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Leaving China

20 January 2010 | Shanghai
Michael and Jackie
We arrived back in Shanghai to the same hotel we had started out from, the Meridien. We had left a large amount of luggage there, destined for the boat, books, DVDs, parts, and even a violin. Last time we had a view over Renmin (People's) Square. This time we paid a little extra to get a view across to the Bund. It was worth it. Somehow seeing the sharp bend of the river cutting through the city gives Shanghai a sense of proportion. The timelessness of the river contrasts with the old wharf area of the Bund and the brand new skyscrapers of Pudong which face the Bund. The view from our hotel wharf encompassed both.

The Bund was the original port area. It became the centre for European commerce in the 1920s. The historic buildings along the waterfront were the headquarters of the great financial companies, often built on selling opium, transformed into respectability with the stolid art deco buildings of the 1920s. At present the whole area is being rebuilt and landscaped. The waterfront side is being rebuilt with promenades and gardens. It is planned to reopen the area for the expo but for the last year walking along the Bund has meant hopping over piles of cement and rubble, avoiding the traffic, whilst leapfrogging to occasional bits of pavement. We headed down, the buildings are impressive, but the passage down is unpleasant. We spotted a small sign for coffee outside one of the imposing entrances, and stepped into a time machine. A polite guard asked us our purpose, the 1923 cafe - this way - pointing to an ornate iron grilled lift. Once on the second floor we stepped out into a wood panelled corridor, with doors off, - the consulate of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Expo committees, individuals. Who knows what went on behind the solid wood doors. The long corridor continued until we spotted the cafe. The offices surround a central courtyard and the cafe looked out on them. The dark wooden walls and cast iron fireplace were set off by photos of the Bund in its glory days, of the 1920s. Perhaps unsurprisingly no photos of the notorious Japanese occupation. We were the only customers in this little oasis, and enjoyed our cappucino before setting out again this time through the backstreets, a rag trade street, then a street of food sellers before regaining the main shopping area where our hotel was sited.

That evening we took the Shanghai metro, super efficient and not as crowded as either London or Tokyo to the Pudong area. Ten years ago this was a swamp, now the Pudong area bristles with skyscrapers, the gaudy Oriental Pearl Tower and our destination the Jinmao tower with the highest bar in the world? As is usual in Shanghai you get out of the metro station and then navigate through road works, building sites, across unprotected roads until you arrive at the tower. You proceed through numerous security checks, down dark corridors to hit the elevator that will take you to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, something like the 54th floor. You then take a second lift to the 84th or 85th and buy a drink at the bar and enjoy one of the most amazing views in the world. The other skyscrapers are dwarfed and you can see the whole outline of Shanghai, the river, and this teeming world centre. An economic alternative to paying for a trip to the top of the Pearl Tower. We drank the view and the cocktail then headed for the Xintiandi district, and our favourite restaurant, Christal Jade a hectically busy Hong Kong style restaurant with food and flavours to die for.

Finally we headed for New Zealand. We had left boat baggage in the Shanghai hotel for our return. So now we checked out, huge baggage and all into the hands of the archetypal Shanghai taxi man. Some are very good - they have five stars on their badges - never met them. Ours had two - the boot wouldn't close, surprisingly nothing to do with our excess baggage, and he drove with determination. I suspect his aim was to outrun the Maglev (fastest train in the world - links Shanghai to the airport). We screamed off zigzagging through the traffic, and it got worse. The engine roared, the brakes were sadly lacking.

We arrived at the airport white knuckled and shaking. Auckland was an amazing site. Blue skies, you could see the buildings, green grass, and when we got off the plane you could smell the fragrance in the air. Getting over China was quite difficult. Where were all the people why hadn't this patch of land been developed. Why was everything so quiet. It was if we were in a science fiction movie in which all the people of New Zealand had disappeared. They were there it's just there's only 6 million of them spread out across the entire country.

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Vessel Name: Lady Kay
Vessel Make/Model: Lagoon 380
Hailing Port: Falmouth
Crew: Michael & Jackie Chapman
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