For my first 3 days in China click here!
China: Shanghai at last
Day 4: After a late night at the bars where the most memorable moment was beating Peter at foosball (win), I am so happy to sleep in. And sleep in I do. Until about 11am. Glorious! Today is Sunday and Peter’s roommate Brian has planned activities for us in afternoon. So at about 1pm (I happen to always fashionably late), Peter and I walk to the subway and head downtown. For my first Shanghai subway experience, nothing very interesting happens but it is still very exciting. I am beginning to grasp the sheer amount of people in this country. There are ALOT of people. We finally make it downtown and wait for Brian at a park nearby. While waiting we get BOBA TEA. And suddenly, I am in love. This stuff is better than a latte. I know I know, don’t punch me. But seriously, boba tea is delicious and everything I could ever want from a cold beverage.
Brian arrives and takes us into the park to quickly browse some potential husbands and brides. Yes, you heard me correctly. Every weekend Chinese parents gather in this one section of the park bearing a piece of paper describing their marriageable children in hopes of finding them a spouse. These “children” range from age 17 to 35 and, according to Brian and Peter, have varying characteristics. Some men and women work abroad and have no time to find a spouse, thus the parents get into action. It is a bizarre idea and even more bizarre scene just clogged with people walking among the aisles as the parents sit on the sides waiting for a bite. Almost like flea market sale… for invisible spouses. Unfortunately none of the personal ads caught our eye and we left empty handed, literally! Get it? No ring? Ok moving on.
Personal ads describing men and women looking for spouses as the parents sit above.
After we walking through the park, Brian leads us to a hotel. I begin to wonder… are we taking a nap? Are we drinking at the minibar? What is up? Finally, Brian leads us to the hotel spa where he reveals that we are getting foot massages! How did you know that is my most favorite thing in the world?? (besides boba tea of course). Happy as a clam, I plop into the plush chair next to Peter and Brian and begin to be pampered by a gruff Chinese girl with awesomely strong hands. Because Peter speaks Chinese, I am confronted with a problem that persists the rest of my trip. When Peter speaks Chinese to people at first they are shocked, then surprised, then ask him to repeat what he just said so they can readjust their mindset and actually listen to him. As soon as Peter begins to speak fluently, they usually turn to me and start talking enthusiastically at me as if I can speak Chinese too. I smile politely and hope that they don’t actually ask me a question. I am good at many things… but not Chinese. Sorry.
The foot massage is great and while watching TV we find a national diving championship taking place live in Shanghai! Yay diving! I don’t miss you but you are fun to watch and critique! If you didn’t know, I was quite the diver back in my day! After the foot massage Brian surprises us again with a back massage! We are taken to another room and I am in 7th heaven. Peter’s masseuse apparently flirts with him the entire time, saying how handsome he is… how good his Chinese is… and giggles like a schoolgirl. While giving him a back massage she actually GETS ON HER KNEES WHILE ON HIS BACK and massages him with her knees. Whoah, down girl! It was all in good fun though. I was too busy relaxing (sleeping) to care.
After our awesome massage we head over to Nanjing Road, the famous shopping street in Shanghai, and begin stroll. This street is INSANE. Everything is larger than life. The stores, the signs, the crowds, and the street itself are large and overwhelming. We enter a few stores and I am blown away by the sheer SIZE. The inside of the buildings are just massive!
The beginning of Nanjing Road. Complete with a McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Burger King!
Walking down Nanjing Road is like completing an obstacle course. In addition to dodging thousands of people, you must watch out for the speedy trams zipping down the road while you simultaneously take in the scenery. I become enamored with the signs which are HUGE and become brilliantly lit at night. They are my favorite part of this street.
Looking down at one of the many side streets. So many people.
After walking for about half an hour we stop at the famous Peace Hotel right off the Bund. The Peace Hotel was built in 1929 and is considered the most famous hotel in China. As we pass through the heavy doors, the noise of the street is immediately hushed as the grandeur of the building reveals itself. The architecture is stunning and a beautiful to behold. We walk to the cafe where afternoon tea is being served to make reservations for the Jazz band that plays on the weekend. I take pictures of the adorable little cakes and wish we were staying for tea.
When we are done oohing and aahing (and drooling), we are spit back into the dirty air of the street and are swept away with the crowds toward the Bund. I cannot even begin to describe the Bund. Even if I did, it would not do it justice. It is China’s most popular tourist destination and boasts a spectacular view of the financial district across the Huangpu River. The skyscrapers on the other side are so tall and modern that they look fake…. like they could actually be miniature or made of cardboard and plastic. It is a strange sensation yet spectacular. What also surprises me is the number of people walking along the Bund, taking pictures, and staring at me. I am overwhelmed. Actually I am hot and famished and begin to feel light-headed. We decide to grab some beverages and find a place to grab some much needed food.
On the Bund, overlooking the river.
We find a very Americanized cafe with great sandwiches and coffee. It is just what I need. Caffeine and bread?? Yes please. After munching and cooling off in the air conditioning I am revitalized and ready to roll. However, I have to take a quick pit stop before we walk indefinitely. This leads to a very unfortunate public restroom experience leaving me more exhausted and disheartened than before. The bathroom is extraordinarily smelly and hot with no toilet paper, toilets, or soap. In each stall there are porcelain holes in the ground that have the tendency to erupt in a geyser of doom upon flushing. What I will say to anybody, China would be great if they spent the money on the basic luxuries… like clean public restrooms that are properly equipped. Everybody would be so much happier. Although I will say that squatting is great for your legs. Haha! Shaken, but still alive, I quickly escape the restroom to the clean(er) outside air. Peter, Brian, and I head back to the subway as I snap photos along the way.
Walking back down Nanjing Road, we see a crowd gathered around people dancing to Chinese jazz-like music in the street. Upon closer inspection, we find that the couples dancing are at least over 60 years old and are fantastic swing dancers. I have no idea what is going on or why but enjoy watching the dancers bip and bop to the beat. I wish I was old and could swing dance. I would have totally joined in.
This old man was a WONDERFUL dancer. I’d be his partner. Seriously.
We then board the subway and Peter takes us to another shopping street that is much smaller and calmer. I am feeling kind of sick from little food and water and walking miles in the intense heat all day. We are all quiet and exhausted and gladly pile into a ColdStone for some ice cream. Peter and I share a cake batter ice cream and ask for kit kat bars inside. The Chinese server takes the kit kat bar, and places it on top of the ice cream. Apparently the entire ColdStone concept of mashing the ingredients together has escaped him for the time being. We are too tired to correct his mistake and eat the ice cream anyways, kit kat bar first. Still famished, I drag the boys to a Japanese restaurant across the street and consume the most delicious eel dish (with rice of course) and chug glasses of water while they look on. Feeling better I realize that properly fueling my body will take top priority the rest of my trip. Walking around like a zombie is not fun for anyone.
We grab the subway and go home. Along the way I see the signs and buildings all lit up for the night. It is truly beautiful.
For my first day exploring Shanghai, that was not so bad. Keep posted for Shanghai Part 2 and some jellyfish!