I think it’s the longest time I’ve ever spent on an aeroplane. Even counting for the two-hour stop over in Amsterdam, we were still in the air for 15 hours. By the time we landed in Shanghai, we were tired, but also very excited. There is a tight control on taxis in China, so we could get one knowing what the price was going to be, with no fear of getting ripped off because we were tourists.
I have to say, I have never seen so many tower blocks in my life. There was row upon row of high-rise flats on the 25-minute drive to the city centre. It was truly unbelievable. At the time when the UK is getting rid of blocks of flats, the Chinese have gone absolutely mad for it.
The hotel itself was very modern. It was a surprise that smoking was allowed throughout, but I didn’t really notice because the air pollution while we were there was quite bad.
Shanghai waterfront is extremely photogenic and easy on the eye. One side, The Bund, is supposed to be modelled on the waterfront of Liverpool and it does have an echo of that. The opposite side is like visiting the future. It’s a science fiction wonderland.
Communicating in Shanghai is difficult. Hardly anyone knows English and all I could learn was hello, goodbye and thank you. We had an app on the phone that gave you a translation of where you wanted to go to and then we would just show this to the driver. That seemed to work quite well. And we had the same policy when ordering food. A lot of the restaurants have images of the food and bizarre English translations. The breakfast bar in our hotel was offering Francis Bacon and fly eggs. Can you imagine?
We had Szechuan food on the second night we were there and this proved so popular we went there again on our final night. Chicken, boiled and then fried in a huge wok of chilli flakes was amazing as were the frogs’ legs, cooked in the same way. Don’t knock them until you’ve tried them! They were really nice. Not so good was the jellyfish soup, but we had to try it. For desert, we went to a Japanese cake bar. They’re all the rage our there apparently. We had these mini Swiss roll truffles, which were absolutely delicious.
Shopping in Shanghai was fraught. I’ve never been one for haggling, but that is what everyone does. Over everything from a set of postcards to the fake bags that line the stalls out by the convention centre. My, oh my, there were some bargains to be had if you had your wits about you. I didn’t, and the watch I bought for £10 broke the second we landed back in the UK! But I’m glad I did the whole experience. I’ll never forget it, that’s for sure, and that’s why I do what I do. To create moments that will never be forgotten!