Sunday, 14 February 2010

Day Nine Onwards – Shanghai

Guest Writer: Stephanie's Mom and Bethany

On Monday, we didn't set an alarm.  We slept late and S even served us hot drinks in bed (mocha for B, tea for me).  Then we went to the local huge shopping center (Carrefour) down the street.  The bottom floor has multiple cafeterias and we picked and chose several different foods to share.  Then we picked up a hair dryer and a few other things.  It was crazy busy due to the upcoming New Years.

More than once, while standing in line, someone cut in front of me or tried to cut in front of me.  S had to warn me more than once because I just wasn't paying attention and let a small gap in front of me.  It is just like driving, if there is a gap, someone will go into it.

We were thinking of going for another massage, but we were so tired, we decided we needed to rest more first.  As we walked back to S's apartment, we saw workers (in cook's outfits and such) playing cards in groups on the sidewalk, sitting on the ground or squatting.  When we got back, we popped in a DVD and chilled.

That night, Stephanie had scheduled a wine tasting with her favorite wine tasting bartender, Pierre, for us and a few friends.  Pierre emailed pretty late and said he was laid up in the hospital.  Stephanie tried to work something else out but we ended up just having several bottles of wine and some really interesting food with Stephanie's friends Stephanie and Fleur joining us.  Stephanie is a teacher at PingHe just like Stephanie and Fleur is a website designer for an Australian company.

After dinner, Fleur headed home and the four of us headed to one of S's favorite bars, Windows Underground, in the basement of a building.  They play American pop music and their drinks are cheap.  Being a Monday night, we were able to grab a table right away.  S showed us a dice game we can play without being able to hear each other talk (you use hand signals for the game) and it was a lot of fun.  A guy from Zambia named Sam, bought us all a round of drinks, then joined our dice game and then tried to convince me to stay in Shanghai, he would even pay me.  Okay, time to leave.

We grabbed a taxi to the apartment and got home about 2AM.

On Tuesday, we slept very late.  Then we headed to the Yu Garden and Old Shanghai.  It is a large collection of shops and restaurants, from very cheap to very expensive.  The entire area was very elaborately decorated for New Year's and was beautiful.  We went to a popular restaurant for Shanghai style dumplings.  We then crossed the bridge that is supposed to give us long lives.

Then we walked along the Bund, a row of beautiful European style buildings along the river's edge.  They are doing all sorts of improvements in preparation for the 2010 Expo, so there was a wall between the road and the river and the sidewalk was being improved.  We saw the famous Shanghai skyline all lit up across the river.

We then walked toward Nanjing Road, another row of modern stores and restaurants as we headed toward the subway.  One thing I saw that was interesting was delivery bikes for several restaurants, including KFC and McDonalds.  Why don't they offer that in the US?

On Wednesday, we went for a Chinese all-body massage.  It's amazing how many aches and pains our bodies have from walking ALL day and sleeping on really hard beds.  So really, they are necessary.

We then headed to the Shanghai museum and learned quite a bit of Chinese history.  It was much more fascinating that we thought and ended up running out of time and got kicked out at closing time.  A bell rang, the security guards shooed us out and as we sat on the front steps, planning our next step, we saw the procession of security guards exiting.

We walked down the rest of Nanjing Road that we didn't see last night.  Everywhere we went, we were always approached by street vendors.  The most interesting item they were trying to sell us here was a set of two wheels that you strap to your sneakers. Then you could walk when you wanted to, or roll away when wanted.  If only I was younger…

Stephanie then brought us to another great restaurant.  My favorite dish, which I had requested to have again which I remembered from our last trip, was a caramelized potato dish.  We had it here and it was awesome.  We grabbed a cab home which went right underneath the skyscrapers.  We were able to take some interesting pictures of them with their tops lost in the fog.

On Thursday, I desperately needed to stay off my feet, especially since we were going out Salsa dancing at night.  I suggested B and S feel free to go out without me.  It was a very rainy day which was perfect for me to stay in.

***Bethany Writes About Her Day!***

I still wanted to walk around more to take in more Shanghai.  Stephanie graciously offered to take me to see 2 Buddhists' temples and the Fake Market (another huge market place with designer purses, sunglasses, and all kinds of other items).  We decided to visit the Jade Temple first because Stephanie had not been there…that way if we only made it to one temple, it would be new for Stephanie too.  Off we went. 

It was a cool rainy day, not great for outdoor sightseeing but we pressed on.  We stopped for breakfast at my favorite coffee spot, The Coffee Beanery.  We had a western breakfast.  I had my standard mocha and Stephanie had her caramel macchiato.   After breakfast, we jumped in a cab headed for the subway.  We took the subway to the closest stop to the Jade temple and grabbed another cab from there to the temple. 

The temple was surprisingly busy with worshipers.  Stephanie explained this was most likely due to the impending Chinese New Year's which is a very important time for the Chinese.  As we walked into the courtyard, we saw 3 large vessels with burning fires.  People were crowded around the fire lighting incense.  Around the courtyard and beyond were structures all in the traditional Chinese architecture.  Inside each building were many deities, everywhere you turned, with stools in front of them for the worshipers to kneel and pray.  They also had amazing detailed beautiful alters in front of the larger deities.  The alters were covered with gifts of fruit, food, coins, and other items.  We watched as many people walked through the temples, kneeling to pray to almost every deity.  At the back of the temple area, we heard chanting and peeked inside to briefly see part of a Buddhist service in progress. 

