Shanghai Surprise

30 Sep

It’s 5:30 am. In Shanghai. The place is quite – for 17.5 million people. We leave in a few hours for Hangzhou and then to Yangshuo. Does anyone know where that is? Need a map.

Shanghai is much different than Beijing. Has an energy. Vibe. And, millions of Chinese swarming the streets, coming up to my armpits. I don’t recall the Chinese in Beijing being this small. Maybe the government gives them more milk or something.

The fab thing about being a giant in the land of little people is I can see thieves or hawker’s coming for blocks. I’m a full head above 95% of the crowds. It’s a strange sensation. I stand up taller. I assume the role of power-lady when I walk. I feel forceful. Part of it is that I want to project fierceness so they won’t bother me. But, the hawkers still do… “Bag, Watch, Drink, Lady?” I lift up my arm. They smell my pit. LOL.

Our hotel is about a one or two star – US standards – and three star Chinese standards. Let’s see… We’re talking hard beds – later to find out made of plywood – fluffy pillows, refrigerator, hot water pot, one working light, two towels, mini-balcony and a shower needing 15 mins to spew luke warm water. Its a stone’s throw from Nanjing Road, the frantic commercial strip glowing in neon colors at night and is elbow to elbow 24/7. Leisure stroll is out of the question. Took some pictures below.

The hotel breakfast is $5 all you can eat – we’re talking about dumplings, rice soup, chicken feet and puffy balls filled with beans or random meats. Fruit table teases us with watermelon. Chinese love their orange juice. The hotel is across the street from dumpling-ville heaven, offering a range of steamed or fried dumplings. And, then there is a micro-mini food mart selling all things Chinese and coca-cola. Guess what? So excited. They have PEANUT butter. Bought it on arrival. Expiration date wiped clean. No matter. As long as it works.

The new Gap Adventure tour group is much different than the “I can’t afford anything” Young Bucks backpacking crowd of Russia, Siberia and Mongolia. With this traveling posse, Canada is in the house. Most of this group are married or with significant others – and range in age from 30 to 80+. This China trip is not as intensive in terms of carrying bags and walking miles and miles and miles to metros in below freezing temperatures. This is the “standard” Gap Adventure package where they arrange transport or give you sight-seeing options.

Let’s see. For the travel posse China tour, two women are from Switzerland. One couple is

Travel Posse

from London. One couple from Australia who admitted they would LOVE to live in Orange County, California. Me. And, the remaining ten or so are natives from our NAFTA partner to the north, Canada.

The BEST part is no single, white female roommate. I’ve been sharing air and toilet paper with randoms for the last eight weeks or so – if not longer. I finally have space to spew my shit across the bed and on the floor. Funny how in one of the most crowded, overpopulated countries in the world, God sees to it I get my own space. Nice touch. Didn’t go unnoticed Big Man.

This city is exploding with little people and the smells that go along with it. I expected seedy. Expected dirty. Expected more pollution. With 1.5 billion people and 18 million calling Shanghai home, you reckon there’s high demand and job security for garbage collectors, street cleaners and window washers…

I even laid my eyes on recyclable garbage cans. Impressive. Since Chinese people comply with rules, they actually use the bins correctly. I watch them as they watch others, ensuring compliance with the recycle rules. Yea, with BA-zillions of people, someone is always watching. Especially, if you are blond and 6 feet tall.

Food alert. New food of choice are Chinese dumplings. OMG! Eating them nonstop. I’ve been to the little shop across the street three times in two days. I’m vying for another stop this AM as my bus snack.

So, what have I been doing. Observing the people. The city. Going out. Meeting people. Did do the Shanghai museum. Not normally into museums because I would rather be outside hiking or watching people. Not the case here. Shanghai museum is home to one of the most impressive collections in China – ceramics gallery, calligraphy gallery, coins/ethnic costume gallery, Buddhist gallery…and more.

I was drawn to the ceramics or porcelain and ethnic clothes exhibit for they looked like Latin American garb. As I was looking at the porcelin, thoughts of grandeur came to my mind – me at the Ritz sipping tea…Me putting flowers in the vases. Me feeling clean and light flowy clothes…Me not in a two star hotel sleeping on a bed made out of plywood.. I took a bazillion pictures.

Had to laugh when I stumbled upon the Catherine the Great exhibit straight from the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. OK. Note to Russia. Let’s get moving. This exhibit was 100% better – providing more detail in ENGLISH – than anything I saw at the actual Hermitage. Stop sighing Russia and let’s get the party started. It’s not hard. I can help you with marketing and communication. GEEE… Frustrated. On another note, Catherine the Great has droopy eyes like me, so I felt a kinship with her. Great woman have droopy eyes… YEA. Like that. Maybe we’re related and just don’t know it. She’s not Russian. She comes from German ancestry….hmm..

We sauntered over to Shanghai’s Old Town and the Yuyan Gardens. It was a sight. The Chinese love to tour and go too. So, the place is overrun by western tourons and Chinese tourons too. There were hour lines to to get dumplings. Oh, the World Expo is in Shanghai, wrapping up in October. So, even more people have descended on this fair city of 18 million.

We ate at some fab place. Tried my hand at pork dumplings where you suck out the pork juice with a straw. Interesting. Good.

The Gardens missed the grass memo, but did well with the bamboo, jasmine and stony paths. I read a rich Ming-dynasty official founded the gardens and it took about 20 years to grow and nurture the place. The gardens were trashed in the Opium Wars. Probably by the French… This was not a garden spewing calmness and peace, for the Chinese are on holiday and was packed, packed, packed with folks taking pictures…

That night in Shanghai, we went to the Bund. It’s “the place” to see at night. The word means “Muddy Waterfront.” Used to be super-nasty. In the 80s when China started opening up – gradually – the place went gang busters. Grand buildings loom from recent to neoclassical 1930s, where they were once embassies of those countries running Shanghai like US, Britain, France, Japan… The second tallest building in the world is here. (wooooooooohoooo).

Pictures tell you more about Shanghai and its capitalist power than my words ever could. Oh, I read some place that Shanghai economy supports about 90% of this country… Pictures reinforce this one… It’s the wild wild West. The place were money flowed and Communism was born…

One Response to “Shanghai Surprise”

  1. Stephanie 01/10/2010 at 6:53 pm #

    Amanda your pics are absolutely amazing. What a fabulous experience you are having! Wish I was with you! The lights and architecture are so beautiful. Keep blogging Goddess friend. You are my escape from reality:)