Thursday, November 28, 2013

Shanghai, China 11'25'2013

The last time I was in Shanghai I was too hungover to tour the place. This time around I tried to rest well and prepare everything to explore parts of the city and save time as I did not have much of it.

We arrived in Shanghai early in the afternoon, but the trip through the airport and to the hotel soon took all our afternoon away and dusk came. I wanted to rest as it was a very long flight to Shanghai but before that I unpacked and even prepared some of my stuff to leave already haha! And I also took pictures of some parts of my room...

The bed. 
A banana and an apple by the side table.
Office table.
A really comfy chair.
I took a shower, brushed my teeth, closed the curtains, and switched off all the lights but, being me, I still wanted to take a picture of something. So I took a picture of the bed with only the side and ceiling lamp as sources of light and it turned out pretty well...

A desolate bed. Ready to sleep!
I slept soon after. When I woke from the alarm I felt fresh! I pushed myself to stand, opened all the lights to take a shower. I was heading to the bathroom when I forgot to open the curtains. When I did, I immediately ran to my camera to take this picture...

A beautiful sunrise greeted me just to say good morning.
I honestly can not remember the last time I actually saw the sun as it was rising from the horizon. I have never been a morning person, the places I sleep in and the differing hours of my sleep time prevent me from seeing stuff like this. At that moment, I felt happy and lucky and I prepared to move out!

I took a shower again, put my clothes on for the day and headed out to walk to the train station...

Waiting for the train.
Only one lady taking the train on the opposite side.
View of the inside of the train.
While on the escalator out of the station, I looked back to take this picture. I didn't know someone was looking.
Our hotel was once again pretty far from the city. It took us nearly an hour to get to the center of the city because of numerous stops along the way and the train was even stopping in between stations to let another trains pass. It was a very busy morning rush hour indeed.

My first stop was People's Park. The very center of Shanghai. But before that we crossed the street to eat...

People waiting to cross the street. Heading to work or wherever. 
Noodles with pork something and egg something. Haha!
Noodles and Dumplings. 
The view of the chinese fast food restaurant we ate in.
It was still early in the morning and most of the restaurants were closed. And we were already very hungry so we decided to eat in the nearest, at least it was chinese, restaurant we could find. The fact that it was fast food didn't bother me at all as long as it was chinese!

After the restaurant, I parted ways with my companion as she had different plans. I soon proceeded to walk inside People's Park...

The elderly hanging out by the pond. Purple fringing :(
Tourists? Resting and taking in the nature in the middle of a busy city.
A pathway leading deeper into the unknown. Will you walk through it with me?
People's Park exit way.
A lady and her son admiring the views.
It was a nice, albeit, small place filled with people exercising touring, and even some advertising.

After People's Park, I looked at Google Maps on my phone and decided to go to the other side to People's Square but before that I got distracted by what seemed to be Takoyaki...

My Takoyaki being given to me by this wonderful lady.

The Takoyaki.
When I took a bite of it, I suddenly remembered I was not in Japan! Hahaha nevertheless it was good and when I finished it I went on to walk to People's Square...

A baby and her grandmother. How sweet. How cute.
People feeding the pigeons.
The pigeons loving the feed.
An escalator leading underground to what I'm guessing is a shopping mall. 
The view of People's Square.
The sun was getting pretty high but it was still cold because of winter and all so I didn't mind it. The square was also full of tourists, mostly from people from within China itself.

I was soon running out of time and so I opened Google Maps again to choose a road to walk to my final destination for the day: the Bund. I was looking at the map and I decided to go to the farthest road from where I was to walk to the Bund. Little did I know that the road I took was an amazing shopping district where no cars are allowed or could pass through. It was called Nanjing road...

Right at the entrance. So many shops!
The sun casting its gaze upon the road from behind the buildings.
Century Square in Nanjing road.
I was very happy to have chosen this road. I had no idea that it was famous and had many boutiques and restaurants, clearly I did not do my research enough! However, I had already eaten and I didn't want to shop so instead, I took pictures of random people...

