Amsterdam - HongKong - Shanghai - Beijing

Monday april 16 was the day on which the big jump to the East started. First doubt in the morning: rely on the train to go to the airport or be safe and take the car? Took the gamble and went by train. Self-check-in at the airport including self-baggage-drop, no personal contact any longer. Waiting for the first leg to Moscow.

KLM-flight to Moscow OK. Upon arrival in Sheremetyevo I turned out to be the only transfer and was waited for by an army of security staff. Shoes off, belt off, through the scanner. Killing time on the mega inspiring Sheremetyevo. Boarding well on time (5 minutes before scheduled departure time). Flight SU212 to Hong Kong took off....

Amsterdam - Moscow Genital muscle Menu of the week Hong Kong tram

Arrival in Hong Kong on the 17th. Swift customs and baggage handling on this immense new airport. Used the Airport Express and subway to get to my IBIS hotel North Point. The weather was downright awful. Heavy showers and thunderstoms. Spent the rest of the day scouting the neighborhood.

Wednesday 18th nothing special, just wandering around and trying Hong Kong on for size.

April 19th was well booked. Went to Ngong Ping to visit the Giant Buddha. The most spectacular way to get there is by taking the over water Cable Car but it did not operate because of the extreme storm. The bus should do the trick then. The buddha is immense: 34 meters tall, weighing 250 tonnes. To reach the base of the statue one has to negotiate 268 steps. Well, the view was already breathtaking from the first step...

Big Buddha (s) Disney metro Hong Kong, seen from Victoria Peak and again in the evening

After a total wash out on the mountain back on the bus, and went for a huge outlet to dry up a bit. I was not the only one who came up with this idea. The crowds resembled the yearly mass-sale-event back home in the local Bijenkorf or V&D. This was worse!! It made me tough though, am determined to visit Ikea on wednesday afternoons from now on...

After drying up went for a quick glance at Disneyland Hong Kong. The trains shuttling there are specially designed for the purpose; windows shaped after Mickey Mouse.
After contemplating the raincoat-covered crowds I made back to HK city. Victoria Peak next. Since 99.9% of the visitors opt to go up using the funicular I took city bus #15. Spectacular to have the front seat on the upper deck, spiralling up on the narrow roads. I was lucky, since the sky was relatively clear and the view indeed was impressive. Stayed until nightfall, waiting to see the lights coming on. Took a lot of photos, downhill by funicular and back to the hotel, completely satisfied.

Hotel Venetian in Macau Timetable HongKong - Shanghai Dinner in HK-Shanghai train:
€ 1,80

April 20. Daytrip to Macau. Being an administrative part of China, it is still accessible without any visa. Our EU-passport suffices. Macau is Asia Las Vegas and it is all about gambling. It used to be a Portuguese colony and the proof is all around.
To get there takes one hour on a fast ferry catamaran. Since the rain did not let down I registered for an organized "covered" bustour to get a general impression of Macau. The area is not too bad, but the mega hotels (up to 3000 rooms) somehow ruin the appearance.
The "Venetian Hotel" left me speech- and breathless. Impressive and immense! The Venice canals and gondolas were imitated indoors. The ceiling was like a clear blue summer sky.
A nice sidestep but the weather could have been better. Back to HK for the last evening.

April 21. Bye Hong Kong. Ferry and bus to Hung Hom railhead to take the sleeper train to Shanghai.
Taking the train here is like taking a plane. Your luggage is scanned prior to boarding, and you have to wait in a lounge. Boarding the train is allowed only 15 minutes prior to departure.
I made reservations for a two-berth compartment which I shared with a Chinese businessman. Since his English was at par with my Chinese we finished conversation in 3 minutes.

One hour underway a clanking and rattling minibar-on-wheels made it through the corridor. Food! Basically the Dutch proverb "Anything the farmer does not recognize, the farmer is not going to eat" applies to me but in this case I made an exception to the rule and bought a meal for € 1.80. No idea what it was, but the taste was OK actually.

Shanghai by night ..high altitude Business district Shanghai by day

Break of translation marker

A nice and comfortable night on the train. Arrival in Shanghai at 10am. Customs control. Train consisted of 25 cars, quite longer than we are used to in Europe. The passengers from Hong Kong were separated from the locals and were passed via a Nuclearscan through Customs and baggage check. 15 minutes later I was outside, in China!
Took the subway to the hotel. Street vendors attacking like mosquitoes, trying to peddle their merchandise. A neighborhood reconnaissance and back to the hotel to acclimatize.

April 23. Busy day ahead. First a visit to the 474 metres tall “Shanghai World Finance Center”. The Skywalk on the 97th floor, at level 439m offers a breathtaking view over Shanghai.
Busloads of Chinese tourist were unloaded and the place became overcrowded. Time to move on to the “Oriental Pearl Tower”. With 468 meters this is the tallest TV-tower in Asia and ranking 3rd worldwide. Visiting is possible at level 259m.

Walking the Huang Pu river promenade, and took a ferry across to book a river cruise. Feet up and enjoy the scenery for some hours. Sunny and warm! Back in the hotel I was met with my traintickets for the next day.

April 24. The train to Beijing. Took the subway to the railway station, being part of the largest transport node in China. Everything from planes to trains, buses, subway and taxis converge here. The inevitable luggage scan, and on the the immense waiting space (10,000 sqm) of Hongqiao station.
Train T128 bridges the 1318 kilometers in 5 hours. A class 380A EMU was mine, doing a service speed of 380 km/h. This time though it was limited to 350 km/h. Still faster though than I am used to at work on the ICE to Frankfurt.
The track Shanghai-Beijing is entirely constructed on an elevated concrete floor. When constructed it was obvious that nothing was respected. Should your house be in the planned trajectory: tough luck!
Arrival in Beijing on schedule, and made it to the nearby hotel in no-time.

Shanghai station Train indicator My train to Shanghai on the left ICE in China

April 25. Teaming up with Onno and Augusta. Spent the day visiting the Tian-a-men square and the emporial palace. Ending the day with a visit to Jingshan park with a view over Beijing and the palace.

Some personal observations and first impressions of this country:
* queuing is not done here. Lines are VERY short but VERY wide.
* don't wait for people to get off the metro. Just storm in when the doors open.
* GSMs apparently do not have an internal amplifier. One has to shout in the mouthpiece to be heard by the recipient.
* "Right of way" is a concept that still has to be studied and implemented in this nation. Up until now everybody has equal rights.

Tomorrow we are going to visit the Great Wall. From this point onward the travelog will be a co-production with Onno, starting on the next page.