CHINA! aka Shanghai Lisa
Never mind the mess and the last minute rush and all the craziness that was part of it. Forget the fumbling with dates and reservations. The point of the matter is that I got to meet up with Joe on his last few days in Yangzhou, then the two of us got a little vacation in Shanghai.
DAY 1: THE FLIGHT
Left LAX on the 12:20am flight (Wednesday, September 21 – local time). Have I mentioned how much I love flying? Ugh! just going to the airport gets me excited. Every time I drop Joe off, I’m a little disappointed that I don’t get to go somewhere. It’s not really a disappointment as much as an anticlimactic ending. Even the drive to the airport gets me riled up. Then, what? Park. Check in. “Bye” at the gate. Drive home. BOOOO! That is not the fun part. I want to go through customs and wander the terminal, looking for my gate, waiting for my board time. I love walking through the little metal portable cave to the plane, finding my seat, getting situated, then landing on different soil than where I left.
Am I being chatty. Sorry. Back to the trip.
11 hours later, two terrible in flight meals (don’t – whatever you do – don’t get the sweet and sour seafood meal. starve. ask for extra drinks. whatever, but don’t do it. it’s really that bad.) and three not so awesome movies later (x-men: first class, date night, harry potter and the deathly hallows part I), I landed at the Incheon airport in Seoul, Korea; around 5am (local time). Nothing is open. The place is a serious dead zone. Lame.
Hop on my plane to Shanghai. – Arrive in Shanghai, hop on the Maglev. I got the slow train…only 300+km/hour. Meet Jennie (Joe had one of the girls meet me to help me on the subway. AWESOME) at the end. She helps me on the subway to the train station, and made sure I got the right ticket for my train.
time goes by….
Joe meets me at the train station and we’re on our way to the Jinling Hotel. We had a semi-early dinner.
It’s funny eating in restaurants in China. They give you menus and kind of hover over you until you order. Even while you’re looking at the menu they just stand there. I don’t really care. If that’s what they do, then that’s what they do…let them wait. But it does make us feel a little pressure to make a decision.
It really is a shame Joe doesn’t enjoy tofu as much as I do. I almost ate that whole pot!
DAY 2: DA MING TEMPLE
Got up early and took a taxi to Da Ming Temple. I was prepared for the crazy driving, so I kinda just ignore what’s going on in front of me and look out the window. Driver drops me off on a smaller street in the garden area, and says something. Really, I have no idea what he’s saying since I already paid the guy, but whatever. But I see no temple. I’m left next to a pond.
I wander around a little bit and decide I must cross the little, but super busy street and climb the mini staircase up the hill. Hopefully I’ll find the temple. If not, eh, it’s 7:30am…I’ve got time.
Crossing these streets in China is like playing frogger. Go out into the lane and hope to cross into the next before you get rolled over. Climb Climb Climb the curved staircase. I really hope the temple is at the top. It’s those annoying type of rock steps…that are a little more than a normal step wide, but only about two inches tall. I ended up walking up the “ramp” (not a real ramp at all…sloped lining on the sides of the steps, probably only 6 inches wide) on the side to avoid these annoying little steps.
HURRAH!!! I see a gate protected by some lions. There must be a temple inside. The temple doesn’t open until 7:45 so I wait a few minutes, pay my fee (45rmb) and go inside. I was basically the first person there, besides staff and I’m not used to seeing empty temples.
Although pagoda’s are always pretty cool, I just wasn’t impressed with this temple. Maybe it was the lack of people/energy there. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by some of the awesome temples I’ve seen in japan. But really, there just wasn’t much here. A few buildings. Fewer statues of gods. A tiny garden that appeared well kept, but when actually entering you can see that the groundskeeper throws buckets, rakes, brooms, etc in the corner next to a bush. If you’re ever in Yangzhou, skip this temple. Not worth it and there are some other things to see. So, I was there for probably less than an hour…it’s not even 9in the morning, and I have a whole day to kill. So I decide to walk.
