It’s 5:50am, and I’ve been awake for about an hour. Yesterday I slept from 12:30 until 7pm. Whoops. Jet lag is no joke. When we first arrived in China, I was waking up at about 4am, unable to go back to sleep. That lasted 3-4 days. But it’s different when you have new and exciting things to explore. The only thing I have to explore now that I’m back home is how my bedroom managed to get so messy.
So I suppose it’s time that I finish the trip, especially since my wi-fi is so much faster than anything I experienced in China.
To begin with, here’s a shot from the Shanghai Planning Museum. There’s a full-scale reproduction of the city. Pretty sweet!
We had dinner on our own that night, and at that point in the trip we were all craving something not-Chinese. We walked back to the hotel bar and had burgers, chicken sandwiches, and pizza. And all was right with the world.
The next morning we went to the Yu Gardens, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The pictures don’t do it justice.
Every time you think, “This place can’t possibly go on any further” there’s another pagoda, rock garden, stream, or bridge. It’s lovely
After that we went to another art district. This one was not as cool as the one in Beijing, unfortunately. I think we went into a cafe, Lindsay bought some coffee, I bought a Chinese classical music CD, and we availed them of their comfortable seats and air conditioning and took a nap. Here’s the only picture I took.
After that we went to yet ANOTHER shopping area. Our guide, Jany, really wanted to make sure we contributed to the Shanghai economy.
After about 30 crowded, elbow-to-elbow minutes in Tianzefang, Lindsay and I got the hell out of there and went to a less crowded shopping mall across the street. The alleys were just too narrow, the people too slow, and the day too hot. We were done. Also, we both managed to score some new (read, clean) clothes from Uniqlo. After hand-washing and hang-drying clothes for 3 weeks, nothing compares to the feeling of brand new clothes.
The next day was our home-stay/visit with a Shanghai-nese family. We went with our roommates; I was very hopeful, as our family had two adorable girls with them. One was 10, and her English was fantastic. She was the neighbor’s daughter who had come with our family to practice her English. It was a good thing, too, because neither the mother or the father spoke very much English. Their daughter also came to pick us up, but she was very shy.
We started the day at the market, which was a promising visit. The family lives in the Pudong (east of the river) area, which is where the financial district is. We were going to the market to get fresh vegetables to make dumplings. Here are some shots from the market.
Yes, those chickens are disgusting. I know. But in all honestly, I think it’s good, every now and then, to think about the animal you’re consuming instead of always seeing it in a nugget, patty, or boneless/skinless form. I had a LOT of time to think about the animals this way, since the heads, claws, and tendons appeared everywhere.
Our host family invited over their daughter’s classmates and their parents, so there were about 4-5 families at the apartment. Only two of them spoke English well enough to carry on a conversation. It was a struggle. One of the dad’s made the dumpling insides, and we all sat around the table to fill them.
I have now perfected the crimping of the dumpling. Can I make the insides or cook them? No. But give those little wrappers and I can work some magic ;)
The unfortunate part of the home-stay visit was what followed. After a delicious lunch, about 30 minutes passed and they said, “Ok, now it’s time for the tea ceremony.” We drank about 6 different kinds of tea, over the course of THREE HOURS. Some of it was good, but I didn’t like most of the tea. Also, keep in mind that only two of these people spoke English. So most of the conversation was in Mandarin, and the two guys who spoke English translated maybe 30% of the conversation. We were bored to tears, and sick of tea. Basically, they used us as an excuse to invite their friends over and drink their expensive tea. All of these people had more money then God. Their professions were banking, futures trading, IT, banking, finance, oil, and housewife. Yep. After two very excellent families (in Italy and Austria), I guess I struck out the third time around. Oh well. Here’s our goodbye picture.
That night ended with dinner at the hotel and some card-playing.
Monday was our free day. Lindsay and I started the day with about ¾ of our group, at the Propaganda Museum. It was fascinating. Here are some illegal pictures.
Because many of these posters are offensive and definitely portray China in a bad light, they were ordered destroyed (I believe in the 1980s). But this museum owner is keeping the tradition alive. Many of the English translations were quite good–surprising for such a small museum.
After this museum, Lindsay and I did the hop on-hop off bus tour around the city. We stopped at the Bund, which is the river walk on the west side of the Huangpu (river). This is where all the old, European style architecture is.
After that stop, we intended to travel to where the Exposition was held in 2008, but that bus didn’t come for 30 minutes and we were tired of waiting, so we went to the Xintiandi, a very expensive shopping district. In this area, there is an interesting museum where the first Communist party meeting was held. No pictures and lots of guards….
So here’s what we did after. Haagen-Dasz. So yummy!
After that stop we hopped back on the bus and headed for Pudong again, because I wanted to get a view of this city from on high! We stopped at the Oriental Pearl Tower. Lindsay didn’t want to pay the 160 kwai ($25) so I waited in line alone. For a very, very long time.
This is me and 1,000 of my closest Chinese friends. Ok, no. They’re not my friends. Friends don’t try to skip friends in line. No less than 8 people tried to cut in front of me. Two of them succeeded, because by the end, my adrenaline was pumping at the thought of confronting more of them. People in China are just pushy. A city of 7 million people in China is relatively small, so I guess it’s every man for himself. There’s a cultural explanation here as well, though. Relationships in Confucianism were described to us as a series of concentric circles. On the inside of the this circle, you have your immediate family. Mom, dad, siblings. These are the people you respect and protect, to the point of lying and cheating for them (no, seriously). The next circle is for extended family, then neighbors, then distant connections, then strangers. The further out in the circle you are, the less respect. So basically, those people in line don’t give a crap about me. I’m just a foreigner, a barbarian, and who cares if they skip me? Yes, that sounds drastic, but the concept is true.
Anyway, here’s some views from the top.
Everything is smoggy, foggy, hazy. Of course the next day was beautiful and clear. But it was cloudy for 4 days in a row so I didn’t want to miss my chance.
After this viewing deck (where, by the way, there are tons of people just sitting on the ledge, not looking at the view–my guess is that they were just hanging out up there because they paid so much and they wanted to get their money’s worth, or they were waiting for it to get dark to see a different view. Either way, my bigs hips came in handy as I just pushed myself in between them to get pictures. It was very Confucian of me.) you descend a flight of stairs to the deck of death.
I could definitely never do this again and be just fine, thank you.
Because right next to this, was this:
Inspiring no? Gives you faith in the structural integrity of this building, right? I always find a piece of plywood and some netting 260 meters in the air to be very comforting (said no one, ever).
Anyway, I had to wait in line again to go down in the elevator.
We finally got back to the hotel around 8pm and had dinner in the hotel bar again.
The last day of Shanghai and Hong Kong will be for a later post.
I shall leave you with a few things you didn’t know you should be thankful for if you’ve never visited a developing country, and/or China.
1. Flushing toilet paper. No, you can’t do it in China.
2. Drinking water from the tap, and brushing your teeth with tap water.
3. Being able to move and work anywhere in the country without asking the government.
4. Being able to have a child without asking the government.
5. Being able to drive your car every day of the week (in Beijing, you have a certain day you can’t drive your car without a fine, to ease traffic).
6. Breathing clean air.
The last post of China from my sister’s 6 week trip in 2014. She’s headed to Warsaw and possibly Krakow in November to visit a friend, so I’m going to bring her back for her thoughts on those cities. Meanwhile, less than two months until I leave for Central Europe on October 6!