1.World’s fastest elevators
Somewhere between time travel and Willy Wonka’s glass elevator, the lift in Shanghai's Jin Mao Tower catapulted us to the 88th floor in 45 seconds (that’s 9.1m per second!). The funny thing is, it felt like we weren't even moving. It’s the world’s 5th fastest elevator and the world's 7th tallest building. Right next door, the World Financial Tower, is even higher and has an even faster elevator which takes you to its Sky Walk – a transparent glass floor floating above the city – on the 100th floor. Yep, along with its futuristic walkways and outdoor escalators, this area of Shanghai is China at its utmost modern.
2. Chicken soup for the bold
|by Russ Bowling/CC BY 2.0|
The meat section of the markets were certainly not for the pigeon-hearted (though you might be able to buy pigeon hearts there, possibly still throbbing, along with the sheep intestines, pig faces, fish eyes and duck feet).
I think this souvenir captures the spirit of the markets: a plastic squawking chicken, now hanging in our kitchen. When you squeeze it, it makes this incredibly loud, incredibly awful, dying chicken noise.
I use it now to call the family to the table when dinner’s ready.
3. Pictorial bicycle tour
What a great idea this is. A fabulous guesthouse we stayed in, The Giggling Tree near Yangshuo, had created various cycling route booklets which guided you around with photos and charming instructions like “Turn right at the gnarled tree” and “Cross the bridge after the fish farm”. Much easier and way more fun than following a map. Me and the girl set off on a tandem, cycling through paddy fields and tiny villages.
We still got lost though.
A highlight of our trip: a two-hour float down the Li River in Yangshuo. Utterly beautiful. Utterly tranquil. Nothing but the gentle splosh of our punter’s pole dipping in and out the water.
The odd water buffalo wandering down for a drink, a cormorant fisherman, a bride and groom having a photo shoot on a raft, a woman washing clothes in the river. And every so often a whoosh of giggles and water-spray as we slid down a weir.
|by Sofia Sweetman/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (adapted)|
And while we’re on the subject, boy, did we have some toilet experiences of our own. Squatting didn't take much getting used to ...
... but doing your business amongst strangers without a proper cubicle, let alone a door, is quite a shocker of a culture shock. The most, erm, interesting toilet we used had just a trough going down the length of the room, containing every type of human poop you could imagine. “Don’t look down,” I warned my daugher. Of course she did. “I think there were even a few horse poos in there,” she said afterwards.
7.The women with the longest hair in the world
Mine and the girl's favourite bit of the whole trip was spending one night at the top of the Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces where the Yao people live. All the women have exceptionally long hair, only cutting it once at age 16. Most of the time they wear it closely wound round their heads under their headgear. But we caught one woman combing it.
Tian Ranju Inn, we caught fascinating glimpses of their simple life.
The first thing my daughter did when we got home was try to recreate the rice terraces with Lego.
8. Magic calligraphy paper
9. Foot massage for a fiver
One heavenly hour for 50 yuan (£5) in the centre of Shanghai. Who could resist? Not us. We went back two evenings in a row. Sometimes tickly, occasionally painful, but mostly just sheer pleasure, with the odd titbit of reflexology info thrown in. I managed to work out at one point that the masseur was telling me he was working on my digestive system. Probably a good idea after some of the new items I'd put into it.
10. Itinerary in pictures
I have to end with this. I thought it was adorable. Some friends of ours from the UK overlapped with us in China for a couple of days. Every time they go on a family holiday, the dad makes their two children a gorgeous pictorial representation of what they plan to do. Initially they started it for their adopted daughter when she was too young to read, to make her feel secure and reassure her that they would be returning home. Now it’s become their family tradition.