What not to do while in transit

Maglev Evidence, originally uploaded by kdt.

We could not help ourselves, or to be precise I couldn’t. In Shanghai international transit passengers need to collect all bags and then go through customs and immigration. Which of-course with a dual entry visa means we were free to roam the streets of Shanghai for an hour or two.

I had done my research and new that there was a very convenient baggage deposit service. We dumped our bags and headed towards the worlds highest viewing platform and the 100th floor of the World Financial Centre in Shanghai.

We didn’t have too much time so we caught the fastest land transport in the world, the Maglev Demonstration Project and as the picture shows, we got up to the 431 km/h… But it still left for a very tight schedule. Helen in her full librarian voice demanded of the customer service officers to let us bypass the “experience” and go straight to the top. After some consultation with their leaders through their two way communication system we were quickly ushered to the lift.

The views through the murky stuff were still pretty impressive. I’ve uploaded a few photos to Flickr.

For most of the holiday the heart racing for fear of missing a connection was mostly absent. But this little journey did create a little race. You’re meant to be at checkin 2 hours before hand. We got there just after 1:30 hours before hand. It was sort of a blessing because there was no line! But it also meant that the bag checkers were bored. So our bag of goodies was subject to examination.

Helen had to explain the Mr Brush, the balded headed plastic icon with a brush mohawk for cleaning keyboards. I had to explain a few special bike bells and my super groovy new lightweight bike locks… I can see how those items looked suspicious on the x-ray machine. But we were let go after amusing the inspection man for a few minutes. By this time were moving towards the departure gate. Helen must have looked suspicious because her handbag was searched and she created much amusement with the staff by showing the lomo digitial camera!!

Ahhh… to think we could have just had a rest!

Red thumb – part III (and final!)

Ah… the next day.   We hired a bike, as it looked like a great day!  Little did we know it would rain later that afternoon.

We had to be back near the West entrance of the Shanghai Railway Station around 12 – 1pm to retrieve the confiscated camera (Your camera is not your camera…).  Now as we were cycling, we decided to park the bikes near a subway station, and catch the train there (if you have been there you would understand the 1000’s of people in the vicinity and cycling there is too hard).  Got there… and the expected Police that apparently are always there… weren’t there – oh surprise.  We wandered around looking for the Police and also the Police Station, it was shut for lunch.

We had a phone number to give to the police person, at the railway station, but as there was none in sight, after 15 minutes or so we realised “Hey we have a phone, let’s call ourselves!”.  A few minutes later, a young police officer came to get us and escort us to the behind the scenes area of the station.

In daylight, its a lot less scarier. When we got there, different police were present, but they were still smoking. To get my camera (or not my camera back), I had to sign two pieces of paper, and provide a thumb print over my signature.  The ink was red, hence the title of these series of posts.  For those who had been asking, the camera is safe still in my possession.

Motto of the story is:  In Shanghai, pay more attention to your camera, and undercover police are very smartly dressed.

Finally, I would like to thank the Shanghai police for apprehending and retrieving my camera.

Red thumb incident – Part II

Back to Shanghai… we were in one of the police office rooms, with one of the arresting officers and another officer.  We were sitting there for about 10 minutes or so when a couple of younger officers came in (one male, one female), sat down, said hello (in Chinese)… and had a conversation with each other.  One left the room, apparently to speak with someone else, then came back.  The other two older officers left the room.  The two younger officers talked for a bit and asked us a series of question which for the most part we had answered previously (with the help of a guide book), then both left.  This seemed to go on for some time, probably was only 10 minutes or so.  All the time we are patiently sitting there, breathing in the cigarette smoke, and waiting.

Then the arresting officer, and younger officers came back in the room.  Another officer, can in, and the young female officer left, and we didn’t see her again.  She seemed happy to get called to another job.  Left in the room was us, the younger officer and older officer. This is when the actual interview began (finally). The older officer said something, then the younger officer, said “Are you American?”, and we promptly replied “no, we are Australian”. The older officer, was now writing in Chinese.  Next question was “Have you got ID, passports”.  Obviously, we’d been sitting in the station for nearly an hour and a half.. and were more than happy to comply!  “Yes”, and handed them over.

