My final overland destination: Shanghai, China

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ March 27th, 2008. Updated on November 26th, 2010. Published in: Travel blog » China.

Travel Journal Overview: This is it, my final entry in the overland journey from Portugal to China in search of a place called home. Fresh with a new laptop, I had just one last task to accomplish.

The Bund, Shanghai, China - Final Destination (click to enlarge)

The Bund, Shanghai, China - Final Destination (click to enlarge)

Shanghai is the final destination in a overland journey

Nerdish qualities aside I did of course spend my last night in Shanghai at the hotel glued to my new laptop. My flight was not until late the next night, so I had another full day and night to enjoy Shanghai. In truth I slept in, put my bags into storage and headed off to complete my overland journey.

How to end an overland journey in Shanghai China

I had held a mental image of this day for years. How many times have we thought of how something will be? Pictured it vividly in our minds eye. Feeling the pulse of life course through us as we accomplish that something you know will live with us forever.

It doesn’t all have to end with fireworks or, a party. People think about a vision of going home, opening the door and saying ‘hello! I’m back!’ Surprising people by turning up a day early. Or maybe even just envisioning that scene coming through the airport terminal and seeing their family waiting there on the other side.

It’s something people think about before falling asleep while travelling, its something to smile to ourselves about. For me I had no home to smile about returning to. The vision I had was one of accomplishment, standing at the waters edge in Shanghai.

Slow walk to the Bund

It was a walk that took me down East Nanjing Road towards the Bund, Shanghai’s famous embanked quay along the Haungpu River. Past mega malls, tiny parks, corporate skyscrapers and tourists. Not exactly most people’s inspiring vision of a journey’s end. Although for me in could have been the destitute waste lands of far east Russia if I had gone with the original overland travel plan. Either way it was a goal, and a vision that I was about to accomplish. I was living the moment.

The journey all come rushing back

My mind flashed back to Portugal and my trip to the beach there, the start. Through the venture of surviving 2 years living in West Africa to crossing Europe meeting friends. Lonely yet wondrous days of discovery on the road through Iran, Pakistan and India. To finding the ancient wonders of friendly Nepal and the start of real adventure through Tibet. It was all culminating across a road in down town Shanghai, China.

From travel memories to travel reality

The busy Shanghai road I was looking across looked as if it had no pedestrian crossing. Cars zipped up and down. No one was crossing on foot. On the other side I could just make out the tips of high towers, and the odd mast of a slow moving boat moving along.

It was as if I was looking at an unachievable dream waiting across an uncrossable path.

I snapped out of this mild frustration and found a pedestrian tunnel leading under the road to the other side. Again as I emerged was this feeling of each step bringing me closer to the end of it all. I was savoring it. Each step I climbed up went through my mind in slow motion. The crowds didn’t bother me any more. I heard only the voices of the people I had met along my journey. Their laughter, fears, and their smiles fading away as my eyes fell on the water before me.

End of the overland journey

The Journey was over. I would continue to search for a home. But for now the unbroken overland journey from Sintra, Portugal to Shanghai, China was complete. It must have taken me 10 minutes to realize that there wasn’t much to do now. After a mandatory self portrait photo. I thought about what it would have been like if the Tibet group was here with me now. Or even the KTM GH Group. It would have been a party. Now I looked down at my mobile phones screen. Error sending message .

The lonely road of ending a journey by yourself

It was like life, you come into it alone, and you leave it alone. A sadness came over me. Not for the journeys end, but for not being able to celebrate it with anyone. Not wanting to to leave yet I moved over to a free space in a quayside bench to sit down. Leaving straight away would have been like disrespecting my own memories, or the journey itself.

My vision of this end was years in the making. Surely it deserved more than a few minutes and quick photograph.

The embanked quayside was crowded. Families were eating from street vendors. Children were pointing out to the slow ferry boats as they brought people up and down the river. Evening was closing in and offices were closing. Lovers were coming out to meet each other for a riverside stroll.

A watch vendor sat down beside me. An old lady with a display box of fake designer names that she held out in front of me. I shook my head with a smile and rolled up my sleeve to display mine. She nodded back, and then pointed to my other wrist. Life goes on.

Life goes on even at the end

Night fell and with it I got a reward for staying on. The river became a bright multicoloured light show. The high rises across the river lit up in bright purples, reds, whites and every other neon color imaginable. Ferry’s moved up with giant flat screen displays showing off the latest advertisements in silence. I walked down the Bunds quay and found myself coming face to face with a huge golden dragon bobbing up and down beside the embankment. Behind it a cone shaped office lit up floor by floor in red, then blue and then began rippling through all its colors.

The unexpected celebration in Shanghai

It felt good. A modern fireworks display. My celebration of memories. Of conquest and accomplishment. Its fair to say no one can really appreciate a travel venture as much as the person who did it. No matter the journey.

All those feelings thoughts and experiences are uniquely yours. Now it was time for the next journey. I would be taking the worlds fastest train to the airport. And, I would get on a plane for the first time since leaving Portugal.

Some related links on this website that  you might like: (including a lot more photographs from China)

Stories: Surviving the Riots in Tibet

Stories: Watching the Chinese Army Move into Lhasa

Resources: All about getting a Tibet Permit / Visa

Resources: How to Guide – Nepal to Tibet Overland

China Travel Guide

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