Welcome to Mainland China: Shanghai

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
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Trip End Jun 11, 2011


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Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday we leisurely woke up and packed up our room to leave Hong Kong for Shanghai. After checking out with Simon we bid farewell to 'Dongs and took the local A21 bus to the airport for our 1pm flight to Shanghai. I never cease to be impressed with HK's cleanliness and technology; the bus not only advertised about 12 different 'do not...' signs, they also offered free wifi for the ride. Not bad for $33HK (about $4US) per person.

Trip to and through the airport was very smooth. We had planned to eat lunch and there were so many options to chose from. We could only spend what cash we had left so thait made it a bit challenging but in the end we found options to stasify our lunch cravings. Certainly not what you'd find in a US airport! I was also really impressed with the shopping available here - really high end (Jimmy Choo, Valentino, Caviar Bar, etc). Anyway, we obviously bypassed all this and took the bus to the annex where our flight on China Eastern was boarding. We had $6.50HK (about 80 cents) cash left to spend but no matter how hard we looked we couldn't even find a breath mint to buy with that. Oh, well. We boarded the flight and were the only non-Asians in economy class (first class consisted of mostly Texans)  which was interesting. About an hour passed with not even a beverage being passed out.  But in the second hour of the flight, the ladies came by in their carts with a lunch offering of rice or noodles.  We finished our second lunch of the day when the stewardesses came by again, not to clean up our trays, but to pass out ice cream (haagen dazs strawberry flavor).  Once ice cream was handed out, they immediately went back to the front of the plane to pass out the rolls (that was what the butter was for when lunch was passed out).  The guy next to us decided to put his ice cream in the middle of the bread, guess we are learning new customs at all times.  All the food was finally passed out, now we would get our drinks.  By this time we are starting our decent and we were still getting beverages.  One more round of drinks came, then the clean up crew, then we were on the ground.

We disembarked and went through customs 1-2-3. I expected some questions or something about our previously purchased visas but nope. We collected our bags and weren't stopped through customs so we sailed right on through. We located an ATM to withdraw cash but it was all in Chinese. Luckily an airport agent was nearby who helped us. We headed out to the outside taxi line and caught a cab to our hostel downtown. This option, although convenient, quiet and clean was much more expensive than the Metro. However, being new the city and not knowing the language I was a bit nervous to take our big backpacks on the Metro during rush hour. My lovely husband obliged so that he could continue his 'happy wife, happy life' mantra. The ride took about an hour and gave us a good tour of the whole city on the way in. We had the address for the hostel on Dave's itouch in Chinese so he was able to show it to the driver. Otherwise, the driver spoke zero English and we speak zero Chinese (except for 'thank you' which is xie-xie, not to be confused with Ashishi) so this really saved us. He dropped us right in front of a nice looking building. Dave settled the bill while I collected the bags and we made our way up to the 6th floor to the Blue Moutain Youth Hostel.
 
This is our first true hostel. The other places in HK were more like guesthouses. But this is mostly group rooms and they have a group social area to go on the internet, play table football or pool and even a little bar for tea or beer. We booked a private room with an en-suite (private bathroom) and when we located the room we were zuper impressed. This is by far the nicest room we've stayed in - very large comfortable bed and huge bathroom with no hot water tank - we can use as much hot water as we want! Imagine how happy that made yours truly. In addition to my beauty routine I like a hot steamy shower to help my sinus issues (which some of you know that I have and can share the same). Anyway, the hostel folks were quick to provide us with bottled water, extra pillow and extra toilet paper which agian, really impressed me. Oh, also we're paying $25US/night for the both of us to stay here (or something like that). We needed a rest after our journey so Dave looked at maps and online reviews of what we should explore while I napped. Around 7pm we got dressed and headed out for a night view of the Bund and some dinner.

Turns out that we are like 3 short blocks from the main drag, Nanjing Road. There are loads of stores, shopping and restaurants there. We walked to the end and took a left down to the Bund. The Bund is basically the promenade in the center of the city along the Huangpu River. On one side of the promenade are old French and British colonial buildings and the other side is a great view of the Financial Sector including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. It's all spectactularly lit up at night and Dave got some good pictures. It was, however, very chilly and windy here. It goes down to the 40's Farenheight at night, before the wind. We didn't hang around the Bund all that long because it was cold and we were hungry for dinner (despite our 2 lunches). We headed back the way we came and went into a shopping mall on Nanjing that advertised pictures of food. We definitely notice how little English there is here compared to HK and how little Chinese we know! It took us a few wrong turns around a very poorly engineered mall (if you ask my opinion) to find the restaurant section. We found a place that looked pretty good, reasonably priced and lots of non-Asians eating there. We decided to be very American and just order cashew chicken, fried rice and snow peas for dinner, the three most gringo items on the menu, which consisted of ducks tongue, stomach, head, and feet. I guess that's what happens when you're tired and hungry in a foreign land where you don't know the language! Anyway, a few Tiger beers later and some food in us we felt much better. We enjoyed the dishes although they were out of cashew chicken.  We went to order what we thought was the fourth most gringo item on the menu, shredded chicken in a pot, but it came with unidentified chicken parts.  Dave had the toungue or innards or some other part while I enjoyed the foot (mostly just skin and bones, I dont understand what all the fuss is about).  After settling the bill we made it back to our welcoming hostel room and called it a night pretty early while watching European ESPN (Real Madrid beat Lyonnais).