He asked what relation Kym as to myself, ended up being a “very good friend”, with a knowing nod.  Then he asked what the purpose of our trip to Shanghai was.  We said it was a holiday. He asked what we were doing at the train station, at this point given our bad pronunication of Shouzou we pulled out our train tickets  “AH… Shouzhou”.  At this point we stated again we were looking for subway entrance, and how the incident occured.

Next he asked about the value of the camera.  Which translated to 1250yuan.  It was at this point that the young officer said the camera would have to left at station for person to come and value in the morning.  I attempted the “but it is my camera, I need to use it  tomorrow line. You could look up the value of the camera”.  Which was at this point I was told by the older officer “your camera is not your camera”.  Strange I always thought once you part with money for a good it became yours.  The young officer then said he was just doing his job, and we could come back tomorrow.  Great yet another trip to the Shanghai Railway Station.  By this point Kym is going, we could leave it… and I’m saying, but it is my camera (even though I had been told it wasn’t).  In the end I took out the battery and image card, and left the camera.  After much discussion, we agreed to get the camera back the following day around 1pm, provided we went to the police box asked them to ring a phone number, and they would come and get us.

Once the statement had be written, in Chinese, they asked me to sign it.  I said I was happy to sign it, but only if they read what I am signing, and I have a copy.  That made sense as I don’t speak Chinese.  The young officer read it out, and I signed it.  He then got a copy for us, and we were asked to stand up and come with them.  which turned out to be a smaller room, with two older officers, who also were smoking.  One read the statement asked the arresting officer questions, attempted to take a photo of the camera.  However, their battery was flat.  They wrote down the model and make and I signed a piece of paper to indicate it was mine.  It was at this point we were thanked and the younger officer showed us out back to the front of the train station, two and a half hours later.  This time there were a lot less people around the station and we easily found the entrance to the subway, and managed to catch the last train home.

Red thumb incident Part #1

Helen says:

Okay… here is the detail about what occurred at the Shanghai Railway Station, which involved my camera, paperwork and a red thumb.

We returned to Shanghai around 8pm, after half a wet day at Suzhou.  While it had been a good day I was tired.  Exiting the the railway station, we were attempting to locate the the entrance for line 1 to head towards the Bund for some food.  As usual we couldn’t find the entrance (obscured by entrance to the “sudway market”), and had already been down to the taxi subway once, and returned to the top looking for the entrance.  Before I go any further, you need to understand that Shanghai railway station is big.  I mean really big, and there are lots of people all the time.

After wandering around for 5 minutes or so, Kym spotted the entrance, and we headed over, dodging a number of people.  We were about to go down the stairs, when I heard the velcro of my camera pouch and my bag suddenly felt lighter.  Upon looking at the empty camera bag, I said “My camera, Kym do you have my camera?”, of course the reply was “no, I don’t”.

Kym says:

It was somewhat of a surreal moment, just as Helen was flapping about looking for her camera in her bag and we turned around to look for a lost camera we were approached by a couple of well dressed fit chinese men brandishing the camera, it was discreetly revealed and covered in a cloth. They asked Helen if she had just lost her camera. Of course the answer was yes! They flashed a badge, which of course was difficult for use to decipher the chinese and a less well dressed man was also there with has hands in cuffs. It turned out that these men were undercover Shanghai Police.

Remember this was at just after 8:00pm at night, and because there is no daylight savings it was getting quite dark. The two men asked us (in a combination of limited english and signs) to come with them, we assumed to make the report. We weren’t to certain. We walked towards ever darker parts of the railway station, ultimately to a somewhat shabby room.