People doing promotions, I guess, by dancing in front of a cosmetics shop.
A lady buying stuff.
A random guy who happened to fall into the focus of my camera while it was on manual focus. Perfect timing.
If you have money to spare or spend or throw away then Nanjing road is the place for you! It is full of so many tempting shops and restaurants that would easily sway the weak willed. Hustling and bustling, there were many people giving out print ads and sales talking the shizz out of would be shoppers!

Walking through and straight down Nanjing road I finally reached my final destination for the day, The Bund...

Statue of Chen Yi. The first communist mayor of Shanghai.
The Shanghai skyline with views of the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Financial Center
Huangpu Park in the northern section of the Bund.
A couple posing for their wedding photos right by the Bund.
Old colonial buildings in the Bund.
The Bund (pronounced as the same as "fund") had the perfect view of Shanghai's skyline and right beside it were multiple old colonial buildings of banks, restaurants, cafes, and hotels among many others. It was my final destination and it was foggy/smoggy making the views of the near horizon very hazy. Soon, when my legs were already in pain from all the walking I did, I regretted the shoes I wore and I remembered that I needed to go back to the hotel and rest for the flight back.

On the way back to the hotel. The train stopped suddenly, I panicked! I looked at the station guide of the train and confirmed that I was still six stations away from where the hotel is. I looked at other people and figured out that I just needed to wait to get to another train that will go further into the train line. *phew*

When I reached the train station I walked to the nearest Bakery store to buy some snacks to eat before my flight...

The Bakery I always go to in Shanghai called Touch.
All the bread I bought. The most delicious was the Sea Salt Cheese Cake!
Throughout the short trip I realized that the Shanghai metro, in my experience, is one of the best in the world, rivaling the ones in Seoul and Osaka. It will give you easy access to all the tourist spots and anywhere else you want to go in between. I know there are few cities in the world that can boast brand new train cars and many train lines that would span their their respective cities, and Shanghai is one of them.

Overall, I loved Shanghai. I truly wish I had more time there because I still wanted to go, do, and eat so many things. I especially wanted to buy tea, sit for a long time by the Bund or Nanjing road while taking in the city and my surroundings, just relax you know? But sadly, I didn't have time to do that. Maybe, on the next city I'll go to, that is what I would do, just relax in one place and not walk around taking pictures of everything.

Until my next trip, Zaijian!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Madrid, Spain 11'7'2013

This was my second time in Madrid. Usually, before going to a destination I like, I do research on where to go and cache the city's map on the Google Maps app of my phone so I can navigate. This time however, I already knew where to go and I did none of that.

Even when we were at the aircraft, we were told that there was some kind of political turmoil going on in Madrid and the city would be filled with trash all around. I disregarded the comment at first because I knew what I wanted to do in the city already.

Upon arrival in the hotel I rested for about a little over an hour and then headed out to Puerta del Sol. Going there from the hotel required two line transfers via Madrid's subway. In the subway, my friend and I were guarding each other's stuff like hawks! Because even from the first time I was here and even from the ladies at the reception of the hotel, we were constantly warned of pick pockets and the like.

Exiting Puerta del Sol, we were indeed greeted by a lot of trash and some protests...

A banner of protest right laid out right in the middle of Puerta del Sol
A protester being interviewed by what seems to be a local TV station
The symbol for Anarchy plus more graffiti and trash
Trash all over the city uncollected due to protests
It almost broke my heart to see all the trash and to feel all the angst from the people. Madrid is one of my most favourite cities, I like it more than Rome, to see it in such disarray just made me sad, regardless, we didn't go there for Puerta del Sol so we walked a few meters ahead to Plaza Mayor to have lunch.

View of the rest of the restaurants from our table.
Plaza Mayor relatively cleaner than the rest of the city.
We were glad to see Plaza Mayor clean but clearly something happened here, an event maybe, because there were a lot of lighting fixtures and stage props lying around.

