Continuing with the busy month of April two days after I got back from Hong Kong two of my best friends came to visit Maria and Mitch. I usually don’t get to see my friends from home for over 10 months but this year I’ve been extremely lucky, I was able to go home in December and then in February I met a group of friends in Thailand, so it had only been a few months since I last saw them.
Thursday: Maria and Mitch arrived in Shanghai and due to a few train issues, I had to meet them at the hotel instead of at the airport like originally planned. They were both tired from their flight, but I had promised to take them to a restaurant with the best frozen margaritas in town: Pistoleras. This turned out to be the most relaxed night of their trip. After inhaling nachos and burritos and 3 or 4 pitchers of margaritas it was time for bed.
Friday: We woke up relatively early so that we could make the 40minute metro ride to DISNEYLAND! I had already been around Christmas time and was quite happy to go back, Mitch is also a big Disney fan and is trying to visit all the different parks around the world. Maria on the other hand is not, I think she was just being a good friend and agreed to come even though it wasn’t that high up on her list of things to do.
The first port of call was obviously Mickey/Minnie ears. After that we were all set to start out “magical” day. It was a beautiful day, this spring has been very dry and warm and this day didn’t disappoint, but this also meant that the park was quite crowded! We head towards to Tron ride, which is my mind is the best ride there, unfortunately the fast pass distribution had ended and the queue time was 200 minutes. Now I won’t go into all the dirty details, but with a few carefully poised words and some amateur dramatics, we ended up in the fast track line and only queued for around 15 minutes.
We had a very busy day, chasing after characters, taking pictures in front of the castle, eating Micky Mouse ice creams, taking pictures in front of the castle, going crazy on the honey pot – teacup ride and taking more pictures in front of the castle. Half way through the day Maria announced that she had been converted and that in actual fact she was having a wonderful day! I do believe that no matter your age Disneyland whether it’s in Shanghai or Orlando has a strange way of turning everyone back into children for the day.
In the evening, we headed straight for Bar Rouge on the Bund. There is a 100RMB door charge and the drinks are higher in price than in most places but the views from the bar are sensational! You get to look out onto the Pudong side of the city and all the buildings are lit up, this is one of the iconic views of Shanghai and in my mind not to be missed. We were also lucky enough that the terrace has just opened up for the summer season, so we could enjoy the cool night breeze.
We met a group of Germans and they invited us to go with them to go to another bar which stayed open until 7 am. This was not the quiet and civilised night that it had started out as!
Saturday: At around 4pm we were ready to take on the world…it had been a looooong night! We headed towards the old part of town and to the Yuyuan Gardens, unfortunately we couldn’t get into the gardens because it was too late in the day. Instead we sampled some of the local food and headed towards the Bund. My friends were really impressed with the view of the Bund at night-time with all the lights on the buildings. After another photo session, we headed to Pop bar for dinner and cocktails.
A friend that I use to live in Yantai with had told me about a cool place that was having a garden party and that we should check it out. As we turned up at the bar there was a) no garden and b) no party! We were the only people there! Considering we were the only people there we were still there and nearly two hours later. We eventually moved onto a new bar area called Found 158, which is a somewhat of a huge hole in the ground with bars all around and people are free to move between the bars and open area. I had never been here before, but it’s a great new spot in Shanghai and I see it will only get more popular over the coming months. It’s safe to say we had another late night or an early morning.
Sunday: It was time to head to Beijing. Before that I had arranged to meet my old manager so that she could take us for some local food. Whenever I go to Shanghai I usually eat western food, so my knowledge of good local restaurants isn’t to extensive. It was nice to see my old manager and for her to meet my friends. She will move to England at the end of August so I imagine I will be seeing more of her. After Breakfast/lunch we headed back to the Yuyuan gardens, but this time we made it in!
After the gardens, we had to go to the airport to catch a flight to Beijing. As usual the flight didn’t take off on time and it was quite a bumpy ride. By the time, we arrived it Beijing it was late and we were all extremely tired, so we just crawled into bed for an early night.
Monday: Mitch works for a travel company in England and so he had organised a guided tour to the Great Wall of China. Our guide was called Leo and he was from Harbin. He was a nice guy and he seemed to know a lot about the history of the wall. The first stop was to see some of the Ming tombs and from there to the Mutianyu section of the wall. We took the cable car up and then started to explore the wall. This was the 2nd time that I had been this section of the wall and for my friends I think there was a real sense of amazement, that they were in China and on the Great Wall of China.
After spending, a few hours of the wall going up and down the stairs it was time for the best part…the toboggan down! It is just so much fun and I recommend it to anyone who plans to visit. the trick is to put some distance between you and the rider in front so that you can pick up some speed!
The next stop was to a tea house. Now this wasn’t in the original itinerary and Leo had told us that we had paid for the shopping trip and if we didn’t go to the tea house we would have to pay more…yes, we were also confused by this! And my internal scam alarm was going crazy! However, we didn’t really have much choice and begrudgingly went along with it. After saying that we would go and that were NOT going to buy anything, both of my friends bought bags of tea! In all honestly it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.
That evening we met a friend of mine who started in China at the same time as I did. We headed out to one of the hutongs for dinner and a few drinks. By now you must be picking up on a common theme from all of the days!
Tuesday: This was the last full day of their trip. We went to the Temple of Heaven and I’d forgotten just how big it was, so it took us a while to get around it all. From there to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, where I tried to be share with them all my historical facts about the area. In all honesty, the Tuesday was a struggle, the alcohol and late nights had finally caught up with us all and we were exhausted but we tried to power through.
We walked back to the downtown area for food and to show them some places to check out in the evening as I would have to leave them to catch my flight back to Hangzhou. My flight was actually delayed by four hours and I didn’t make it back to my apartment until 3am! School the next day was a very long day!
I was so happy to have my friends in China, my friendship circle here is small and so I really miss my friends from home. I think they were both surprised by China and had a better time than they expected. I asked them what they expected and they both agreed that they weren’t sure, but they thought it would have been more of a culture shock that it was! Having my friends in China made me realise how i’d been taking it all for granted and even though there are times that living in China is hard, for the most part it is an amazing place to be. As my time in China is rapidly coming to an end I’m starting to realise just how much I will miss it and I was glad to have shared this country with some of my closest friends!