/2011: Shanghai Expo
Today is the day where the highlight of this tour starts. The SHANGHAI EXPO! Queue was pretty bad and slow at Zone A as they had to check though every bag before they let you in. This happens in all the 8 gates at different parts of the 5 zones. We had a deal with our tour guide who got us VIP access (of course with a price). We managed to check out 4 pavilions within 2 hours without queuing for hours like what most of the other people had to do just to go into 1 pavilion. Of course, the main and most important one of all is the China pavilion with the huge moving wall painting. The most important thing in this expo is not to forgot your Expo passport book where you can get the pavilion stamp on it. The next pavilion we went to is the France pavilion which is also as interesting as the China pavilion. They have the French garden outside the internal building, French food and hundreds (or probably even up to 1000 bottles) of their famous Bordeaux wine. Luxembourg wasn't as interesting as the first 2 but then again, we were the ones who chose to check it out so nothing much could be said about it. However, the last pavilion is the coolest. Italy, which showcase all the modern designs and high class lifestyle like the Ferrari, Biaggi's motorbike, Italian fashion, pasta and wine. A lot of fascinating and interesting taste and designs to see. Not too bad considering we could check out the interesting ones without wasting too much time on queuing just to enter 1 pavilion at a time. However, it's very unfortunate that we didn't check out the Japan pavilion because the queue is just so incredible as we were told that they have to wait at least 4 hours in the queue just to get in and the VIP access for Japan is too expensive for us to afford it.
After that, all of us are on our own. We checked out the African pavilion first which houses 43 mini pavilion of each African country. Of course we took the opportunity to get all the stamps from each country. Then we opt to check out the pavilions with the least queue so that we don't waste time on queuing itself. We managed to checked out quite a lot of pavilions on the first day alone and also watched the expo parade right in front of us which lasted for half an hour. Our tour guide only gave us until 8pm to spend at the expo but even before that time, our feet were killing us and we had to find places to sit and rest out feet. By the time we got back to the hotel, all I could do is just take a bath and lay in bed only.
15/9/2011: Shanghai Expo
Final day at the expo. This time we entered the expo zone through Zone D which is less crowded and require people to take a ferry boat to get to Zone A, B and C of the expo site. We checked out the pavilions in Zone D first before using the ferry to get to Zone A. We decided to check out the Asian pavilions as we had not done so the day before. These countries display a lot of artistic skills especially in their fine carvings. Our last pavilion before we finished out Expo tour is of course Brunei's pavilion. It doesn't offer much like other South East Asian pavilions but they did give a button saying "I Love Brunei" and the last stamp to conclude the expo passport is also the Bruneian stamp. The next expo will be held in Milan, Italy in 2014. For those who live near Milan, it's worth checking out this expo if you can't afford to travel all over the world
Today's the last day in China, packed out stuff and checked out from the hotel. We were taken to a place where they sell puer tea from Yunnan. The lady who explained to us about the puer tea has a very unique way of talking like as if she's singing while talking to us. Then after having lunch, we headed for the Old Shanghai Street. It hasn't changed much but we did pass by all the different lanes and see the items they sell. Things however are slightly more expensive here than elsewhere as this is basically a tourist spot. Then we went to the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum which is smaller than the one in Hong Kong plus most wax figures here are mainly Chinese artists. We then headed for the Nanjing Road where it's packed with lots of people. Managed to find the vacuum packed braised pork leg at a cheaper price than at the Old Shanghai Street. We had an early dinner since it was the last part of our package but we managed to discuss with the China travel company to give us at least 2 hours to look around and shop at China's Walmart since our flight is after midnight.
Finally landed in Singapore at 6am. Having not enough of sleep and having headache, I didn't actually have the energy to go around Singapore much. We did decide to go for a short trip around Singapore though it was too early as a lot of shops have not opened yet. Went around Chinatown and then Bugis area. Then headed back to the airport by 10am and then waited for our flight at 2.30pm. Taking midnight flights is not an ideal way of travelling. Overall, all I can say is that China has only changed in terms of new buildings but in terms of weather wise, the sky however, is still the depressing hazy, yellowish type like 4 years ago. Oh and one more thing. There's so many brands of China beer which is so cheap that if you exchange a bottle of unopened carbonated drink in any restaurants, they will give you 2 bottles of Chinese beer back.