We had lunch by the side of the plaza in a restaurant offering some local Spanish cuisine. With the cool weather and great food we had a very relaxed time.

Just a bottle of water, you know me.
A pint of Sangria!
A plate of Tapas. Looks mouthwatering!
A whole pan of Seafood and Chicken Paella. YUM!
After lunch we proceeded to walk to the place I wanted to go to. You see, I wanted to go the gardens of Palacio Real de Madrid because last time due to people and time constraints, I wasn't able to go. So we walked past Cathedral de la Almudena and straight on to the first park Plaza de Oriente...
Roman looking statues with Roman-Spanish names.
Beautiful autumn trees just right above a line of cafes
Statue and fountain at the centre of Plaza de Oriente.
Face of one of the fountain heads.
It was a small park but it was filled with statues and right across it were a line of quaint restaurants with a great view of the palace, we almost regretted eating in Plaza Mayor!

After Plaza de Oriente I still kept searching for the real "Palace Gardens" that I saw in the map before, and search we did, then we stumbled upon Sabatini Gardens...

The centre of Sabatini Garden right at the back of the palace.
A beautifully formed marble statue.
A small fountain surrounded by hedges.
View of the whole garden from the road above.
It was a beautiful garden located right at the back of the palace still untouched by autumn as everything was green with life. When you watch movies about Dukes and Kings of old then you'd probably see them hang out in a garden just like this! I thought to myself how nice it would be to have a personal garden just like this haha!

Remembering my mental map however, this was still not the "Palace Gardens" I was searching for because the garden I wanted to go to was at the side of the palace not at the back. So we went out and around the huge block of the palace complex, feeling a bit tired we were happy to be rewarded with a view of the entrance to Campo del Moro...

The view to the entrance of Campo del Moro.
It was a grand and magnificent garden filled with beautiful autumn trees and a dual ascending path leading straight to the palace. The whole park itself extends across from Almudena to the Palace and the edge of Sabatini. It was that huge and it was a pleasure exploring its grounds...

Pathway leading east of the gardens.
Some flora growing by the side of the garden pathway.
Beautiful autumn colours, a great contrast from the previous parks.
Wouldn't you love to just sit here, take in the beauty of the place and perhaps read a book?
My favourite photo. A great showcase of the changing season.
We walked throughout the entire place and rested by a bench that we found on the side. We talked and admired the place for a few minutes and then we heard a loud sound coming from the trees...

Birds suddenly came out of the trees and started circling above us.
The noise were birds rushing out of the trees, gathering right above us preparing to migrate to warmer places, it was a most beautifully humbling sight, an accidental blessing that really was the cherry on top of the ice cream that was our already beautiful day.

After resting we walked back to Puerta del Sol in the middle of walking we were so tired that we rested again, then I took this picture...

View of the moon right above us.
Seeing this made me reflect how happy I was at that moment. How far I've come and how beautiful life can be. Admiring everything around me and all that is, made me feel relaxed and energised for future endeavours.

Walking towards Puerta del Sol we looked at stuff to buy, bought some dinner to take back to the hotel and then I encountered these little peculiar brand of chocolate candy bars...

Filipinos brand chocolate candy bars!
My jaw dropped, I didn't know what to think or feel? Was it good? Was it bad? Was it a colonial thing? Was it unintended? Does the word mean something completely different in spanish? Regardless I did not buy it, I was already feeling sick and the last thing my throat and tonsils needed were something sweet, I would however buy it the next time when I'm feeling better, I'll try all the flavours!

Overall It was a very nice, albeit, short stay in Madrid so many unintended blessings passed our way and the best part was I only spent 35EUR and it's the 35EUR left over from my trip to Rome a few months ago! So I didn't exchange any money! Yey! Haha

This is my first official post, a preview of things to come, hope you guys actually read it hahaha. Sorry if the photos are small, I really don't want to post the full size and quality of any of my pictures.

The complete set of pictures can be found on my Facebook account!

Until my next trip, Adios!