Summer is finally here. While I'd like to think that I have compiled a list of places to go in China, I rarely adhere to such lists anyway, and most destinations are off the seat of my pants. Last winter was reserved mainly for discovering new interesting back streets in Shanghai. Because of the cold, and the fact that most of my trip requires hours outdoors, it is a lot more comfortable to be close to home.
The first one the list, which has been on my want-to-do-list for some time, is a survey trip to Hengsha island. It desn't really have to be Hengsha, Changxing is fine as well. The former is one of the larger islands on the Yangzi river mouth, where the Yangzi and the smaller Huangpu rivers meet. I'm not a geologist, but it does seem to form part of the Yangzi river delta, the famous Yangzi River Delta! Trip there requires a public bus to one of the ports where the two rivers meet, as I wrote this, I had no idea which port the boats leave, but Google maps does suggest that I start with Wusong pier and so it shall. Taking a taxi there would be the easiest, but since when has adventure about taking the easiest path? Buses are not really that dodgy in Shanghai, but just for the fun of it, why not the bus? There are many places to board buses that goes to Wusong pier, and I settled on the closest one so that I can avoid taxis.
Over the course of weeks I made a few trips to Wusong port and it took till the third trip before I made it to Hengsha Island, but none of the trips were a waste at all.
30 May 2009
Unlike most other trips I have made, I woke up a little late at 10 am this morning. Has to be the latest waking up time for me on a Saturday! After lunch and a little gear tinkering and packing, and just utter time wasting on twitter, I started leaving my apartment at 1 pm, knowing full well I might have missed the last boat to be able to return on the same day. Let's face it, staying the night on some island I've never been to before in China is not exactly part of the plan today.
So what is in the bag today? Plenty of water since it is a hot day today. Took with me a innocent looking tote bag bought in Tokyo, filled with a Nikon D300, 12-24mm DX, 10.5mm DX and of course a 105mm f4 Macro AI in case the opportunity of insects, details and flowers present itself. Since there will be people to shoot as well, packed in my Leica M3 as well, along with a new 5cm Summitar collapsible lens. I just got this one back from a little repair work by John van Stelten from Focal Point in Colorado about a month ago, and it is time to see if this lens is any good for the price you pay (one of the cheapest Leica lens you can buy!). Film is of course, ERA100, and like I always say - chinese film for chinese people. Packed a Garmin GPS as well, and I can already feel that this unit is getting a little creaky old!
The trip starts with a long walk to People's Square in Shanghai city puxi side, and looking for the bus stop for number 952. There are no maps, so this involves asking people who look like workers for the bus company, but you can never be sure. Anyone that doesn't look like a tourist qualifies as the right person to tell me where to take that bus!
952 starts at one of the bus stop next to the Shanghai Museum. There is also 952B but it seems to be stopping less and ends before reaching the pier. Baoshan to be exact. The bus ticket to the end of the route is 6 RMB. I don't know how much it is to get to the pier, but 6 RMB is not too much of a price to pay! The pier is supposed to be stop number 25. And in the front of the bus, they do indicate the bus stop number out of a total of 30. At least that is what it looked like. I see a number that says 5-30, and somehow it didn't seem right to me. So fine. Just sit back and relax, and before long I doze off due to the hot sun. The interior of the bus is supposed to be 18C according to the thermometer readout at the front of the bus but I doubt it. Probably so inside the airconditioner!
1427 hrs: In the bus and just woke up from a short slumber. Darn old garmin GPS is not acquiring any more than 1 satelllite. Maybe it is time to get a new GPS standalone unit. Those new GPS units seems to be able to acquire 3 signals a lot quicker.
1529 hrs: Arrived at Wusong pier. No, I can nor confirm that the number in the bus does not indicate the stop but the conductor does shout out the stop coming up. Just listen out for Wusong something. Just before getting to the pier, the bus will go on an elevated highway for some distance and a port would be visible with a lot of standard sized containers stacked up before the stop. In short, it is a proper port, unlike the tourist piers that dotted the Huangpu running through Shanghai. The junction where the bus stops is Mudanjiang Rd and Songbin Rd. I have no idea where the pier for the boat to the islands really is, so I decided to stop early and do a little survey of the place.
This place is a typical chinese suburb. No one seems to respect any traffic rules, cross the road at any time, walk on the road and not the pavement, and cars turn right at their convenience. It seems that traffic light here are just for aesthetic purposes. There are restaurants and sundry shops. Further up there are mostly repair shops, in case your hybrid bicycle/motorcycle breaks down. Dusty for sure, but somehow there's a little nice breeze in this place. A little check on google maps on the Nokia E71 tells me I am indeed close to the river mouth, and hence the sea. Now, for the passenger terminal.
It seems that the passenger terminal is still a distance to walk. On Huacheng Rd now and walking following a road sign pointing towards the terminal. Can't wait to have the GPS coordinate for future use. Along the way, there are some lookout points and I'm able to see how busy the Huangpu is, full of cargo ships and barges going out to the Yangzi. Along the way, I was able to see a large terminal that is being built, and some signs indicating that this will be the next mega ship terminal and somehow I think by next year I will be able to grab a boat over here.
