The next morning in Hangzhou, we got the hotel to organise a taxi for us to the train station. I booked the train tickets in advance with the CTRIP app and picked them up there. This app was brilliant but for some reason, it stopped working properly so I wouldn’t rely on it completely. Using the fast trains is essentially like flying, so make sure you are there at least 30-40 minutes before to have enough time to get your tickets and go through security (yes they have proper security checks!)
The train ride to Shanghai was absolutely fine. However, getting a taxi from Shanghai train station to the hotel was a nightmare. First, we queued for the taxi for about 40 mins. We were allocated a taxi, which we showed the location. He looked confused and we said we could change driver but he insisted we go with him. Online, it said the train station was about 30-40mins away from the train station. When this time had passed, we started questioning the driver who kept dismissing us. He went through 5 different toll stations whereby we tried to ask toll staff but he refused any help.
I made mum switch on her internet to find out that we were actually driving away from Shanghai. Long story short, this guy was taking us on a joyride to be able to charge us by his meter. We didn’t realise at the time and just tried to direct him the whole way the best we could, whilst he was complaining that we were telling him the wrong way. Once we arrived at the location, the meter was showing 600 yuan. I went to get the hotel staff to help with unloading the car. When I come back out, there was a full blown argument between the driver and my mum. He kept shouting in Chinese and tried to get other bystanders involved, claiming we had taken him in the wrong direction and now refusing to pay. The hotel brought a translator to mediate. I explained that it had taken him 90 mins to get us from the train station to here, that I had shown him the address in Mandarin, and the name of the signs and the area he initially drove us to. It became evident that he had taken us in the wrong direction on purpose, in order to scam us. The hotel staff were extremely friendly and kind and helped us settle the bill. It was not a good start to our Shanghai experience at all. We later on had a similar experience when trying to get a tuktuk back to our hotel. We agreed 30 yuan but when he was given a 100 yuan note he snatched it and refused to give us the change back. This became quite nasty and terrible and he swore at us and tried running us over in the process… The conclusion is, give exact change.
In Shanghai, we lived in Campanile Bund hotel. The room was small but decent otherwise. Staff was super friendly. We were walking distance from most places but used the tube occasionally – once again, airport security is in action here lol. We spent a lot of time in Nanjing road – this is where all the action is. They have everything from shops to restaurants. We went to the pearl continental tower which we were super excited about. It turned out to be extremely cloudy that day which meant we could see nothing. There is not much to do up there except enjoy the view, since there was none I asked for our money back. Initially they refused but I wouldn’t budge until they did so they spoke to the boss and gave up once I was telling new customers not to buy the tickets as it was a waste of money lol. Unfortunately, this was the case for the duration of our stay – we missed out on the infamous shanghai skyline due to weather.
We took a stroll around the areas surrounding the tower itself, before taking the tube back to the other side and having dinner.
There is a nice halal restaurant called Amirs, just off one of the corners on East Nanjing road – they will have a halal sign on the windows. We had a hotpot, all halal, and it was yummy. Highly recommended. We then took a stroll towards the Bund, which is another infamous tourist spot. It is supposed to give you stunning views of the Shanghai skyline but as mentioned before, with the weather being bad and an intense fog, we weren’t able to see much. We tried to walk towards the Bund before but it is closed in certain parts. If you walk to it via East Nanjing, you will be able to get up on the walking path yourself.
The following day, I walked to Yuyuan garden from the hotel. It took me about 10-15 minutes. There’s a lot to do around this area – lots of small quirky shops and eateries. There was a Turkish stall, crowded with people, with the staff doing the typical ‘turkish icecream shows’ if that makes sense. Their meat is halal so I had a bite there before continuing to the temple that is located in the area – the city god temple. It was interesting to get a glimpse of how certain people practise their religion in China and the temple itself was beautiful. I strolled around here for a while before moving on. The tickets to Yuyuan garden are purchased a bit away from the entrance. That area is extremely beautiful, with bridges, tea houses and small artificial ‘lakes’. Yuyuan garden itself is a must! It threw me back to the Disney movie Mulan and I felt like I had stepped back 100 years into China’s history. Stunning place and highly recommended. I got through it very quickly in about 1.5 hours, then I had to make my way out to find a place to pray.
There is a small mosque on one of the outer streets around Yuyuan garden (on ‘old street’ I believe). It doesn’t have the stereotypical look of a mosque but you may see some Muslims coming out of it. This place is also a madrasah, and I did a quick tour before praying and taking off. Alhamdulillah, it was a nice atmosphere
I then got the tube to East Nanjing to do some shopping! I ended up spending most my time in Forever 21 – I have narrow feet and most Chinese people do too. I bought at least 3-4 pairs of shoes and various items before moving on to one of their quirky shops in the area. After that we walked around and bought a few more things like Chinese tea pot sets, before going back to the hotel to catch a taxi to the airport. The traffic was so heavy that we were minutes away from missing our flight. They were kind enough to get us through security ‘quickly’. Make sure you have no external hard drives or power chargers in your main luggage – they will stop your suitcases from going through and make you put them in your handluggage which can take a while. It’s a bit weird but hey ho, those are their rules. After that, we took the flight back to Beijing, spent the night and flew back home the following morning.
The trip itself was intense but I loved China and everything that I got to see. I do feel like I have to go back and see the rice fields, hong kong, the island of Saniya and Zhangijagije. I may also go back to Xian and Chengdu, as these are the two places I felt I could’ve used more time in. Planning more in advance for this destination would be my top tip for those considering travelling there.
Over and out!