We waited in a room with the accused for about 20 or so minutes waiting for the interpreter. The accused said he was sorry, in english, and I guess he was one of the poor itinerant workers that hung around the train station. When the other room was freed we were separated from the accused. The policeman contacted the police station seeking an interpreter. He told us (via our visual dictionary) that they had promised an interpreter within 30 minutes. That didn’t really happen. At this point, I would like people to think “Life on Mars”. You’re getting the idea a number of people came through and talked to the police officers, the currency of camaraderie were cigarettes. In those hours I certainly had my pack and a half of cigarette smoke that night.

I think ultimately they gave up on getting a professional interpreter. They rounded up a couple of the younger cops at the police station to do the translation for us. They intimated we needed to go somewhere else for the interpreter. So we followed, went through a large side gate onto a dimly lit station platform,  along the station platform with track on one side and a construction site on other. A rhythmic loud pumping sound was ever present. The construction site had large drill like machines. We walked across a muddy walkway through the construction site to the back entrance of the Police Station.

Helen says:

Kym has forgotten to mention that while we were with the undercover officer in the daggy rooms, we attempted to communicate using our english/chinese vocab book.  If you’ve had some experience with these books, you will understand that they do not contain enough useful words to assist in providing any information, apart from “interpreter”, and “I’ve had x stolen”.  Nothing was quite appropriate.   He flicked through the little book a couple of times and appeared to find it amusing.  The only useful words in there were “interpreter”, and “I’m Australian”.

Getting back to our location at back of the Police Station.  We were placed into what appeared to be a room used by the officers, but it was as daggy as the other rooms.  Only difference being was there were socks drying on the seat I was sitting on, it contained a few lockers, and the computer (very dirty) had obviously been used a few minutes previously as the only words on the screen I could understand were “Game Over”.  The drawers were over stuffed, and room was painted a smoked influence version of beige, quite some time ago.

End Part 1.

Advising…. no one present

Advising…. no one present, originally uploaded by Helen K.

This was the last amusing sign we spotted in China. I realise I’ve commented on a lot of odd signs in China, but I really do think they are great. To me they represent their use of the English language (difficult at the best of times). I was sadden to read in a guide book here, that with the Olympics in Beijing last year, and the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, there is a group of people checking signage to ensure signs are appropriate, and no or little occurrences of “Chinglish” in sight.

Signs like this are rare (Airport in Shanghai)… and therefore need to be shared with everyone. I was disappointed no one was there advising.


Ordinary…, originally uploaded by Helen K.

While it would of been cheaper and faster to catch a taxi to the airport in Shanghai… we caught the taxi to the Maglev station (very fast high speed train). Ah, that is what holiday experiences are all about.

We bought a ticket for the “ordinary section”, given the ride was only 7 minutes. Kym mentioned to me prior it was 15 minutes long and the top speed was 400km per hour. However, that speed is only done between 9am and 10:30am…. I feel cheated as it only did 302km per hour. Not even enough time to get comfortable on the train!

Re-arrangement sign

Re-arrangement sign, originally uploaded by Helen K.

While in Shanghai we did experience some “culture”, we visited the Shanghai Museum… in approximately an hour and a half. We had to shorten the time in order to pick up Kym’s suit. This also included a minor queue and security check to get past the front door.

The Museum itself was really well laid out, and had interesting exhibits, and it was free. Always a bonus. Great pictures, paintings and very very old relics. Not to forget an interesting sign – we felt no inconvenience.

Afterwards on the way to collect Kym’s suit, we got separated on the train. I made it on and Kym didn’t the train doors in Shanghai are not to be argued with, otherwise you might loose a limb. Then once the train got going, someone pulled the emergency cord major drama with guards running up and down the inside, and the train going no-where for 5 minutes. I found out later it was because someone got separated from someone, and panicked. Ot going, of course I got off the wrong stop, and caught the train back one to meet Kym… weph.

Things to be aware…

IMG_0069, originally uploaded by Helen K.

We went on a short river cruise in Shanghai. Given that the Bund is being dug up and there is no other way to get a decent view of the buildings, a cruise for 100 yuan was on the only option.

During the 50 minute cruise, there were a lot of views of Shanghai and the buildings on the Bund, not to mention photos taken of us by other tourists. However, this was one of my favourites 🙂