Archive for April, 2010

The Science of Shopping

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2010 by David Palmer

Today I got up early and let Sue have a lie in while I had breakfast and trotted over to the Crowne to read the Newspaper, when I got back Sue was having breakfast and chatting to the other guests. We decided to catch the shuttle bus to the Market and then visit the Science Museum, it was a lovely warm and sunny morning. The bus was very full and the journey to the Market took quite a long time. We had lots of fun wandering around the various outlets, negotiating for a few presents. We have a good guy/bad guy routine when cutting the price down. I keep all the money and Sue chooses what she wants and asks for the price. I usually wander around outside and Sue calls me in to tell me the price and I tell her I am not paying that, we will go somewhere else and go to leave. The price then halves. I say no and Sue then goes to leave with me and we get  further reduction and lots of whimpering. You know you are paying the best price when they swear at you (after you have given them the cash). After shopping we had a pizza at something called Mary’s Kitchen. Afterwards we walked over to the Shanghai Museum of Science. A very Hi-tech, huge and very impressive building. I was interrogated as to my age by a police man outside and told that if I was over 70 I could get in free. I resisted the temptation to hit him and decided to get my (now rather long) beard shaved tomorrow, as not expecting to be there that long I had not brought my electric razor and of course scissors are not allowed on planes anymore. At the ticket kiosk the girl inquired as to my age and pointed out that if I was over 70 I would go in free (Sue was very amused!!!). I told her I was 57 and could still probably out run her over 100m. She looked shocked but gave me a ticket. I resolved to use some anti-ageing cream when I get home. Despite being insulted by the whole of the Chinese Nation, I did wonder why whenever I got on a bus or the Metro, old ladies would stand up and and offer me their seat for me to sit down. I assumed it was because I obviously looked like a very important European diplomat or film star, I suspect differently now. If you go to Shanghai I recommend a visit to the Science Museum. We stayed there until they threw us out at 5.30pm. We didn’t get to see all the exhibits and it was absolutely fascinating. For £5 entrance (NOT the Senior Cit’s concession rate!) it was brilliant. Unfortunately, we were too late to catch a 4D film at the imax cinema there and would have loved to have seen what it was like, but the rest of the exhibits and shows (that we did see) certainly made up for it. We caught the shuttle back to the hotel at 6.20pm. On the bus my mobile phone went off. It was Virgin and they asked us to go to the airport tomorrow at 6.30am for a standby flight to London. When we got back to our room we both confessed to being disappointed. We now wanted to stay until the 5th of May and had planned all the places we were going to visit. My mobile rang again and this time Virgin informed us that we now had a confirmed flight tomorrow and didn’t need to get to the airport until 7.00am, but that we were going via Hongkong. Now we were very disappointed, we knew you can’t refuse a confirmed flight without giving up the right to a flight back. We chatted with our fellow passengers in the Foye before going out for dinner. On our return we again sat in the Foye and chatted. An rather unpleasant Scot and his wife (nicer) who always shouted, complained and bullied his way through life came and joined us. He also had been offered a standby slot for tomorrow but had refused it because he didn’t want to go all the way to the airport with a possibility of not getting away (I suspect he just loved complaining) and had been given a confirmed flight on the 30th. The next day we got up early, checked out, got a taxi and was at the airport by 6.30am. The Virgin staff their took our details. We joined a queue and were told that we were now standby to Heathrow direct, and could we come back at 8.00am to see if we were flying. We duly went and had a coffee and returned at 7.45am. One of the Virgin staff (Chinese) came up and whispered to Sue that they had put us on priority, because (looking at me) they didn’t think we/I could cope with the transfer at Hongkong, as there was a 9 hour transit time. We were then processed, given our boarding cards and told they had given us a nice window seat together. We flew out an hour later. It is a sad fact that the Chinese cannot gauge the age of European men at all accurately, I suspect that it is a flaw in their thinking that will one day bring down their whole society and bid for world domination. When we send all our excess Senior Cit’s on Freebie holidays to China, they will make the mistake and treat them kindly and look after them for us, hence saving a fortune for the British taxpayer! We are now home.

