Shanghai Express

Nicholas Quirke was embarking on another adventure on 5 July 2020 and finally after many cancellations was heading to Shanghai, a city that had eluded him continually from his previous 2018 Odyssey onward. It also would mark the first time since he had returned to Beijing in March that he would be travelling on his own and without Peng as guide and companion. Being Pengless was not a worry, but he would find it odd to not have the companionship which he had got used to since they were forced into quarantine together. He was fortunate though to have Peng drive him to the new Immense new Beijing airport , Daxing, , which tragically due to Covid 19 had ground to a virtual halt. There was literally no other traffic on the roads and when they entered the terminal it was like a beautiful sparkling ghost town. It was sad, but he was also pleased that he got to see it in this state. There were no check in queues, no waiting at security though they did go through his bag having found a stanly knife that was part of his sketching kit. The gate was quite busy and he was surprised to see that many were flummoxed by being asked for the health kit, which to get to the point he was at he had already shown 2 times,. Was this stupidity? . The plane to Shanghai was full and he was asked to fill in a form about his movements and where he had been in the past 14 days. Had he been in high risk, low risk areas. A confusing form as Beijing itself was classed as middle risk and as the flight was coming from there what should he put. The 1.30 hour flight passed quickly and he was prepared for a rigorous check on his way through therefore he was left amazed as on reaching a check point he showed his Shanghai health kit was ushered through and found himself free to wander the streets of the exiting new territory he was in. What. No form, he had diligently and honesty completed, no requirement to see passport or test results, the address he would be staying at! It was harder to get o to some of Beijing’s parks than this. Ecstatic he found the subway and onward to his hotel. He had thought being Pengless would hamper him but he was actually finding it quite easy to get around and he was so prepared it was plain sailing. Checking in too was straightforward as he had all the paperwork and the only issue was the free breakfast on offer which due reed bread instead to COVID19 was now prepared by outside caterers, including Macdonalds. It was hard to get the reception to understand vegan and when they offered bread instead he felt it time to get Peng on the case. It was arranged that he would have fruit delivered to his room each morning at 7.30. He settled in then went to explore the city on a bike as his bike pass included the whole of China. He headed to the old colonial area of Wuking Road which was a 50 minute ride from the hotel and gave him a great flavour of the city, In particular it revealed the visual Shanghai of black and white movies with a distinctly colonial flavour. Though there was sporadic rain the temperature was warm and as he cycled he felt another rush of excitement at being on his journey of discovery and not just about the world but about himself. As he cycled round the mansions of Wuking road he could imagine himself in the heat of 1920s Shanghai, and he was astonished when he came across a theatre that was actually open and a performance was happening that night. He messaged all on face book with the news to take heart. Having soaked up the atmosphere of the colonial style area he started back to the area of his hotel to see the Oriental Pearl tower and the Bund at night. He took the subway and as he exited the station was overwhelmed by the stark contrast the city presented him with. Having spent the last few hours in a black and white movie he had emerged into Gotham city. Towering fanciful sky scrapers, wraithed that night in the eeriest of mists through which their fluorescent colours and neon shimmered malevolently, seriously led him to believe that he might see a super hero lurking in the shadows. They really were an amazing sight and he was astounded by their splendour. He had planned to take a walk around the Bund but his schedule had overrun and he had not eaten other than breakfast and nuts. He was lacking in energy and went to the hotel instead, walking first around the block to find a supermarket. It felt like the vegan food hunt was on again. He caught up with Peng, his blog and eventually sleep.

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