T to W (continuing with the alphabet challenge)

T is for Tai Kang Road in Shanghai’s French Concession

Shanghai is definitely the city in China which most people instantly fall in love with. I wrote about it in a previous post (http://em30b430.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/q-to-s-continuing-with-alphabet.html) so I won’t bang on too much about it. But one of the areas I really like is the French Concession. It’s a super expensive area of the city, filled with artists’ studios and coffee shops and is full of tourists and people who can afford to spend a fiver on a cup of tea. But it really reminded me of the North Laine area of Brighton, with its quirky shops full of things which you don’t really need but you really want. Coming towards the end of my trip I was starting to feel quite homesick so it was lovely to find a little corner of the city which felt like home (albeit a home where everyone speaks Chinese and stares at you quite a bit.)

You have to be chic to hang out in the French Concession.
Oh la la!
Makes me miss Brighton.
Making life easier for Mr Postman.
Who needs to feel homesick?

The other thing I love about this area is that, like most places in China, no matter how cool it is, daily life still goes on within it. I think it’s something which is quite unique to certain countries. You wouldn’t, for example, get people hanging out their underwear among the high rise office buildings in The City in London would you?

Presumably the home of the Chinese Bridget Jones.

U is for UTels

I think what I didn’t grasp when accepting this challenge is how hard it would actually be, especially with my trip ending in China. I just thought ‘oh great, China, they’ll be loads of Xs’, without actually taking into account that many of the other letters don’t actually exist in the Chinese language. Take U for example. Impossible. Due to the fact that in Pinyin (the official system of writing Mandarin in the Roman alphabet) syllables starting with u are written as w instead. So I was just starting to resign myself to the fact that I was going to have to miss a letter when we checked into the UTel hostel in Shanghai. Now I’m not saying I’d necessarily recommend the hostel (I met a girl in tears at the front desk who had found bed bugs in her room and was besides herself when the unsympathetic staff just offered her a free washing token – I didn’t sleep too well that night) but it did help me with my U dilemma.

V is for Victory

However, I was not so lucky with V. The letter V is unused in Pinyin so the only place in the whole of China I could find beginning with it was Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. Now while I am fairly committed to the cause, in order to go to Hong Kong, you need a whole separate entry on your visa to get back into mainland China. Which would have meant applying for a whole new visa (for the third time) and explaining my reasons for wanting to leave and re-enter mainland China. I wasn’t too sure how well my alphabet challenge would go down with the quite strict Chinese officials and as my flight was leaving in just over a week I didn’t fancy my chances.

So as I was admitting defeat and moaning about it to another traveller she pointed out that you see Vs everywhere in China –all the time. Thinking about it I suddenly realised she was right. You can’t actually have your photograph taken with someone without the obligatory victory sign being made by the mad keen person standing next to you. I think it might be something they teach in the schools. So I know it’s cheating a bit but give me a break, sometimes in China you’ve just got to take what you can get!

Well it’s kind of V…

W Wangfujing in Beijing

Wanfujing Snack Street is famously where tourists in Beijing head to eat starfish, cockroaches and scorpions. But having done more than my fair share of eating bugs (http://em30b430.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/26-sample-some-of-more-unusual-cuisine.html) I decided to skip that option.

Fried scorpion anyone?

It’s also a place where you’re likely to be descended on by “art” or “English” students who’ll chat away to you before inviting you to a tea shop where you’ll end up being landed with the extortionately priced bill. Having heard so many warnings about the scam I was surprised at the number of travellers I’d met who’d been caught out by it. It’s really sad to be so suspicious of people and one of the things I love most about travelling is that you meet so many truly kind people. Fortunately this is the case for the majority of people in China and you’re far more likely to meet someone who just wants to make a Victory sign in your photo than someone who wants you to pay for an expensive cup of tea.

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