Hanoi 3rd – 8th October

So after a quick stop in Guangzhou, we were on to Vietnam, and Hanoi. Guangzhou was very busy, and the only major point of interest was the Canton Tower:

Nice lights at the Canton Tower

Immediately in Hanoi, the feel of the city seemed more laid back. This in spite of a million motorcycles all desperate to get to their destination at speed, down narrow streets that seem more suited to traveling on foot, but more on that later…

On our first night, we went to the Newday restaurant on Ma May, and had barbecued ribs and lime chicken. The ribs affected Jenny emotionally they were that good! We followed that up with beers in a bar called Half Man Half Noodle, with a balcony that overlooked the busy street below.

We then strolled down to the Hoan Kiem Lake, where we saw a monkey taunting a dog.

Monkey vs. Dog
Twice because why not?

The next day, we explored the Old Town some more- loads of crazy stuff- the whole place seems to be held together by string, but laid back people and amazing food keep the whole place going.

In the evening the weekly Night Market took place on Hang Ba- absolutely packed but they sell some cool stuff- we bought a lovely pop up birthday card to send home. At the top of the market, under the train bridge, there was an amazing restaurant, with hot plates on every table- you are provided with butter, meat, chillies, onions and an amazing sauce and are left to cook your own wraps- so delicious!

Before
After

The next day, we couldn’t resist going back to some places we’d already visited- Ben had more pho (noodle soup, fresh tasting and lovely)and Jenny had crazy Vietnamese muesli, which was cornflakes, yoghurt and bananas! , then a street barbecue lunch and back to Newday in the evening for Lemongrass and chilli chicken, spring rolls and special ribs.

You can also drink Bia Hoi, the local beer, served straight from the barrel, at street temperature- it’s surprisingly delicious, and costs only 15,000 dong (17p!).

Six glasses for a pound. HEAVEN.

On our final day, we finally saw how laid back Hanoi is, as our entire street had a power cut, to which the hotel staff said ‘It won’t be long. Power will be back at 4 o clock.’ At 10am in the morning… We wandered round the town again- many places had generators, so I assume this was a regular occurrence!

There were crazy balloons flying over the river, and we had iced coffee by the lake and watched them.

And finally, to cap off our stay, Jen took the perfect video of the motorbike traffic, and the fun of crossing the road here!!!

Unfortunately, due to the weather in the South, trains were severely limited, so we had to cut short our stay, as we couldn’t travel much further, and so our next stop became Bangkok…

Edit- Fixed the video!

Shanghai Week- 28th September- 2nd October

Saturday 28th September- 2nd October

On the first day, we visited the financial district of Pudong, which is a 10 minute walk from our apartment. The main deal here seems to be the Pearl TV Tower and a huge shopping mall, too big for us to bear really. The architecture around here looks a lot like something out of a Nintendo video game, I’m thinking of Captain Planet, Ben doesn’t remember…

We visited the People’s Square in the heart of the city, which is basically a huge open space surrounding by lots of equally huge buildings.

We find it difficult to order food unless there’s a picture of it, so we snack on these:

We visited the Bund, which is basically a load of buildings that look like Europe, from back when we colonized bits of China in exchange for drugs- the view over to Pudong is amazing.
Pudong, from The Bund

Nanjing Road that leads from the Bund to People’s Square is also pretty manic, and great for crazy neon, and Chinese restaurants that have ridiculous portion sizes. We are giants in this country (people stop and stare), but I think they were overdoing it!

The next day we went to the Old Town- easily one of our favourite bits of Shanghai. There’s a great park, and lots of amazing Chinese architecture.

Even Starbucks looks good

We had tea, with a traditional tea ceremony, in the teahouse in the middle of the lake. They actually put the English to shame with the care and attention that goes into their tea. They pour hot water on the pot to warm it up, brew it, pour the brew over, rebrew it and so on. And you get great snacks with it. The egg, fermented in tea was amazing!

The tea kit- we had ‘Iron Goddess’ tea.
Yes Mom, I am drinking all of the tea in China
Tea egg confusion

It was absolutely brilliant.

Inside the tea house
The tearoom’s view

We then walked back through the insect market, which sadly was closed, as Ben wanted a cricket in a tiny bamboo cage.

Our last full day in Shanghai, we went to the French Concession. We went to Xintiandi, the upmarket bit in the morning, which was okay, but a bit blah, like West London, but about 6000 miles West. We walked from there to Fuxing Park, which was really nice. There were lots of people doing interesting things, including two guys playing weird Chinese violins, and dancing classes in public.

The king of Chinese dancers

Finally, we went to the Tianzifang- sort of a hipster town in China. Loads of cramped little alleyways full of tiny bars and food stands- we drank a lot of beer, and had thick crisps on a stick, and a fresh waffle (the first baked product in China that wasn’t very strange and full of sugar and MSG). The local people hadn’t seen an e cigarette before, and a lot of Chinese people were stopping and staring at me- so I demonstrated how it worked and they were impressed! Ben came back and thought I was showing them a  magic trick, which is fair because one women did shout out ‘magic!’ at one point haha.

Tianzifang
Beer alley
Comrade Ben
Giant potato snack! i thought they were doughnuts :o( but Ben enjoyed it
Drunk sugar fix

Amsterdam->Shanghai- The big journey- 26th and 27th September

Sooo… I haven’t been very good at updating this. To be fair, we spent the first week in China, where blogging, Facebook and searching Tienanmen Square are blocked!

So we flew to Shanghai with an afternoon’s stop in Amsterdam. We were delayed at Schilpol airport for 45 minutes waiting for our backpacks… it turns out that when you’re flying that far they get held over to the next flight. We are proper international bumpkins! Amsterdam center looks lovely, with big old and beautiful buildings, but sadly has very little other than expensive beer and weed cafes in the center. The red light district was amusing though.

Absolutely charming sights…

Then back on a plane for the 5000 mile flight. Having never flown long haul before, we were more than happy with the amount of booze they are willing to give you. The food was surprisingly edible, and we both slept most of the way.

On arrival in Shanghai we got their Metro, which is like our tube, but clean and efficient. Amazing what you can do with the employment communism brings! However, on coming out, the roads are manic, and not signposted at all.

Basically, this is Embankment, but mental and Chinese, with a salubrious bar called Spicy Girl across the road

The hotel itself was very nice and overlooked the river and the Bund, and somehow we checked in in spite of us not speaking a word of Chinese, and they not speaking a word of English (a recurring theme through our time in China!) and they sent a nice almost English speaker down to show us how to use the washing machine. Or to point at it and tell us ‘It goes swoosh‘, which did the job.

As it was pretty late by this time, and Pudong alone is HUGE let alone all of Shanghai, we went to a corner shop and bought some hot tofu snacks in very hot chilli sauce for tea, followed by a ‘Pot Ramen’.

Couldn’t find Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodles