The Slow Boat Reaches Mainland China – part 13

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Into Shanghai (Guangzhou) harbour this morning. It was a slow, late entry, no doubt dictated by the port authorities. We came in at a heading of about 290deg. and a speed of 21Km/h, sometimes down to 16Kmh. Ships everywhere, hundreds of them, some alongside us going in, others steaming out. We seemed to pass around an island in this huge river mouth, changing course many times, sometimes seeming to join the stream of ships going in. The water is muddy brown, presumably river silt. There were several dredges hard at work. It’s a beautiful clear autumn day, about 22C maximum forecast.

At 10am we slowly turned 180deg and edged into the pier. The gangway has been manouvered into position (screw jacks to raise and lower) and at 1030 we seem to be alongside.

We all have to go ashore into the immigration hall, even those who aren’t going on tours. We had our passports returned last night for this purpose. I’m going on a half day tour starting at 1130am.

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Even the clever Chinese get the punctuation wrong.

7.30pm: Phew! It was only a half day tour but it was hard work.

Ship disembarkation started for us at 1045, Group Red5, gathered in Club Fusion Lounge Deck 7.

We entered the gangway and started to walk, down the slope. The crowd soon bunched up and it was slow going. There was a group of three bloody Russian sounding guys right behind me, pushing from behind by bunching up, talking incessantly, loudly, right in my ear. What were they talking about? Every advertising sign along the way seemed to spark an entire discussion. I heard many English words mixed in. One guy kept breaking out of the queue and going down 20m or so trying to see the front. I got tired of this and was thinking of pulling out and going behind them, but we reached a doorway and they seemed to quiet down.

As we got into the immigration hall we passed through a radiation detector gateway, then there was a dog handler with a small dog on a leash and a large one lying nearby. After a bit, he pulled the three Russians aside and got the dog to sniff their substantial bags. It didn’t find anything, but i was interesting that he picked these three guys, presumably because they looked rough and suspicious.

Queues! We are more than 2,000 people, the equivalent of around eight jumbo jets arriving simultaneously. The queuing seemed endless to go through immigration. Stand behind the yellow line, full passport check, face recognition camera, bag scan, body scan, everything.

We finally got out about 1230pm, that’s more than 90 mins of slowly inching forward, then had a 100m walk to a bus. It wasn’t crowded, only 36 passengers. For some reason the passengers on the bus decided to give each arrival up the steps a big cheer as everyone boarded. I was taken by surprise. I found it hard to climb the steps up into the bus.

Then it was about a 40 min drive into the city. High freeways, like Tokyo, maybe 50m in the air. Traffic not too bad. Guide introduced himself as Darren, Chinese name Da, and he was another serial talker. Non-bloody-stop, wall to wall talking. Just like our guide “Jupiter” in Hong Kong. I assume it was to make her name memorable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst stop was at the base of the tripod TV tower. The base! Nice, but too hard to photograph. You can’t take shots from so close, but I did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of milling around. It was 2pm by now and I was hungry, but there was no opportunity offered to get any lunch and I had no Chinese money anyway. I could see a Subway across the road but there was no time. This was just wrong.

Bus via financial district to the Mag Lev train station to catch the 3pm train, with Darren talking non-stop. He doesn’t tell us what we’re passing until we’re past it. Annoying.

Another fast 200m walk to an escalator. More queuing. Full bag inspection and metal detector walk through just like at an airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey won’t allow any knives or lighters on the train. We boarded the train at 1455, with plenty of seats. This trip is to the airport about 30Km away, and back. We’re to stay on the train, it’s purely for the ride. We’re told the trip takes just 7 minutes – we accelerate for three minutes, spend 1 minute at top speed, then decelerate for the last three minutes. Want to meet the driver? There is no driver. It’s all computer controlled. The speed rapidly increases with a fair amount of noise and vibration and bumpiness, surprisingly. The top speed reached is 431Kmh. Sheesh, that’s fast. It’s the fastest I’ve been outside an aircraft. That means I’ve now been on the Japanese Bullet Train and this Chinese Mag-Lev train. Nice.

When we get off the the train, I can’t find Red5, the leader or our group. There are ticket turnstiles and the barrier lady won’t let me through – I have no ticket, Darren has them all but he’s gone missing. We mill around and eventually when I see the manual gate open and the guard distracted, I just walk through. She knows I’m doing it but I go through OK. I join Red4 group to get back to the bus. Darren (Da) turns up, caught wrong train, he says, lost group. Ha ha! How could he do it?

1545 we set off to the Jin Mao Tower – another 30 min drive through heavy traffic. More queuing for the lift. Only one of two lifts is operating. About 25 passengers per lift, so it was a long wait. Finally we’re off up the tower, at a 9.1m/s rise. Ears pop, then about 60 secs later we’re at the top and joining the crowds. I’m a bit tired of crowds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAViews from the top are pretty good but are marred by small windows with thick frames and smog/haze. Nice sunset at about 1715, but it’s brief. Did I mention crowds!

Then I realise that there are great shots looking down the centre of the tower.. The building is hollow! Hotel?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI couldn’t find the exit for a while. But all I had to do was look for the queues. More queues to reach the lift. The Chinese just push in. Luckily both lifts are operating now.

Another wait on the lower ground floor, more queuing, then back to the bus and a 1 hr drive back to ship between 1735 and 1840 when I finally got to the cabin, exhausted. Traffic jams. Gridlock. Another bag inspection in the immigration/customs hall, but no immigration check this time except for a scan of a bar code sticker on the back of my passport.

Walk along gangway – it’s horizontal – huh? It was downward this morning, so I was expecting to have to walk up a slope. I realise later that the tide has gone out, resulting in the ship being around 2-3m lower with respect to the pier. I reach the cabin at 1840, absolutely knackered. BS 5.4 – no lunch, no chance to eat at all! This is wrong.

Tried all wi-fi channels but no luck. Both Jan and I are feeling the lack of communications, and the lack of Google Earth. I wish I’d brought a fine detail map.

After some nice wine and a cheeseburger for dinner in the open top deck, I was ready for bed. Rain had set in and by 9pm, our scheduled departure time, it was steady. But we weren’t moving – passengers were still coming along the gangway at 9.30pm. By 10pm we were too tired to care and hit the sack. The novelty of leaving port has worn off.

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