Tuesday, November 30, 2010

China Recapt Part 4: Shanghai

Our last city to visit was Shanghai. To be honest, I'm not really sure why we came here; there was nothing in particular we wanted to see, even after scouring guidebooks for suggestions. I guess we just figured it was a big, famous city and we should see it while we were there. So we went, we saw it. That's just about how exciting it was.

We flew in from Chengdu in the evening and checked into the Grand Mercure Hotel. It was swankier than I had thought it would be when I made the reservation (which wasn't particularly a bad thing). Nice and luxurious. The view from the floor-to-ceiling windows in our room was nice.

We woke up leisurely the next morning and ordered (western style) room service for breakfast. Now this may seem like a silly thing to do on a trip to China, but it's rare (living in Japan) that we get the opportunity to have an American breakfast, so we were excited by the prospect of eggs, bacon and french toast. Plus we don't stay at nice hotels very often, so we figured we'd round out the experience.

We spent the rest of the day haphazardly walking around the city, seeing what there was to see. It was basically like being in New York or Tokyo or any other big city around the world, only less interesting somehow. It seemed sort of bland. Big stores. Big buildings. Big business. Nothing particularly noteworthy. We walked the Nanjing pedestrian mall and along the Bund, checking out the views to the Pudong area across the Huangpu River. We also took the "Tourist Tunnel" which runs underneath the river connecting the two areas, which was one of the more bizarre things we saw on the trip. It was a tunnel of trippy lights with a voice on a loudspeaker stating random Earth-related words like "meteor shower" and "basalt in blue ocean." We didn't quite get the point of that one...

The next day we had planned to take a day trip to the nearby water-town of Zhujiajiao. Lonely Planet said there were tour buses running every 30 minutes, so we woke up leisurely again and made our way across town to the stadium where the buses departed. When we got there we discovered there's only one bus a day to Zhujiajiao and it left an hour prior. NUTS! Our plan was foiled and there was nothing else we particularly wanted to see instead.

We were leaving that night on an overnight train back to Beijing (to catch our return flight home), but it wasn't leaving until 9pm, so we had most of a day to kill. We wandered over to the French Quarter where we proceeded to play on the internet via an iPad in an Apple store for a while. Then we walked the streets a bit and eventually had lunch at a German cafe. The weather was gorgeous (even a little hot!), so we sat outside and people watched for a bit.

After lunch we started wandering around again, wondering what the heck we were going to do for the rest of the afternoon when we just happened to pass by a movie theater that had a giant sign for Harry Potter. It just so happened there was a showing starting in 10 minutes, so that's what we ended up doing on our last afternoon in Shanghai. Hey, there were Chinese subtitles, we were umm... immersing ourselves in the culture of the language?

We had a bit of an adventure trying to catch our train that night. Who would have thought Shanghai would have not 2, but 3 gigantic train stations?! We may have ended up at the wrong one and then we may have spent an hour getting lost trying to run across town to a different train station in time to catch our train. Thank goodness for our paranoid, always-2-hours-early-to-everything ways.

We had to share a cabin on this train and it was slightly less comfortable, but the trip still went fine. Corey got to amaze our bunk-mates with his sweet Mandarin skillz, and they had a nice conversation.

We spent one more night in Beijing before flying out, back home to Japan!

A few general thoughts:

1. The pollution was not nearly as bad as we thought it was going to be. Apparently we got lucky and arrived just after a big wind storm came and wiped the air clean in many places and before they lit the coal furnaces for winter.

2. I found the giant fancy stores (Gucci, Prada, Tiffany, etc) that were in every.single.city interesting, as they were sometimes blocks away from fairly striking poverty, and in the case of Beijing were a block away from Tiananmen Square and the tribute to Mao. Interesting juxtaposition.

3. I won't miss many of the smells prevalent in China.

4. The food was surprisingly similar (to me at least) to the American version of "Chinese food." Better, yes, but ultimately the dishes and most of the flavors were familiar. Everything was veeery oily, but it was delicious.

5. I was surprised by how "foreign" things seemed to me. I was naively expecting things to be more similar to Japan than they were, and I had figured the things that were different wouldn't feel so strange since I've spent so much time living in "different" and would be used to the feelings associated with that. But I definitely experienced some culture shock.

Overall the trip went extremely well and we were really happy with it! I highly recommend going!

At the Misawa train station getting ready to begin our trip

That's it! The full set of China pictures is up and ready (in case you didn't get enough here).

Time to plan the next trip! (Hmmm, I think I hear India calling my name...)


Pete 'n Stephy said...

i'm suffering from a bad case of awesome photo overload! your pics are great, you better make a photo book to cherish for a lifetime...blurb is a great site for that!

crazy bunny lady said...

You seriously amaze me. You're one of my favorite people in the world, and you totally rock! The pics are fabulous, and I am so glad you guys had a great time! =)

StumpyG said...

Aw shucks, you know I love you too M!

Steph- good idea about the photo book! Thanks!

LizzyB said...

Patty, I LOVE your photos. You really inspire me to try to get into photography, but I think it's a bit of a natural talent. You definitely have it! I love the people watching, and pictures of your hotels, and day to day recaps. I feel like I really know what you did on your trip to China.

My favorite part was definitely the Pandas. But unlike you, I love big cities so I think I would have liked Shanghai too. We'll see. Hopefully I get to see it someday myself. I'll definitely refer to your blog before I plan my trip.

Loving the blog! :)

Gillion said...

Have you tried dumplings and roast ducks? They are the famous and traditional Beijing dishes. And also bird's nest soup? Its a delicacy in China.

Enjoy your days~~~