After a little walk, finally I've found the boat terminal, not too far away if you know where to walk. The terminal is placed about 200m away from the water front, which is a little strange. It doesn't appear on Google Maps, so it has to be a new building, or rather, a temporary building waiting for the new terminal to be opened sometime in the future. There is a ticket booth outside, and a short walk away to the entrance to the waiting room. I had a little peek inside and it looks like a typical train station in small town China. An x-ray machine greets you followed by a chamber filled with chairs and ringed by government grocery sellers.
Unfortunately, the boat to Hengsha is at 1830hrs and there will be no more boat back to Wusong pier after that. Cost for the journey is 17 RMB, which I took note. So it is no go, I woke up too late for my own good. There is another boat to somewhere in 10 minutes time but no more boats back as well. I will then have to cancel the trip and walk around this area. Not too much of a failure though as this was supposed to be a scouting trip. The passenger terminal looks crappy with noisy chinese all over the place. Expect to sniff in plenty of low grade cigarette fumes.
Here is an interesting find. This is the location of the entrance to a large park called Wusong Battery park perhaps. Perhaps, as I saw a couple of different names everywhere but this is the name on the ticket. Yes. All parks of a certain size in China requires an entrance fee. This one cost a negligible 5 RMB. And it closes at 7 pm this time of the year.
The first thing I noticed is the number of girls in wedding dress. looks like a haven for wedding photography. The paths are lined with plenty of flowers, this time of the year, and it looks like poppies if I'm not wrong. Thanking myself for bringing the 105mm f4 macro as I was having a field trip shooting the flowers.
This park is also located at the point where the Huangpu river meets the mighty Yangzi. I'll use the new spelling as I don't like the way Yangtse spells. A few minutes walk and I come to a walkway along the Yangzi. I believe this is my first time looking at the Yangzi but I might have seen it at Zhenjiang last year. There are plenty of ships for sure, and here at the mouth of the giant river, it looks like it is a sea. On a relatively clear day like today it's impossible to see the north bank nor the islands I was hoping to go to earlier.
It seems that this park also has a wetlands area, did see some but with noisy people around, doubt any animals will want to make their presence known. There are for sure more flowers here than animals or birds. The sea breeze is actually quite enjoyable here. I think I will just sit here looking at the cargo ship and barges for a while.
1822 hrs: On the way back to People's Square. Boarded a 952 after checking out the route on one of the bus stops. They all have this map with the buses and stops in the vicinity and it takes about a 20 minutes walk to get there. Whats interesting is that it seems the trip back to People's Square is only 5 RMB so it looks like I have overpaid a little on the way here.
7 June 2009:
Will be testing out another way to get to Wusong Port today. Bus was not an issue, as my test last week revealed. Today I will try the Metro. On the map it looks as though Line 3 Metro will get me close to the place. Only one way to find out, people!
This metro I am taking stops at South Changjiang Road station. Everyone leaves the train so I do the same as well. There is a slight breeze here so I guess we are close to the river, but I seriously doubt there is a climatic difference between this place and central Shanghai. Nevertheless, the frequency of trains on this line is low. Guessing 10 minutes between subsequent trains.
Getting off at Song Bin Road station after passing a small river. There are some old feeder boats, making very good photographic subject. This time, armed with a Leica M6 and 35mm f2 Summicron ASPH and clearing stock on Fuji Neopan SS film. There is no real waterfront to walk on the way to the Huangpu river, there is a concrete dyke that, i suppose, protects the town from being flooded during a king tide or typhoon. There are areas where one could climb over to a small waterfront. The ships that you are more likely to see would be barges, the type of river transport that is very common along the Huangpu when viewing it from the Bund. What else would you expect, really! The port over at Pudong is clearly visible and its nice to think that I was just there during my 58km cycle ride.
Funny thing this trip, I accidentally stumbled on yet another pier with boats that goes to one of the islands on the Yangzi river mouth. This one even has a big ticket booth, and a proper timetable, unlike the one I found last weekend. Looks like this is the official Wusong/Baoshan pier. This one is closer to the bus stop which I got off from bus 952. Will check it out one morning. First boat to Hengsha seems to be at 0635 am.
There are many names for this area. I see it as Wusong but there are also signs indicating this place is also called Baoshan. Baoshan or Wusong? Doesn't matter anyway, I have the GPS coordinates stored away and that is what matters.
There are a lot of illegal motorcycle taxis here, perhaps hoping to snatch the passengers arriving at the passenger pier. While loitering around the pier, a ship came in and I could see swarms of motorcycle taxis getting arrracted to the pier exit. Never took one before, but the alternative here would be local taxis (car) in dark green colour and with Baoshan in chinese characters stencilled on its front door.
14 June 2009
1210hrs Wusong Port: This time I might have the time to go to the islands. I am now at the ticket office which I scouted last weekend. The queue is relatively short and makes no difference as people here don't queue so the strong has the right of way, which is how I like it, to be frank. It allows the general public to get rid of pent up anger.