Rocket Train

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 by David Palmer
Yesterday after breakfast I trotted over to the Crowne Plaza and read the Shanghai Times and id a bit of the crossword and then returned to the Ibis. Sue had got up and had just finished her breakfast and had arranged to go with another cople from Newcastle on the Maglev to the airport (for the experience). We duly accompanied them on the Shuttle bus to the Expo Site (very inmpressive) and then caught a taxi to the Station. After buying our tickets (5 pound each) we ghot on the train. Very sleek, very modern, very exciting. The journey was amazing, it takes nearly 1hour 10 mins on the ordinary train to travel the distance to the airport, it takes 8 minutes on the Maglev. The acceleration is phenomenal, the ride is very smooth and the landscape outside just whizzes past. We reached 431kph before we started to decelarate. It is the fastest train on Earth and I can believe it. Why can’t we do this in the UK? Words can’t describe the ride it was just WOW.
Afterwards we went into the airport and found the Virgin Office and found out some more info about the cancellations. Some people are getting away early on Standby by camping out at the desk, but most are disappointed. We decide to give it a try to morrow.
We then caught the Metro into the City. Then caught the No.64 bus into the Old Town. We walked around looking at the buildings and Sue bought a liitle thing for Sarah and then had lunch in a KFC. We met a few people from the boat who were equally stranded and swapped stories, before catching the No.64 again and retracing our journey back to the Hotel. There we arranged for a Taxi at 5.15am to get to the airport to Standby. We then got changed and went out for our evening meal. When we returned we found out that some of our fellow passengers had rung Virgin and got flights a little easrlier. We cancelled the Taxi and decided to use the phone than have the inconvenience of journeying to the airport, and of course checking out of the hotel and possible risking losing the room if we were unsuccessful and had to return. We chatted until late at night with the other passengers and then went to bed.
 

A Pleasant Day

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 by David Palmer
Yesterday after breakfast, we decided to travel into Shanghai. We walked to the Metro Station and after working out how to use the ticket machine we travelled on a very smart and efficient train to Central Avenue, it took about 30 minutes. From Central Avenue we walked (using the tourist map) to The Bund which is pedestrian walkway and park along the river. The Park and walk was very pretty and the view of the City spectacular, even though there was low cloud and most of the tops of the skyscrapers were in cloud. We sat and watched the river traffic and ate a pear and the sun came out. We then found ‘The Passenger Tunnel’ under the river. It was quite a surprise as you travel in a little cab underground through a tunnel that had amazing light displays all the way. When we emerged from the the other side it was quite hot, and I had to take a few layers of clothing off. As we had come out on the Nanjing Road (famous shopping street) we decided to walk down it. You can buy anything there. It is not as good for shopping I think as HongKong and the food is not as nice as in Bangkok but it is certainly Oriental. We caught a little Tourist train that slowly made its way along the road and this saved our feet. At the other end we stopped for iced tea and hot chocolate at a Starbuck. Afterwards we had a lovely walk through ‘The People’s Park’, very pretty and we took loads of photos. As it was now 4pm we set of back to the hotel, we used the Metro and only wen wrong once as it involved a few connections. We got back at just after 5pm to find that it had rained and been miserable all day back in Pudong. We were informed by some of our other delayees that a Virgin flight had left with all the passengers from the 15th of April. They were hopeful that we would fly in 4-5 days. I contacted Virgin and they said that the 15th April flight had originally flown on time and had been turned back, so the aircraft was in Shanghai. So when flights resumed they just flew them home. We still have a return date of 5th May. We can survive. We went out in the evening for a meal, I ate a very hot chinese dish and Sue had a very pleasant Japanese one. It was lashing it down with rain on our return and we got wet. We read for a while, watched a Chinese documentary and then went to bed. Nice day.
 

Still Raining

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 by David Palmer
It is still raining and other than mooching around the area we didn’t move far from the hotel as when we were reading the newspaper at the Crowne Plaza a couple of excited guests informed us that they are moving back to the Crowne as they have heard of the $100 compensation. I duly went back to our room, rang Virgin and they confirmed $100 compensation per person per day, but didn’t seem sure. I asked them to email me with the details as confirmation (they haven’t so far). I also rang Cruise1st to ask whatb it would cost to move back to the Crowne, they said they could book us in for 96 pound a day which was their discounted travel agency rate ( calculate this to be 1800 pounds approx. as opposed to 300+ approx. at the Ibis) just let them know by email and they will do it for us. We are still at the Ibis as all this has to be done up front and I prefer to pay the latter if Virgin decide not to compensate as my travel insurance only covers up to 500 pound on cancellation. Some people have moved back to the Crowne, but some have stayed. We went out for dinner with a couple from Newcastle last night. His wife has Parkinson’s desease (we think) and had a nice time. Afterwards, Sue and I watched a programme on the Tv about the Chinese Earthquake, it was very similar to our Children in Need Appeal programme and quite interesting to watch. Afterwards I started to read one of Sue’s books and surprisingly found it quite absorbing (I am getting worried). I got up early this morning for breakfast and left Sue in bed. Sue has just come down so will have to finish. we are planning to take the Metro into the Old part of Town, I wonder if we will make it?
 

