Guangzhou / Shanghai

After Hong Kong, we made for to Shanghai. Chose to go by land. On the way over, we decided to stay for a couple of days in Guangzhou – Hong Kong’s neighbour city. Below, there are a few words about what we could see there.

We got to Guangzhou from Hong Kong by train. Once we crossed the border between Hong Kong and China, many things changed. My first impression was that we arrived to a godforsaken provincial town. Almost all English signboards disappeared, Chinese people passing by were wearing simple, dull, wishy-washy kind of clothes. The train station we arrived to was crowded and very dirty. We were about to quest the hotel which would turn out quite a challenge.

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I still couldn’t help feeling an atmosphere of provinciality when we left the train station. I’d found Hong Kong a vivid, lively and various place. After it, Guangzhou gave me the opposite kind of impression.

We had to find the hotel. One would think what could be easier than just typing the address in and following the route? But as it turned out, the mark on the offline map took us to some residential neighbourhood where nobody had ever heard about the hotel. Moreover, no one understood any English and could help us. It was getting very late, and having heavy bags with us we were thinking what to do. There wasn’t any Internet connection. The thing that saved us back then was a screenshot of the hotel reservation, which had a very small but quite legible map telling where the hotel was. I still don’t understand why the address in the reservation was different from the real location of the hotel.

It was a cheap hotel. 3 stars, but cheap like a hostel. When we arrived, it turned out that our room was spacious, yet it didn’t have any windows. So, the next day we got up at about 2 in the afternoon in complete darkness. We had been waking up several times thinking that it was yet too dark and early and going to bed again until one of us finally looked at a clock.

Raskalov Vitaliy.

We had little time but we wanted to climb the roofs and visit Canton Tower.

Short reference from Internet.

Guangzhou is one of the 24 historical cities of China, its history amounts to more than 2000 years. The city was founded in 862 BC. Currently, its population goes beyond 13 million people. Guangzhou is a city with sub-provincial status, of the People’s Republic of China, it is the capital of Guangdong province, a political, economic, scientific and technical, educational, cultural and transport center of whole South China.

Nowadays, the city is the largest tourist resort area, industrial, financial and transport center of China. Guangzhou is the world-known center of consumer goods industry, which produces articles made from silk, cotton, jute, ramie and man-made fibers. Guangzhou features about a hundred wholesale markets, different kinds of goods and hundreds of thousands industrial enterprises, factories and plants (including ship-building yards, automotive manufacturing plants, plants to manufacture equipment for textile and food industries, factories to produce newsprint paper, refined sugar, small appliances, tires, bicycles, sport equipment, porcelain, cement and chemical substances, electronic components). Articles of traditional art and folk craft like shaded and cloisonne enamel items, lacquered articles, ivory carvings, hand fans, umbrellas, nephrite articles, embroidery are still made there and fish farming and fishery are advanced as well.

Two times a year Guangzhou hosts the Canton Fair or China Import and Export Fair (CIEF), which is one of the most significant events of a year in manufacturing and commerce. At the moment, it is the world’s third largest industrial fair on the amount of deals being made.

Residential neighbourhoods with skyscrapers in the background.

The Tinhe sport facility featuring the Tianhe stadium with capacity of 60 thousand people.

A view downwards from the International Finance Center, 437 metres (1,435 ft) tall.

Heavy smog hangs over the city because of lots of factories. Only at weekends and on holydays, there is no smog. The shot shows Canton Tower.

Skyscraper district panorama.

Canton Tower. The TV tower is 600 metres (1,968 ft) tall, which makes it the world’s second tallest TV tower. Until the height of 450 metres (1,476 ft), it is built as a combination of a hyperboloidal reticulated structural shell and a building core. The hyperboloidal construction of the reticulated shell of the Guangzhou TV tower conforms to the 1899 patent of Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov.

Canton TV Tower is a huge tourist amusement. There are glassed observatories on the 33 m (108 ft), 116 m (380 ft), 168 m (551 ft) and 449 m (1,473 ft) levels and an open observational platform on the 488 metres (1,601 ft) level. Revolving restaurants are located on the 418 m (1,371 ft) and 426 m (1,397 ft) levels and there is a VIP-café on the 407 m (1,335 ft) level.

A city view from the highest observatory. Guangzhou is drowning in smog.

Despite smog, eventually the city looks great at night.

Skyscrapers in China are springing up like mushrooms. I wonder how it will be like in China after 5-10 years from now.

Downwards you can spot observational booths, which revolve all-round the tower. There is also a free fall amusement for particularly brave ones.