Luckily the temple was housed in a large garden area. There were multiple gardens, Slender West Lake, and areas of interest surrounding it, so I walked my way (5.5km) out to a main street. It was probably around 11 by now and stores were just starting to open up. I looked to my map and saw an area joe had circled off. Dongguan Street, so I headed that way. I hit Dongguan Street and made a left. The street got smaller and smaller the further east I headed, until maybe only 15ft wide. And yes. Still there are cars coming through, scooters, bikes, pedestrians. All of it. Then, I see a hole in the road. Maybe 2’ x 2’ and a drop about 12’ deep. No signs. No warning. Just a hole. Then I spy another. I look ahead. Apparently they are doing construction on the street. A few guys hammering away at the road. A few sitting around on the sidelines. Rubble everywhere. People are still trying to get over with their scooters and bikes – carrying them over the rubble. One lady was pushing an elderly woman over the rubble in a wheelchair. It was insane! I finally made it to the end of this mess to another main street where I finally saw a construction sign (ignored by everyone).
Dongguan was actually a really nice street to walk through. Although kinda touristy, they had a lot of local merchandise type shops. Strange foods. Strange teas. Strange herbs. Jewelry, shoes, paintings, all that good stuff. Between the stores were tiny alleys, leading who knows where. In the middle of it all was an entrance to a garden…hmmm…if its anything like the temple, not worth it so I continue on.
I walk my way back to a main street, decide not to traverse the rubble again and make a left. Go into a few stores but don’t make any major purchases. It’s my first real day in China so I’m still feeling the place out.
After roaming the city for a few hours (about 7 miles and a fall later…) I make my way back to Jinling. I’m beat, so I take a shower and lounge around the hotel room. Have I mentioned how much i love robes. I do. It’s one of my favorite parts of staying in hotels. You’d think I would just buy one, but I’m picky about the one I want to buy. I digress. I get a call from Joe who’s going to be working late so I go get my grub on at the hotel restaurant.
DAY 3: GE YUAN GARDEN
I was going to go do a little shopping, but realized that the hotels recommendation was not the type of shopping I was looking for. The cab dropped me off at an international mall. Overpriced goods that I could get at home. Totally not what I’m looking for. Luckily it was nearish to Dongguan Street, so I wandered that way again.
I decided to try out the garden in there, and since i had already walked the main roads, I thought I’d try to make my way through the back alleys. I found out rather quick that these alleys are not set up in any normal grid. You think you’re heading north, quickly you end up heading south east. These things are a series of mazes to get through, only about 4 feet wide, and you can only imagine the looks i received from locals. Not to mention that people still take their bikes and scooters and carriages through these areas. I had to step up into people’s doorways to avoid collisions at some points. But i just kept walking walking walking. I finally managed to find a major street. Somehow I ended up in the direct opposite direction that I had inteded. eh – no problem. Now i know where I am, so i keep trucking towards Ge Yuan Garden, only about another 15 minute walk.
Ge Yuan Garden
From the street it just looks like an old stone wall with a little entryway. Pay my fee (45rmb) and head inside. Already, just from the beginning it was soo much better than the Da Ming Temple!
Before you get to the actual garden area, you wander from stone building to building of what used to be the living quarters, through intricate little doorways to the next area, each smelling like old wood and citrus oils from the maintenance of the furniture.
These lead you to a stone pathway where you enter the garden.
The garden itself is fairly small. A bamboo forest area. A pond area with a few structures surrounding it. And four rock sculpture/path areas.
The rock formations felt very synthetic, but once i started wandering through them, they became more and more interesting. Each formation represents one of the four seasons, each made of a different stone.
Upon exit you are forced into a small shopping area until you reach the north side of the garden to the main street. I decided to walk again. I knew this was about half of the distance I had walked the day before and the area was already familiar so, no problem.
The walk seemed super quick this day, I was back in the early afternoon. Just in time to rest up before Joe got back from the shipyard.
We went to the Old Brewery for dinner. A “western” style restaurant, where we had burgers and fried chicken. Disappointing, but i can see how it would do the trick if you’ve been subject to chinese food for a month.
DAY 4: SHANGHAI OCEAN AQUARIUM, AT BAR, HYATT ON THE BUND
We got up early Sunday morning to make our way to Shanghai. Arrived at Hyatt on the Bund too early to get our keys, so we decided to go to the Pudong side of things. We walked to the main area of the bund, and took the Shanghai Sightseeing Tunnel.
