No one likes mushrooms.
Over the past two weeks I have tripled my lifetime consumption of mushrooms. They seem to be minced in a lot of the dishes over here. That is ok, I can't stay mad at you Asian food. Which is why it amazes me that there are people I know, Matt (aka "Cliff Lee’s Boyfriend" in the comments section of the blog), who do not eat any Asian food. I have been trying to find another person who completely eliminates and entire continents cuisine from their diet, but have been unsuccessful so far. It is typically the second thing I ask a person after their name (here is your shout out matt). But I digress (mostly because I have been told I talk about food too much in this blog).
Around 3 in the morning, Amy and I both woke up, but for different reasons. I was interested in seeing the score of Michigan’s second round game against Duke (one in which they lost, so I will get back to our trip), while Amy was worried about bed bugs because she was itchy. Fortunately for us, I will not be waking up at 3 in the morning again on this trip, but unfortunately I feel Amy will every 2 to 3 days as we get to a new hostel due to her scabiophobia (fear of bed bugs).
After falling back asleep, we were awaken by our three alarms at 8am for the walking tour of Shanghai. This is a bit unusual for us as we have been sleeping in till about 10 or 11 every day until now. But we are on tour, and we don’t want to keep Robert (our tour guide), along with the rest of the group waiting. We all met in the lobby and began our one hour tour of Shanghai. Unfortunately it was raining for the third day in a row and temperatures are starting to drop as well.
Robert tells us that they call it “happy rain” because it is important for their harvest. That is fine, it will not slow me down. But it looks like my new coat is waiting in the bullpen until it is just cold outside and no rain. Even though we have been to all the sites Robert was taking us to already, we decided to still join the group for the educational purposes. The tour took us down Nanjing Rd to the Bund and finishing at Yuyuan Gardens. The tour just happened to end right in front of my new favorite restaurant Nan Xiang, home of the famous steamed buns. I have eaten my body weight in dumplings already, but this was a good chance for a second round. We dined inside (as opposed to yesterday’s street fair) as there was a selection of more than one dumpling. Problem is with this selection, you pay more for less quantity. Or that could just be the case since we received an English menu.
We finished up lunch and decided to head to the other side of the river to the new section of Shanghai to give the observatory deck of the SWFC a second try.
The clouds were still coming in and out, but at least we could see more than half the building. We took the ferry across for 2 yuan a person and were dropped off a few blocks from the SWFC. We immediately go to the observation deck entrance, but there are signs everywhere that visibility was at a zero. We made the wise decision to not spend 150 yuan a person to go to the top to get a glimpse of clouds. Instead we walked around the very modern building to the shops and restaurants.
Surprisingly enough, around this time Amy decided she had to use the WC. After finishing up, she comes running out telling me that the toilets are eastern style. Now we are not talking about squat toilets, but instead the kind of toilet that has a cleaning service built in (click here if you are not familiar with these toilets
and here for a washlet near you
). This is a feature we were looking forward to in Japan before that was leg of the trip was canceled.
Amy decided to clean herself the old fashion way, much to my dismay, so I decided I would investigate. My first impression was that I really enjoyed the heated seats. After familiarizing myself with the controls, I was ready to give it a whirl (pun intended). I lowered the pressure as I was a noob, and sat back and enjoyed. I thought it would automatically turn off, but after a minute or so I decided I was adequately cleaned, so pushed the stop button. Finally I let the dryer do its thing and finished off manually to make sure I was dry. I don’t want to mention any names, but I know a certain person that might save a lot of money on wet ones if they were to invest in one of these bad boys.
We were really enjoying the warmth of being indoors, so we inquired about the whereabouts of the bar that is supposedly on the 87th floor. We find out it is in the attached Park Hyatt, so we went meandering around.
The hotel sits atop the SWFC, even the lobby was on the 87th floor, and the views were pretty incredible (even with the cloudiness). Not quite ready for an alcoholic beverage as it was only noon, Amy enjoyed the “immune system juice” and I had the “care smoothie.” We had the entire bar to ourselves and used every square meter of it as we walked around to see Shanghai from up above. If I may give one suggestion to the designer of the bar it would be to find higher seats. For some reason the chairs are very low to the ground, which makes it difficult to see outside from a seating position (even at my ginormous height in this country of 5’8’’). It was about this time that Amy decided to test out the toilets, she gives the bathroom a perfect 5 flushes (on the international toilet ranking system).