Another amusement – climbing a spiral stairs going up around the building core of the Tower. The ascent goes up for 136 m (446 ft). And if you’ve entered at the bottom, there is no way out – the door behind you is closed and the only exit is upstairs.

Between climbing up the roofs, once we accidentally wandered to slums scheduled for demolition. It turned out to be an interesting place, which would be gone soon.

This area is called Xian Cun.

China is putting up buildings in leaps and bounds. As I said, skyscrapers are springing up like mushrooms. Old residential neighbourhoods are being demolished on the spur of the moment and new ones are being built. Xiancun is one of a few neighbourhoods which hasn’t been demolished and reconstructed yet. Currently, the slums appear to be low-rise, half-abandoned and very dense housing. A wall surrounds the area and the police watches the entrances.

Although these buildings seem to be totally abandoned, there is still a glimmer of life in this neighbourhood.

In fact, there is an ongoing social drama in the neighbourhood. Not all of the residents are willing to leave and give up their homes for demolition.

There is an ongoing confrontation between the residents and the authorities. The residents don’t want to sign papers for pulling down their homes and the authorities are trying to force them out by giving them hard time in every possible way – they bulldoze markets, limit trash pickup, ban commerce, etc.

Side streets

But despite all the protests, the neighbourhood’s population is declining. It seems to me, in China it’s pointless to argue with the authorities in such issues. The authorities tend to win.

You can spot a homeless person in the picture.

On the one hand, you can understand the residents. Generally, they are poor people, hard workers; they have been living there for all their life, their forefathers used to live there. But on the other hand, the buildings they lived in were already in disrepair having bad drainage, no decent sewerage, and the housing development was very dense so streets didn’t make roads but just gaps between buildings which were sometimes less than 1 metre (3,28 ft) long. Living conditions there were very bad – it’s incomparable to the other, “new” China.

Another interesting point – most of the people who have already left their place in slums are waiting to move to new buildings. But to build the new ones, the old ones have to be pulled down. So it turns out that the protesting residents when not moving from slums cause problems not only for the authorities, but also for the common people who are waiting for their new apartments.

A panorama of the neighbourhood.

Another side street. It’s still dark there even at day time.

Would you be able to live like that?

On our last day in Guangzhou, we went to the train station to buy tickets to Shanghai. It takes about 16 hours to get to Shanghai and you can buy either a sleeping place in a compartment, a couch seat or, if you have a lack of money, you can buy a standee. But we had bad luck – Chinese New Year was coming and all the tickets had been sold out for a week ahead.

Traveling by plane was unreasonably expensive. We read on the internet that it was possible to get there by bus. Once we arrived to the bus station, we discovered looooong lines to the ticket office. Nobody spoke any English and of course, there were no signboards in English. We had a piece of paper with a few hieroglyphs telling “a bus to Shanghai”. If not this paper, we wouldn’t have managed to make ourselves understood, because everybody we tried to say “Shanghai” to, got confused and didn’t understand what we meant. They pronounce “Shanghai” in a different way.

After we got the tickets in hand, we could finally relax for a minute. When the departure time was coming, we came to the gate and then a new adventure began. The gate was closed and there were no passengers. Whatever we asked the stuff in English they just smiled and turned their heads in confusion.

But suddenly somebody from behind said “Friend, wait, the bus broke down. Friend, wait”. It was a Chinese, who spoke Russian a little bit. We began to wait. Then two other Chinese came, one of them started to tell us something in Chinese asking something which sounded like “Shanghai? Shanghai?”; then he saw the tickets in our hands, grabbed them, said something more in Chinese and left quickly with his companion and blended into the crowd.

“Probably, it is the driver of the other bus. He must drive you”, said the Russian-speaking Chinese. We didn’t really like that “probably” and having no tickets in hand now we didn’t know what to do. The time was that the bus was supposed to depart in a minute. We tried to ask at an info counter about our bus but again we didn’t get a clear response.

At that moment, it seemed to us we had been tricked nicely and those two Chinese guys are sitting down on our seats in the bus right now going to set off to Shanghai. About twenty minutes passed. Our haul disappeared from the departure board. For an instant, we felt desperate because of our impotence to do anything without speaking Chinese.

The further events came thick and fast. Suddenly, the Chinese guy who had our tickets came – he was yelling something in Chinese and kept saying “Shanghai”; then he took us out of the bus station to a small mini-bus. We heard the Russian-speaking Chinese shouting “This is the bus driver, follow him!”. Well, that was somewhat reassuring. In the mini-bus, there were a few people with travelling bags. Everybody was staring at us like fish from an aquarium not knowing what to say as no one spoke English.

