Shanghai. What can I even say? It’s an overwhelming city chock full of contrasts- skyscrapers and hovels, Versace and molding antiques, malls open 24 hours a day and noodle stands that are still owned by the government. It was an experience, to say the least.
My flight was delayed, so I didn’t get into the city until around 11:30. I was exhausted, so my friend/Shanghai local/hipster tour guide extraordinaire, Jun, and I decided to get a beer and some hot pot and save the excitement for the next day. We had initially planned on watching the fireworks at the Bund, but it was a good thing I got in so late- 36 people DIED at the Bund during a human stampede. Ya, you read that right. I may be boring, but at least I’m not dead. Fine with me.
January 1st was international hangover day for the rest of the world, but for Jun and I, it was the Great March Through Shanghai. We ended up walking 20 miles! Got a work out and some site seeing done, I’m a natural multi-tasker. The next day we didn’t walk quite as far, but we still probably topped 10 miles. Relaxing is (apparently) for the weak.
Presented in no particular order:
We saw Old Shanghai, but it was so crowded with fellow tourists, we didn’t feel like staying for very long. It was a shame, because Old Shanghai is gorgeous.
We powered through the old square and the beautiful Yu’Yuan Gardens. The picture below is of a lovely tea room and the million tourists surrounding it.
I learned a valuable Chinese expression: People mountain, people sea. There are so many people in this city, they are comparable to a mountain or the sea. MY GOD.
This corner shown above actually has a sad distinction as of New Year’s Eve- this is where the human stampede took place. A day after I took this picture, the area was cordoned off by the police.
Shanghai is known as the artistic Chinese city, and their art galleries did not disappoint. We were allowed to walk through and check out pieces in progress. It was a very welcoming, collaborative atmosphere. And I just really liked the painting below.
And I saw live music! Jun used to play with a band called 21 grams, so we went to their show on Friday night. I haven’t much live music since getting to Korea, so it was a real treat for me.
They opened for a band from southern China called Monster Kar. The vocals were in English and Cantonese, and the group had some good songs. It was a very interesting, very fun experience. I’ve never been to a show like that before, and I probably won’t again.
There was also the crazy antiques shopping street. Tiny “shit shops”, selling everything from Maoist propaganda to pin-up posters to antique baby dolls, lined a run down area of Shanghai. Most of the stores looked like the inside of a hoarder’s house. Or the inside of a psychopath’s mind. Take your pick.
The communist themed antiques (propaganda posters, Mao quote books, etc), were heavily promoted in broken English by the eager shopkeepers. The market heavily caters to Western tourists, who apparently buy Mao era memorabilia- Jun said that no Chinese person would waste their money on that crap. Good to know! Some of it was pretty interesting though-
But now to the best part of the trip- the food. (A side note: when Jun asked me about my favorite part of the trip, she immediately added that I can’t say the food. She knows me a little too well.)
We had spicy noodles in an old-school noodle house in an alleyway. The lady working at the door was incredibly rude, and most of the wait staff was yelling at each other for our entire meal. It was chaotic, and as Jun mentioned, pretty typical for a state-run restaurant.
We delicious ate wonton soup for breakfast in a street vendor’s booth, and I came close to kidnapping the adorable baby who wanted to sit with and eat breakfast with us.
I also had the most delicious dim sum I’ve ever had, but unfortunately I did not get any pictures. I ate it all too quickly. I’m sorry, but it was delicious so I’m really not that sorry. We actually didn’t eat that much
It was good to travel again, to experience a new place while seeing an old friend. I have always dreamed of visiting China, and it is incredible that with the extension of a plane’s wheels on foreign ground a dream can become a reality.
While in the smoke-filled Shanghai airport, I found myself thinking- “god, I can’t wait to get home.” And I meant to Yeongtong.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Happy 2015 everyone.