Following drinks, we wanted to head to the Taikang Rd area. The walk to the subway from the SWFC was a bit of a hike, especially in this weather, but Amy obliged having a little bit of pep in her step now (after the Park Hyatt bathrooms). Along the way we stumbled upon the Chinese version of redbox. Similar to the states, you pay around $1 for a “perfectly legal in every way” version of a movie. Then once you are finished viewing, you take these dvds to the return center (the trash bin) before entering the states. Thinking this would be a great way to kill time on our long bus and train travels, we stocked up on about 10 dvds, all new releases.
We finally made it to the subway, took it a few short stops and ended up on Taikang Rd. This area is a few alleys (in a maze like pattern) with lots of shops and restaurants.
It was very cool to see all of the items as they were different types of touristy items than we had seen in the past. Items we did see (that we had already purchased) were either cheaper or better quality, but we are happy with what we got (for the most part). We walked around for an hour or so looking at silk scarfs, pictures, t shirts, and other tchotchkes, but in the end purchased nothing. We had another long walk to a different subway line in order to get home. Amy was starting to get annoyed with me since taking a taxi would only cost $4 USD instead of the $0.75 that a subway would cost, but out of principle, I want to avoid taxis as much as possible on this trip. Plus it was at this time that we realized neither of us took the room key this morning which had the hotels address in Mandarin (to give to the taxi drivers who do not speak English). We got back to the hotel, received a new key card, and got back to the room.
Now that we have our room key(s) back, we decided to go down and get food for our 15 hour train ride tomorrow at the convenient mart across the street. We stocked up on ramen, bottled water, and other snacks and cookies. Amy wanted to grab something small to eat as well since we had a late dinner this evening.
So next door, she found a street cart making some sort of roti sandwich. There are many options for the sandwich including eggs, cheese, snausage, hot dogs, bacon, ham, etc. Amy went with the old standby of roti with cheese and bacon topped with ketchup (cant go wrong with this combination). I wasn’t completely hungry, but given my culinary diversity on this trip, I decided to go with the dumpling stand next door. What can I say they are delicious. We brought the food back to our room to enjoy while I was very excited to test out my new DVDs (to make sure they were in working order). It was at this time, that I realized/remembered that our netbook does not have a DVD drive. Fail! That is what you should expect with a $200 computer that is meant for saving space. So we will have to wait to watch our DVDs when we get to a hostel with a DVD player or we purchase a DVD usb drive.
After a short "clean ourselves up" session, we met the group downstairs in order to go to the Shanghai Acrobats. It was definitely interesting watching 10 foreigners trying to network the subway during rush hour. Boy was Robert worried we would have a casualty. But everyone made it to the show. And what a show it was.
Think Cirque du Soleil meets Atlantic City. The performances were absolutely top notch, but the production was very low budget. We saw it all from men jumping through hoops, to contortionists, to jugglers (which we crossed off another item from the scavenger list with the human pyramid jugglers). But there were 2 acts that really stood out. The first was the duo swinging from the curtains. I am not even Canadian and it left a tear in my eye. You can check out a small portion for yourself in the video section below, and let me tell you that you are not human if you dont think it is beautiful (we are in China, so I feel it is my obligation to not only video the performance, but post it online as well). The other great act was the "Ball of Death" in which 5 motorcyclists entered a steel ball and drove around without colliding. There were definitely a few heart wrenching moments.
The group went to dinner at a truly local place when the show ended. The restaurant was called 1 + 1 = 24. Not sure how they got the math, but I guess some argue that 86 is the new 1. Robert went ahead and ordered for the group and he did an excellent job.
There were close to 15 dishes in all. Everyone was stuffed at the end and the bill came to $6.50 USD a person. Although the tour as a whole costs more, Robert is definitely saving us money by ordering off the local menu at restaurants. Amy and I would have had a fraction of the food for 10 times the price on our own.
We took the metro home and called it an early night as tomorrow we have a wake up call at 7am (its like we are working or something). We head to a water town tomorrow to experience more local life, then at night board the overnight (15 hour) train to Xi'an. So we will definitely be without email for a few days, which will delay the blog. Sorry loyal readers.
Also want to give one last shout out to all of my classmates starting classes today. It is there final semester and want them to know I am thinking about them (suckers).