We now headed to the front exit and on the way were greeted by a woman asking if we wanted to try the tea from the temple…a special blend only available at the temple.  After Stephanie confirmed the tasting was free, we followed her upstairs for the tea ceremony.  We tried 4 different teas and then she blended several together for us to taste.  As we sipped our tea, we wondered if Ms. Vickie was awake yet.  Stephanie and I both liked teas #5 and #8 so we both bought a box of each.  As with most things in China, these were not prepackaged so the woman scooped out our tea and put it into our pretty boxes.  Then off we went. 

It took a few minutes to catch a cab back to the subway (I'm getting used to this occasional inconvenience now).  It wouldn't have been quite so bad if it wasn't cold and drizzling.  It was nice to get in the cab and on the subway to warm up some.  Stephanie, having seen both temples now, said that she liked the Longhua Temple better and we should go there.  Whaaaaaaaa!  I'm cold and wet.  I reminded myself that I asked for more sightseeing…besides when would I be back to China????? 

On the map, the Longhua Temple looked closer to the subway stop than the Jade Temple so we thought it might be within walking distance.  Hhmm!!!!!   I think the map lied or maybe I was just being a weenie because I was cold and wet.  Well, we made it.  This temple was similar in layout and architecture with many worshipers.  However, the insides of the buildings and the deities were more impressive.  One building had 3 walls (top to bottom) of small Buddhas, each one slightly different.  Another building had 4 large statues of females with their backs to each other.  Each one had 8 arms, all holding a different object.  We went through several other buildings with large gold deities.  The ceilings inside the buildings were absolutely beautiful with detail carvings and designs.   Stephanie was right.   This temple was more impressive and I was glad we went.

We took a taxi to a different subway line instead of walking more in the rain.  Now to the Fake Market which is inside the subway tunnel at the science museum stop…warm and dry.  This area is an underground mini-mall with small shop after shop all willing to barter for the sale.  I spotted some D&G purses I liked.  Fake, of course, as the market name implies.  We haggled with the woman for a bit getting her down from over 320 RMB per purse to 300 for both.  I wasn't anxious enough so we decided to have lunch at a food spot next door.  We enjoyed lunch and wondered again if Ms. Vickie was awake.  As we walked out of the lunch shop, the purse woman was waiting to pursue the sale.  I offered her 250 for both and ended up settling on 260.  SOLD!  J We browsed through a few more shop and I bought some D&G sunglasses.  Then it was back to the street level to catch our cab to the grocery store near Stephanie's apartment.

Tonight was supposed to be hairy crab night before salsa dancing.  We stopped at the grocery store but it seems that hairy crabs are out of season so we had to come up with plan B.  We made the short walk to Stephanie's place.  And now the answer we had waited for…Vickie was up but snuggling under the covers in bed.  We rested a bit for our big night out.

***Back to Vickie!***

We went to dinner at the nice restaurant near S's apartment in our salsa outfits.  It was a windy, cold night and the walk was very chilly.  We were finally able to get the famous Shanghai hairy crabs that Stephanie told us about earlier in our trip, and tried the spicy bullfrog.  Yum yum.  (Really!)

The salsa dancing was on the 65th floor of a 5-star hotel with beautiful views all around.  Lucy, Fleur and another of S's friends Ibrahim joined us.  After we each did some dancing and had one expensive drink each (78RMB!!  Eep! That's more than the 1 hour massage costs!) we headed to a jazz club.  After 1 more drink each, we headed home.  As we were getting into the cab, we were approached by a little girl begging for money, with her mom standing close by.  It was shameful to see.

On Friday, we had some more baozi for breakfast.  Two of them cost a total of 3.8RMB.  Wish I could have these at home for breakfast too.  Today was our day to actually go to the famous Shanghai skyscrapers and unfortunately, it was an extremely cold and windy day.  First we went to the Pearl Building, the one with the balls and tripod legs.  Stephanie suggested we go up into the higher building, the Financial Center, for the views, and go into the Shanghai History museum in the basement of the Pearl Building.  It was very interesting and informative.

Then we headed to the Shanghai World Trade Center.  It is the building that looks like a giant bottle opener, with a gap at the top.  We first went to the 97th floor (the bottom of the opening) and took tons of pictures and looking up at the 100th floor above us.  Then we went to the 100th floor (the top of the opening) and took tons more pictures.  Some of the floor blocks were glass and we were able to take some pictures looking straight down.  B had some issues with the height and the glass floor but she survived.

We grabbed some dinner and used the heated toilets (mmmm) and headed to the Super Brand Mall.  It is a huge mall with 9 floors.  We each had a Dairy Queen Blizzard.  Of note here is that the options for the blizzards are not the same as home.  No candy options so B had to settle for oreo and nuts.  Then headed out to the edge of the river to see the Bund all lit up for the night.  There were many boats and barges going down the river, it is busy all the time.  Again, more sales people (jasmine for you…you like lazar lady) and a McDonald's kiosk.

We grabbed a taxi back to Stephanie's apartment but first stopped to see S's DVD lady.  Then, on the walk to her apartment, we stopped several times to see fireworks taking place very close to us.  The fireworks caused the car alarms to go off right near us.  According to Stephanie, they will get more and more frequent closer to the New Year.  Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and Sunday will be the New Year.  We will be leaving just before everything closes for the holiday.  As I'm writing this, I hear even more fireworks all around us.

B and I packed because our flight leaves at 5PM tomorrow.  We decided to go for a foot massage in the morning, grab a few supplies at the Carrefour, go for a hot pot luncheon and then head to the Maglev and home.  I probably won't post again until I'm home and Stephanie probably won't post for a while because we completely exhausted her.  But she was an absolutely great hostess and we had a fabulous vacation.  If anyone else has an opportunity to come visit her, you really should.

Bye and B and I will see you back in CT soon.

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