At the ticket booth the agent will ask whether you prefer the fast boat or the slow one. Its a no brainer. Although I'd like to try the slow boat, not this time as I need to find out the time of the last boat back, which I estimate to be around 1600 hrs or so. The ticket on the fast boat cost 23 RMB and it is possible to pay for it with the Shanghai Transportation Card, which is how I prefer to do it. Boat 923 leaves at 1310 hrs.
Then it's time to stroll across the road to the waiting rooms. There are two sections, room 1&2 and 3&4. I dont quite know how they divide it but common sense seems to say it has to do with the speed of the ship. But this fast ship waiting room does not look better than room 3&4 for sure. To make things worse, there are no airconditioners here, just a medium sized room where an xray machine greets you and a complete lack of chairs for all waiting passengers are apparent.
Standing around the xray machine and watching passengers and what they are carrying with them. Hello Kitty large plastic sacks on balance beams, small packs the likes which are distributed when you join a local tour group, plastic bags of fruits, a man purse or two, the usual farmer plastic gunny sack seemingly filled with duvet and cotton blanket. No bootleg french luxury handbags so far. And not everyone gets to put their bags through the machine. Depends on the size of your bag. Bombs must be quite big this part of the world!
And as usual, I need to keep a record of the equipment that comes along with me so I can tell where the pictures on this post comes from. So today in the Artisan & Artist bag we have a Leica M6 Classic with a Summicron 35mm ASPH loaded initially with an expired roll of Ilford Pan F+ and later to use ERA 100 if I do run through a second roll. Also in the bag is a Nikon D300 DSLR with a prime 50mm f1.8 AIS which I just received last night. Call it a test trip if you will.
In the waiting room, standing room only as all the seats are all occupied. From here, the river traffic on the end of the Huangpu is clear, all barges with waterline almost to the top of the bow, which is probably not an issue for river navigation. What is interesting is that barges are separated less than 50m apart from each other and they are like a trail of ants almost continuous and bumper to bumper.
1308 hrs: In the boat now, which looks a little like an enclosed escape pod they used on large ships or oil rigs. The large hello kitty packs go outside the boat on the decks while everyone else sits inside. The seats are all numbered and while there are matching numbers on the ticket, it looks as though no one ever takes their seat. It is a first come first serve logic. The announcement says the trip today will take 65 minutes! I was expecting Hengsha to be a lot closer than that.
1421 hrs Hengsha: Arrived at Hengsha. Will get a GPS plot of the port in a while. The port is quiet enough, and the first thing to do is to get a return ticket to see how much time I have to move around today. At the ticket booth I was told the only boat left is a 1630 hrs slow boat that will take 2 hours to get back. Looks like there is no choice. I will take boat number 910 and the price is 14 RMB, close to half the price of the fast boat.
Waited 15 minutes for the ticket as the computer at the ticketing booth was not working properly. So I have about an hour and a half to walk around, which means I will not be able to move too far. There is not map at the port, so will have to bring up Google Maps. The saviour.
The only logical hour long hike is the one that covers the north western coast of the island. There are fishing villages, small ship yards and farms. Both cameras come out to play and there are not too many colours out so black and white films were ideal for this shoot. Only the scenes of a visceral landscape this time. The 50mm on the D300 seems ideal for most use, and at f2 it seems to produce amazing pictures.
1610 hrs: Back at the port, and with 15 minutes to burn, next thing to do is to hang around a small colony of fishermen. Houses seems to be built on top of boats, since this was beyond the breakwater on muddy ground, I would assume this is to float in the case of king tides. Its dirty to say the least.
1629 hrs: On the boat back to Shanghai. The slow boat can pack in a lot of people, but is also noticeably older and dirtier, not that it matters to me. The TVs are CRT and not LCD like on the earlier fast boat. It will also take 2 hours. This slow boat is almost like a typical ferry with inside seating.
If there is something I really hate in China, it has to be the amount of cigarette these people smoke in a day. Non smoking signs seem to mean "don't smoke in the first 5 minutes". And just after we left port, the cabin start to smell of smoke.
This boat seems to break every rule in the book of boating. Now, there are 3 levels, right on the 1st level is where the cattles sit, same for the second, and the top are full of plush chairs, but guessing this the gaming room since Chinese people love to play cards especially on a 2 hr long boat ride. The funny thing is that everyone seems to be locked inside. All the doors, emergency or not, are all locked and it's not possible to go out for fresh air. So its either the nicotine tainted air or you can suffocate yourself thank you. The smokers are getting bolder after the first 30 minutes of skirting the rule. Since no one seems to be stopping them, they are smoking even in the passenger cabin now. Only thing left is to curse them. Can't do much more than this. Next time I will pack an oxygen mask.
1823 hrs Wusong Port: Back at the mainland. Right on the dot, 2 hour trip. Too tired to tap out the rest of this blog on my E71. Time to log off, hope to spend more time here in the future and continue this quest.
*end of post*