Tag Archives: Shanghai

The Special Ferry SU ZHOU HAO

Our most favorite to get to Japan is by ferry, the SU ZHOU HAO, from Shanghai to Osaka. Flying is okay I guess (well, maybe not these days), but taking the ferry is really something different. You can relax, while the ship does all the work. It’s a bit like the train rides we did on this trip so far, but on the ship you have so much more space to walk around and explore. You can go outside whenever you want, they have a nice Japanese bath on board and the food… well, food is available.

The last time we were on the ferry, we soon had a group of 8-10 people who hung around most of the time. That was really a great time. But that was when the Expo was, so a lot of people were on the ship to start with. This time there weren’t as many. There was this Otaku couple from England, who weren’t going to Japan for the first time either (just the first time on the ferry), a South Korean guy from Seoul, who had been traveling the world for several months now (a lot by bicycle) and was writing a book about it, as well as 3-5 other people we didn’t see often enough to enable some kind of exchange. All others were Chinese and making conversation is quite hard. I only managed once with a Chinese business man in the Japanese bath, but that was quite difficult, even when we used all four languages we knew together.

And then there were our cabin companions, Maija and Kim. A Swedish-Finnish couple who took a few months off to travel around. They were great fun to be with. During the day we’d just hang out, reading, talking, taking photos. And in the evening we’d play games. Shanghai, Shitty Pants and Goat Testicles. Also we… hmm, what do you mean? Oh, the games. Okay, maybe a little explanation is needed. Let’s start with the most simple one, Shanghai. It’s basically Uno with two regular 52 card decks (including Jokers), just some slight differences, for example that you could Shanghai (politely ask the person who’s turn it was) the open card when it wasn’t your turn. Shitty pants (as I’ve researched by now, the Finnish name is Paskahousu, which makes it basically a correctly translated title) is a card game where the players always need to raise the cards lying on the table. And then there were the Goat Testicles. Okay, we made that title up, because we didn’t know the name of the game. But the game was a genuine Mongolian game, which you play with ankle bones. The player throws the bones on the table, where they can land in one of four positions, named sheep, goat, horse and camel. Then you have to flip one bone onto another one of the same kind without hitting another bone. You do this until you miss or hit a different bone and after that the next player continues. The winner is the one who collects most of them. You can also tell the fortune with those bones (since Mongolia has no access to the ocean, we weren’t sure if it is good or bad luck to roll them on the sea, so we settled for special luck). As I learned by now over the Internet, those bones come in sets of four in a leather pouch and are called Shagai. If we’d only learned that while still in Mongolia. Those would’ve been a great souvenir and gift.

Out companions traveled a lot more through Mongolia, so we could learn a bit more about the country and culture from them (like drinking games). In return, we were able to give them some starters and tips for Japan.

One more thing about the food. On the ship are some vending machines (going to Japan after all) with drinks and food, as well as two restaurants, a regular and a special restaurant. We weren’t allowed to eat at the special restaurant (just to join the Karaoke later) and the regular one served set meals which were just okay (like a cafeteria). But in front of the restaurant was a display with other meals, which we didn’t seem to get in the restaurant. On the last evening I had the crazy idea to just ask for one of those. That was so crazy that it actually worked. (They should really post a note about this. Or if they have, add one in English.) Looks like you don’t have to be special to get some different meal.

And yes, “special” became our running gag on this trip.

So after our special voyage on the special ship with all the special stuff and our special companions, we arrive in special Osaka for the special immigration and special customs.

Shanghai revisited

We arrived in Shanghai early with the sleeper train (not much to say about that) and took a taxi to our hotel. Even though we’ve been to Shanghai before and actually liked our hotel, we chose another one this time, since the reviews from our original hotel weren’t as good anymore. Our new choice was closer to the Bund and closer to the ferry terminal, both within short walking range. But unlike our last hotel, they don’t offer coffee (and the coffee there was really, really good… now even too far away to just go there and grab a cup).

Basically during the one and a half days we explored the Bund and Pudong. The Bund is the waterfront area of the Huangpu River with a lot of historical buildings, from where you can see the famous skyline, while Pudong is the part of Shanghai where the skyscrapers from said skyline actually are (well, Pudong is much bigger than that, a major part of the city, but let’s keep it simple).

We didn’t visit any of the historical buildings at the Bund (except for a bank, but just for the ATM) or a skyscrapter in Pudong, but rather walked around the areas (while looking for geocaches of course). But it was interesting nonetheless. Just like the first time when we were in Shanghai, the sky was cloudy and the view over the river hazy, so again no good pictures of the skyline. And once the weather looked bad enough to rain, we headed back to the hotel and called it a day early.

We were also looking for a way to get from the Bund to Pudong by walking, but there wasn’t any way, even the tourist information office couldn’t help us. I thought I remembered something about a sightseeing tunnel or something, but is seemed like my memory was mistaken. As we learned later, there was indeed such a tunnel, it’s just that you cannot walk to the other side, but are taken there by a car or train or whatsoever. They didn’t suggest that at the tourist information office. But then again, they didn’t even have a map for my collection.

Shanghai was just a brief stop again. Our actual reason to be here was the ferry, for another important part of the journey:
The voyage to Japan.