Perhaps the best rip off in Shanghai. It felt like a County Fair ride. You pay 50 rmb and get in a little people mover. It is quick though – only takes about 3 minutes to get over to the Oriental Pearl Tower. Along the ride you glide through a “light show”. Neon, rope lights, and projections as a voice over reads to you. Trust me, the pictures look way cooler than the actual tunnel. So it’s kinda pricey – but sooo cheesy and lamely done that I had to love it!!
We stopped for some less than mediocre Shabu Shabu, and made our way to the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium.
Actually – we have both been to better aquariums. But we had to go and check it out! We wandered around Pudong a little, and made our way back to Jin Mao Tower.
We wandered between Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center then took a cab back to our hotel. We changed rooms to get a better view (we did pay for a river view, first room was more like the other hyatt tower view), and went to the vue bar for a better look.
We decided to wander around the streets by the hotel and find some food. Our hotel was a little ways from the main area on the Bund, so there really wasn’t much around. After wandering a few blocks we stumbled upon a large window, covered in pictures of cats – so naturally we had to look inside. SURPRISE! It was a little bar. Must Go Inside. We find out that it’s owned by two young guys who’s english names are Allen and Tom. “AT”.
Lucky for us these guys and a few friends are really just hanging out and speak english. Score! We talk to them a bit and ask where we can get some dumplings. About 10 minutes later, one of the owners comes back on his scooter with two piping hot bowls of dumplings and soup.
Not only was it delicious, they guys were nice, and it was super cheap. I think we had 3-4 beers and two bowls of soup and we walked out of there paying $12!! Definitely a place to return to. I think next time Joe’s going to have to take part in the quickest mug drinker of the month contest!!
DAY 5: NANJING ROAD, TIAN ZI FANG, DONGTAI ROAD
We have been waking up up super early while we’ve been in Shanghai. We’re usually on the road by 7:30. Problem is, nothing is really open that early, but there are plenty of groups doing their morning exercises.
We were really just wandering around. We made our way to Nanjing Road and decided to get some bao. Since we didn’t know what we were ordering, we got one of each. One turned out to be filled with anko (sweet red beans) and the other, water greens.
We were waiting for one of Joe’s pearl shops to open. 9am…9:30…we wander some more and stumble upon MISTER DONUTS. mmm. mister donuts. Memories of their treats and strawberry shakes from Japan. We must stop. I just know Pauline will be jealous (just for the record, when I told her we went, her first question was “did you have a strawberry shake?”
Sadly, no strawberry shakes at this one, so we settled on two coffee drinks, crumb donuts, and one matcha donut. mmm. They’re different than US donuts. A little doughy but not wet. yum. We wander back to the pearl area, no dice, so we decide to get in a cab and head to Tian Zi Fang. Another one of joe’s favorite shopping areas. A block of narrow walkways through old brick buildings filled with little shops by local designers, artists, and designers.
We wandered the area for a few hours. We were early, many of the shops open at 10:30 or later. Sadly the silver store wasn’t open, but we spotted quite a few others things to buy. Leather bound books, jewelry, purses, coats. Some stuff really overpriced. Some stuff really good priced. Its all about looking around. As the day went on, things started getting a little more crowded. We finished up, and cabbed our way to Dongtai Road.
This street is filled with antique vendors. Most have a small booth in the street full of goods, but the real stuff to look at is in the shops behind. There are arcades full of tiny – maybe 5 x 5 shops stacked with stuff. If you had the time to go through it and knew what to look for there are definitely treasures here.
DAY 6: CITY GOD TEMPLE, YU YUAN GARDEN, WATERHOUSE
Leave Hyatt on the Bund and head on over to Hotel Indigo. SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE HYATT. Sorry. its just that the Hyatt was totally overpriced for the location, room size, etc. Indigo was cute, bigger/better room, nice furniture, and windows that wrap the corner. awesome.
We got there before our room was ready, so we ended up sitting around in the Library for a while, playing checkers, reading cookie books, then decided not to waste the day away – we’re out of here.