(Dave here) We were able to get mobilized around noon on Friday morning.  Considering we have five days in Shanghai, two of which are with our tour which we dont want to duplicate sightseeing, we decided to walk around Nanjing ("Shopping capital of Asia").  The first store we came across was a toy store.  Inside people were scrambling around like it was christmas time and there was a shortage of elmos, furbies, or wii's.  Inside were toys from the 2010 World Exp mascot (who looks like a blue gumby, amongst other things, but I promised to keep this blog clean).  Huge bins of sale items.  Not wanting to miss out, I threw my eastern sized body into the mix and purchased a magnet.  Not knowing the rules, I was reprimanded for paying incorrectly.  You can't just take the item to the cashier and pay.  You have to get a slip with what the item is, go to the cashier to pay, then go back to get your item.  It is like a disorganized version of B&H photo.

After some more window shopping, we walked passed People's Park to Wuijing Road.  Found this street in the "Off the beaten track" section of tripadvisor.  Here you will find some of the best soup dumplings and bubble tea.  Looking around, I probably wouldnt consider this to be "off the beaten track."  We had difficulty finding both on the short 2 block street.   At the end we went into the mall to find a steamed bun restaurant.  Luckily there were soup dumplings.  We enjoyed a grand lunch and started to walk out when we found another restaurant (with a line out the door) that only makes fried dumplings.  Although we were stuffed, I couldnt pass these up for 5 yuan (80 cents).  They were fantastic although I think I took a layer of skin off my tongue because they were so hot.

On our way back, we passed by a mens store.  Since it is cold, and I decided, for some reason, to not bring a coat on this trip, we stopped in to browse.  There is no browsing in this country as the second you enter a store you have to walk out purchasing something.  After trying on two jackets, both of which were awfully tight on me since I dont have the prototypical body type out here, I ended up in negotiations.  A couple of minutes had passed and I was moved over to the manger, not because the original sales woman didnt know english, but I guess she needed approval to go as low as the price I was offering.  This was all a charade as once again I was probably offering too much, but the manager agreed almost instantly.  I am now the proud ownder of a "cashmere wool" jacket for $30 US.  Not sure if it is even worth shipping home as I dont want to carry it around 95 degree weather for 6 weeks in SE Asia.  Perhaps I will just give it to goodwill (or give it directly to Kirby now), or put it up on ebay.

We made our way back to People's Square and went into the Urban Planning Museum.  This museum showed what Shanghai was like 50 years ago, what it currently looks like, and what it will look like 50 years from now.  Very interesting to see how far they have come and what's in store for the future.  There was a full level replica of the city that was pretty impressive, but I most enjoyed the future exhibit where Shanghai will consist of 100% renewable/reusable materials.  On our way out we grabbed some bubble tea (that we couldnt find earlier) and a chinese pizza before heading back to the hostel to rest up before dinner.  As a side note (this comes to mind as it is happening right now), it is interesting who has control of the remote when we are watching tv.  If I have the remote we are watching something, anything in English (even politics).  If Amy has the remote we are watching either a game show or a cartoon in Mandarin (and she is sleeping). 

For dinner we decided to do the local thing and head to a little restaurant that is advertised on our map...Hofbrauhaus Shanghai.  This is the third continent we have each visited a HB, so we were excited to go.  Only problem, like most HB's, the location is not very central.  So we got on the subway to head towards the Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology spot.  Looking at the map it seems that HB would be just a short walk.   So we got out of the station and were on our way.  We arrive at what looks to be the location, but all we see is a highway.  Amy wants to wander to ask either a taxi driver or the police that are training, but most taxi drivers dont know english and the police looked a little busy.  Plus I knew we were close.  After further investigation of our map, the actual location was further away than the symbol showed, so we back tracked quite a bit and made it to the restaurant thirty minutes later than expected.  Regardless, I enjoyed my 1 liter of the dark while Amy had two .3 Liters of wheat.  Add on some pretzles, some tubed meat, and a salad and dinner was complete.  Food was very good, but prices were about double what I was expecting. 

We decided to take a taxi home after dinner so we could get home quickly.  There was a lot of traffic though, so what would have taken 20 minutes and cost 8 yuan by taking the subway ended up taking 45 minutes and costing 35 yuan, but we made it back to the hostel eventually.
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Comments

Ted B on

Looks amazing!
Still amazed as to how you find the time to do the entries and pictures on this site everyday! Bravo to you!

Libby on

Haibo!! I love that furry little guy

jenny on

i hope you guys are loving bubble tea! it's one of my favorite drinks :)

and yes you should just give me and kirby your jacket...why make me go to goodwill and pay for it? :)

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