We got in the mini-bus and set off. We were going in an unknown direction; the driver was making several stops on the way, speaking affectively to some dudes, pointing at us and then taking the wheel again. All we had left to do was just to hope we were going to a bus to Shanghai, not to some basement to make fake Adidas sneakers.

After about 30 minutes we arrived to some empty parking with just one big bus. The door opened harshly. “Shanghai!”, said the driver pointing carelessly at the bus. We were overflowed with joy. And we didn’t care that the baggage compartment stank of fish and so did our stuff afterwards.


It took less than 24 hours to get to Shanghai. The time passed rapidly as the bus was furnished with bunks, not seats. We simply slept almost all the way, occasionally looking through the window at endlessly crowded Chinese landscapes along the highway.

So, we made it to Shanghai – the largest city in the world. It was really something for me. I felt like arriving to the capital of the world. I cast a glance over skyscrapers on the horizon and in my mind I was already there making cool shots from the heights.

We were planning to spend 2 weeks in Shanghai. We rented an apartment and set to explore the city. The Shanghai Tower was the main goal of our visit, but we weren’t going to climb it on the very first day as well there was New Year coming and we wanted to climb just on the New Year’s Eve to ensure no one would catch us. So, we “saw the sights” first, climbing mostly not far from Pudong area, with some exceptions.

The North Face shoes. By the way, its spiked sole pattern really helped the climb of the Shanghai Tower’s crane.

Shanghai is the China’s largest city and the most populated city in the world, with the population of over than 24 million. It is one of the PRC’s four cities of central subordination, country’s major financial and cultural center and the world’s largest seaport.

Shanghai’s three major skyscrapers.

It was rather cold and rainy in Shanghai comparing to Hong Gong and Guangzhou, it was even snowing one day. So, there were days when we didn’t come out into the street at all because it was raining heavily.

Huangpu River quay.

This building is interesting – Le Royal Méridien Shanghai Hotel. It’s 333 m (1,092 ft) tall and 80 m (262 ft) of it is spires. The building was once one of the tallest in the world.

There is quite a nice city view from the building, particularly overlooking the Pudong area.

You can spot this building with two spires in the picture.

Shanghai’s multi-level interchanges are striking. This one, for instance, is located in Puxi area.

The same interchange pictured from a different building.

Another interchange at the Nanpu Bridge entrance.

The Nanpu Bridge.

It’s all also well designed for pedestrians too.

This one and the previous shot were made from the Oriental Pearl Tower.

Shanghai’s skyscrapers amaze not only by their appearance but also from inside.

There are interesting contrasts as well. A building this tall could spring up among slums.

Lots of Chinese people from neighbourhood towns and villages poured into the Shanghai at New Year. It was literally no way to squeeze yourself though in the major streets. By the way, at the very New Year all the city is trembling from firecrackers going off. It seems like there is a war and an everlasting gunfire in the street. They blow up large belts with hundreds of firecrackers at once; some even go as far as doing it on their balcony. In the morning, the whole city is filled with firecracker’s scraps. It’s an amazing spectacle.

And the culmination of our visit to Shanghai was The Shanghai Tower. I’ve written about it already. And everybody has seen the video of our climbing there.

When we came down from the Tower, on hand we had awesome material we didn’t really know what to do with at first. Sharing it right away would be a sentence for us. We had a week in Shanghai in front of us. So, we took it slow with editing the video and went on climbing.

At the Shanghai Tower’s crane tip.

On the last day but one in Shanghai, we were at the Le Meridian Hotel – the one with two spires. And, all of a sudden, we discovered that Facebook, Youtube and Twitter were on.

Oh, I forgot to mention that many of the popular social networks are blocked in China. China has them all own – an own “Youtube”, an own “Facebook”, etc. You’ll find out if you google “The Golden Shield Project”.

This picture shows the Shanghai Tower at an earlier stage of construction.

We had the final cut already. We decided to wait no more and shared the video on Youtube. The reaction from people and the media was lightning-fast. We had yet more than 1.5 million views on Youtube the very next day and Chinese news were reporting about two strangers who had penetrated into the country’s tallest site. That was thrilling time for us. And even more thrilling when we were standing in the airport later on the same day passing our papers to an immigration officer for examination.

But it all went off all right. Later on, the media reported that the two strangers would face a 20-years ban against entering China. But it seems to me it was a media hoax as I’ve crossed the Chinese border after this incident.

That’s all for now, look forward to new shots!

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