We walked to Yu Yuan Gardens; never actually made it to the garden, just the shopping area surrounding it. Of course – more shopping. But first, we went into the City God Temple.
After going through the temple, we wandered around and ended up doing a bit more shopping.
After a few more hours of shopping, an unfruitful search for an ATM, and another pearl adventure, we made our way back to the hotel.
But when we got to the room, it was totally worth it.
And since Joe is a returning patron, they left a little note and treat in the room for him. I love it.
We laid out our goods, took a nap, then off to the Shanghai Riverview Hotel for dinner.
By the time dinner was over it had started to rain. It was still early, so we took a cab to “Cool Docks”. We weren’t sure what was there, but it was on a lot of the tourist maps so off we went.
It turned out to be a new area similar to old town. Mostly restaurants, some shops. As we wandered we spotted a building with a large window. Ah Haw! that looks like a bar. We went to investigate and found a small boutique hotel. The Water House. It was a cool old building, left to look industrial, but the place was nice. 19 rooms. Restaurant. Lobby and rooftop bars. So, we decide to have a drink.
The bartender was super nice, and since we were basically the only people in there, talked to us a lot. His name was Joe (I’m sure not in Chinese, but hey, that’s what he told us) and he spoke pretty good english – enough for us to have real conversations anyway.
DAY 7: WATER HOUSE, PARK HYATT, WATER HOUSE
Once again we left the hotel really early in the morning and started walking. On our way, we stopped at an ATM and saw a pup friend.
We ended up going to a VW dealer, then beck to Tian Zi Fang. We walked around a while and waited. Went to the tiny bar there and waited, waited, waited. Finally, around 11 the silver store opened! YAY!! We went on a mini shopping spree, to a scary ghetto shopping area, then headed back to Water House for lunch. (by the way, scary and ghetto in China are a little different. You’re never really scared of any physical harm, but the people follow you around for blocks, and actually grab your arms trying to get you to buy stuff from them)
On our way out we spotted a Land Rover friend.
Afterwards we made our way back to Pudong. Instead of doing the whole observatory thing in the Shanghai World Financial Tower, we decided to go to the bar in the Park Hyatt on the 91st floor to see the sun go down and the night lights of Shanghai turn on.
DAY 8: FAKE MARKET, PARK HYATT, RETURNING HOME
After yesterdays crazy shopping experience, we decided to ask the hotel where we can go for some chinese shopping. We told him that we had run into some other tourists who had suggested an area near the Science and Technology museum. The concierge knew exactly what he was talking about. The “fake market”. We took a cab over there, and were promptly approached by a “scout”. He walked us around the museum, through to the mall area. Much better than the place we went yesterday, but most of the stores were closed. Around 10:30 stores started opening. Mostly shoes or handbag shops. I got myself a pair of fake asics, joe a pair of adidas. Some of the handbag stores of hidden rooms. That’s where the knock off name brand stuff is stored. The ladies push on a wall, and a tiny 3 x 5 room lined to the walls with bags is there. You go inside, they lock the door, and you see if they have what you want. Name brand bags/purses, yes. Rolls and rolls of name brand watches, yes. It was crazy in there.
The other half of the mall was full of tailors. They have sample suits, dresses, jackets out. Thousands of materials. You pick the style and material, and they make it for you. So super awesome! Too bad we found this place when we didn’t have more time!!! It ends up being at the subway exit for the Science and Technology museum so next time, we’re there.
But we had reservations at the restaurant at the Park Hyatt, so off we went.
First off, I ordered an apple juice and the lady put three apples in the juicer and handed me the glass. LOVE IT! it was delicious and a little frothy – the froth in minutes starts to brown just like an apple. mmm
The table snacks were kinda strange. Some sort of cracker, and some sort of puffed bread, both served with a marinara like sauce.
Then came the food. We ordered a strange mix of stuff. Start with the salmon sushi and some miso soup.
Apparently our cab driver didn’t think we’d know any different…but he tried to charge us twice the amount when we got to the airport.
With all that taken care of, we checked in, and were off to barely catch our boarding for our flight home.