Confusion and Rumours

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 by David Palmer
Well we arrived at the hotel from the ship and decided to catch a shuttlebus to Tai Mai Market, this turned out to be very fortunate (in a  way). As we sat on the bus a couple got on and told us that they had to re-book their flight and were given the 4th of May. We were stunned, we knew we were not going to fly the following day but assumed it would be just a couple of days. They also informed us that Virgin and Cruise1st were not providing compensation or arranging alternate accommodation. We travelled to the market but returned after an hour as our minds were not really on buying presents. On return to the hotel there seemed to be so many rumours flying around from the other passengers that little seemed to make sense. Despite being told not to, we decided to go to the airport in the morning. I rang Virgin and Cruise1st that evening and couldn’t get through. We then went to the Ibis Hotel across the road and booked a room for the following night to ensure we had somewhere to sleep as with Shanghai Expo 2010 happeninmg in a few days time the Hotels are full. The following morning we got up early, had a bit of breakfast checked out and got a taxi to the airport. No passengers at the Virgin desk other than a couple of Polish ladies who informed us that we need not bother they couldn’t do anything for us, she had been arguing with them for an hour. I spoke to the stafff at the Virgin Check-in and persuaded them to tell me what was happening and then got them to book me onto a flight on the 5th May. I later confirmed this online back at the Hotel. We checked out the prices of Airport Hotels, but they were too expensive and they didn’t provide food. We had a taxi back to the Ibis and checked in. Quite a lot of the other passengers had heard and also checked in to the Ibis. Our holiday insurance will cover delayed departure up to 500 pounds and 16 days at the Ibis is around 350 pounds, the Crowne Plazea is 120 pounds aday (no brainer really).We swapped stories with other guests, some who had taken Virgin at their word by not going to the airport and did not yet have a return flight, they are now up to the 8th of May return! We went out for an evening meal and a beer and had a nice time. On our return to the Hotel  we watched a bit of Chinese TV, read a bit then went to sleep. At 10.30pm they decided to put something on the roof with a crane, but they did it in 20 mins and left and we went back to sleep.
Breakfast this morning was fine but not as sumptuous as the Crowne Plaza, but we stuffed ourselves. The we went over to the Crowne to read the newspaper and od the crossword. We were then told that Virgin were providing compensation of $100 per person per day for accommodation. I rang Virgin and they confirmed this, but for only staying at a 3 star hotel (Crowne Plaza is 5*). Some people have now transferred back to the Crowne. We are staying here, it is comfortable enough and if no-one compensates me, I can afford it. Later today when Europe wakes up I shall ring Cruise1st and enquire as to what I would be charged for booking into the Crowne at the Travel Agency rate. It is raing here at the moment and out plan to visit the zoo has been scuppered. This not the end of the blog just the current episode!

Shanghaid in China!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19, 2010 by David Palmer
Had a four hour delay at Heathrow on the Virgin flight to Shanghai (not a good start). Everything then went smoothly:
Airport to Hotel (ok)
Hotel to Cruise ship (ok)
Cruise asround Japan and South Korea (excellent)
Entertainment on board (good)
Food (excellent)
Tours (good)
Cruise ship to Hotel (good)
Hotel to Airport (never happened!)
A volcano in Iceland decvided to blow its top and prevent our return (not good)
Impressions of Japan are surprisingly better than I thought, it is an exceptionally neat and tidy country. We saw no litter or mess at all. The population dresses exclusively in Armani, except the peasants and they only wear Gucchi. Their manners are superb and of course they are extremely polite and helpful. The country itself is a picture box and all the plants and flowers are so photogenic it is impossible not to take a decent photo of the countyryside or even urban areas. Shopping is like walking through a clinically perfect envronment where any food stuff or article that is on display looks its best (and is probably hermetically sealed).
South Korea is nearly the same except there is a bit of rubbish lying around and the school children are rather undisciplined (unlike the Japanese). Our British pupils are relatively well behaved compared to them. I did like Korea though, they have come on leap and bounds overe the last few decades to becoame a very successful nation and they have done it through sheer enterprise and mind boggling hard work.
Shanghai is  very Hitech but quite a lot polluted and verybig. The Hotel is local to the airport and it still takes a taxi 40mins to get there. The road system is very efficient.We had the Grand Prix yesterday (Brits 1 & 2) and all the Taxi drivers think they are in the race.
We were to fly today, but like Europe, we cannot. Virgin and Cruise1st (our booking agent) are notable for their reluctance to help, so we now have to rely on our own resources. We have moved our Hotel to a cheaper one ie: 1200 RMB per night (Crowne Plaza, Pudong) to 268 RMB per night (Ibis Hotel, Pudong). We still get breakfast, buta we haven’t sampled it yet. This morning (against Virgin’s advice) we went to the Airport at flight time and met the staff, we persuaded them to give us a confirmed flight on the 5th May, which gives us 16 days to kill unless we can find another route home (like the rest of 5 days of stopped flights). We have got company as a few of the other passengers have followed us into the Ibis to save money. Some have flights and some don’t. The current news is still bad but as long as the aircraft fly before May we will be coming home. Charlotte has been a brick, covering at home and texting us with info etc. We shall have to make the best of things and see the sights of Shanghai, unfortunately Chinese food is not my favourite and there is no alternative. As ther Captain of an Emirates flight, who I met last night said, "What a better place to be trapped in than Shanghai?" I replied, "How about the Maldives?"
I would like to go home now and seem my family and plant my tomato seeds.