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Strange and unsettling: my day trip to Chernobyl

It was the scene of one of the world’s worst modern disasters, now visitors can experience this radioactive wasteland on a guided tour. Sarah Johnstone signs up

I wonder if Nikolay has seen Mad Max too many times, as he floors the accelerator and our Lada rattles along the crumbling asphalt road. Rusty fencing and unkempt grass whizzes by as we barrel towards swaying birch trees. Yuriy and I yell above Shake Your Booty on the radio. Across this broad expanse of plain, not another soul is to be seen.

For a second, it feels like taking a spin through gloriously uninhabited countryside. Then we turn and the world’s deadliest nuclear reactor looms up on the horizon. Nikolay and Yuriy are my driver and guide on one of the world’s strangest day trips – to the ‘exclusion zone’ around Chernobyl.

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Shanghai city guide

There’s a boom-town exuberance to Shanghai with its outlandish skyscrapers, designer shops, hip bars and world-class restaurants. Joanne O’Connor reports

The two sides of Shanghai face each other across the sluggish grey Huangpu River in a standoff between the past and the future. On the west bank is the Bund, a sweeping esplanade of po-faced, grey buildings, the former headquarters of foreign banks and institutions which sprang up during Shanghai’s 1920s heyday.

On the east side of the river is the brash face of the new Shanghai – Pudong, with its outlandish skyline of skyscrapers topped with spires, baubles, pyramids and pineapple flourishes. As you marvel at the rocket-shaped Oriental Pearl TV Tower (which seems to have been designed by a five-year-old boy with ADD) and the elegant 88-storey Jin Mao Building, the tallest in mainland China, it’s hard to believe that just 15 years ago, there was nothing here but fishermen’s huts.

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