We left Japan on a beautiful morning-we could see Fuji from our hotel.
After a 3 hour flight we started to descend through a thick yellow fog into Shanghai.
From that vantage point, it was not too pretty, and we were ready to break out our pollution protection masks.
On the ground? Shanghai is glamorous as all get out. We stayed in the French Concession, which still maintains the air of the mishmash culture that was the old city, but is steps away from the outrageous luxury shops the Chinese seem to crave.
Exploring the neighborhood, and getting pretty hungry, Tyler spotted a Sichuan restaurant. Sounded good, so we went in, and got our first taste of Chinese “customer service”. The waiter threw a menu and chopsticks at us, and we were on our own. We each picked a dish, and crossed our fingers. Tyler got Sichuan style rabbit, Ahna had shredded pork with a smoky caramelized sauce, and I had a crazy beef soup with cucumber. They were all delicious! We had tons of food left over for snacking over the next couple of days, and the total bill was $23. We are liking Shanghai.
Fueled up, we keep walking through the streets. We pass several parks, and in each one, people are dancing. One park is line dancing, another, salsa.
It’s typical Shanghai, and it’s charming. We watched for a while, and then stopped at the neighborhood wine bar for a night cap.
The next morning Tyler and Ahna got up early for a flight to Xian to seeg the terra-cotta warriors, and I stuck around Shanghai. I got my teeth cleaned (really!) for $35, and wandered more of the city.
After much searching, I finally found Dongtai Lu street, the “antiques” market, where I had the chance to hone my bargaining skills. So, they’re pretty dull, and I spent too much on everything I bought, but it was fun! Almost every stall sells the same junk, but it’s great to browse, and sometimes there’s something a little different, so it’s akin to a treasure hunt.
Ahna and I made sure we went to the Shanghai fakes market, which is exactly what it sounds like it is. Four glorious floors of knock-offs. We did a little power shopping (shoes and sunglasses), and met Tyler for soup dumplings. They were perfect- tender dough filled with pieces of pork and shrimp and piping hot broth. A Shanghai specialty, and such a real treat.
Tyler had had enough of winter, so he headed back to Hawaii and work.
Thanks for being such great company, Tyler!
Ahna and I flew to Beijing to ring in the Chinese New Year with Chad. Although we’d never met, we’re practically family, since his brother is married to my darling friend, Jane.
We took a car service to his apartment, and after only a little confusion, found him. He lives in a swanky 2 bedroom apartment on the 2nd floor of a modern building. We were living in style!
Chad had to work the day after we arrived, so Ahna and I took a trip to the Jinshhanling section of the Great Wall.
One of the benefits of traveling to a place like the wall in winter (and during Chinese New Year) is that there are no crowds. None. We saw only a couple of other people. Amazing. We hiked for a couple of hours along the wall. The scope of it is hard to describe. It snakes along the mountaintops as far as we could see. The section we visited had been restored and was very accessible. The photos speak for themselves. Remarkable.
On our way back we stopped at the Bird’s Nest, where people were scooting around on the pond out front on fantastic little ice chairs.
The next day we went out to explore the hutongs and Tiananmen Square with Chad. This is where all the crowds were! Because it was New Year’s, everyone was visiting family, and it was great to see entire families enjoying each other’s company, taking photos and eating candied hawthorne and roasted sweet potatoes bought from street vendors. A family stopped Ahna and asked her to hold their baby for a photo- she looked like good luck, dressed in gold and red! It was lovely.
We wandered the old neighborhoods, and as it got darker, out came the fireworks. Long strings of firecrackers, M80s, all set off on the street. People were out in their pajamas lighting large shells. It smelled like the 4th of July! There are stands all over the city, and you can light off fireworks on the street, or on your corner, or wherever.
We stopped at a bar for a bite to eat, and ended up staying for hours, chatting to fellow customers and eating good luck dumplings when midnight struck.
Walking home we shuffled through drifts of red paper left by the fireworks. The noise continued all night and through the next day! At times the sound echoed so much it sounded like we were being shelled. It was wild.
On our way to eat Peking duck the next day, Ahna stopped at a stand and bought what seemed like a ton of fireworks. The duck was great- the fireworks were better.
And thanks, Chad, for being such a great host!