China: Neon and Night Lights

Day 5 Continued… Last post I had just visited an amazing shopping area with romantic alleyways and funny gifts. I also just fueled up with some incredible flat bread from a street vendor. Delicious.

After leaving the shopping area with new goodies on our heads, in our bags, and in our bellies, we walk down Nanjing Road all the way to the Bund. From there, we board a ferry that takes us across the river with other tourists. They stare freely at us while we gaze out at the skyline. I never said people watching wasn’t fun!We step off the ferry into the bright light and are immediately taken aback by the sheer size of this district. Compared to the crowded shopping alleys, the financial district is open with wide streets and enormous buildings glinting in the sunlight. I feel so small in comparison. We start walking towards the Radio Tower and pass by construction of what will be the tallest skyscraper in Shanghai at 128 stories and 632 meters high. In the photo below you can see the relatively thin building emerging from the scaffolding. Peter and I saw Chinese construction workers walking along these thin steel beams without any tether or even a helmut. I guess if you’re falling from that high a helmut is worthless and you can be easily replaced. The World Financial Center building is on the right at 101 stories and is the third tallest building in the world. CRAZY. 

We finally make it to the Radio Tower, which looks like a big bulbous needle, and purchase tickets to the Aquarium nearby. The last aquarium I visited was the minuscule St. Pete Pier Aquarium. I think they had 20 fish.

Well the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is absolutely wonderful. There are various exhibits of different fish and sea creatures that extend across the entire floor. Then you come upon a tank full of black swans and alligators submerged in the water. At first I think this might be some sick display for feeding hungry gators. Thankfully this NOT the case, the gators are fake! I make sure to snap pictures of the black swan for my sister Morgan, the ballerina.

After the swan pond (tank? whatever…) we then take an escalator down down down to an underground floor. Down here we come upon my favorite exhibit of all.

JELLYFISH IN NEON.

There are multiple tanks of jellyfish illuminated by backlights, creating an incredible sight. Hundreds of jellyfish blob along with indifference while fantastically glowing. I go camera crazy, along with the other tourists. The room is so serene and peaceful (minus the tourists shoving people out of the way). I feel like a jellyfish, slowly bobbing along as if in a dream.

If you are in Shanghai, go to the aquarium to experience the jellyfish room. BE THE JELLYFISH. Hahaha. But really.

After spending time in the best room in the aquarium, we awkwardly board a moving track that ushers us assembly line style towards the unknown. Alas, it is a big tunnel underwater! Totally cool. Totally scary when a shark swims right over us. SHUDDERS.

After an incredible time at the aquarium, we are dumped back into the vast cityscape that is the financial district. Hungry again (surprised??), we grab food from some more street vendors. This time we get thicker slices of dough fried in oil on large hot plates and smothered in a spicy sauce. They are warm, delicious, and hit the spot.

The sun begins to set as we board the ferry once again and head to the Bund. Peter made plans to take me to this great restaurant that he went to with his parents when they visited. Lost Heaven is right off the Bund and serves tribal cuisine from China’s Yunnan province. We walk into the most beautiful, lavishly decorated place I have ever seen. I feel severely underdressed but am too distracted by the dim grandeur of the rich wood furniture, ornate lamps and tapestries, and the rich color photographs hanging on the walls. I am lost… in heaven.

After we are seated we go to the bathroom to wash our hands of the grime of the day. Peter says, “I’ll see you on the other side.” Ok… I do my business and walk over to the sink. I turn the tap and look up and see Peter staring back at me. I jump out of my skin, almost have a heart attack from worry that China has turned me into a man (an attractive one at that), and exclaim several things that will not be recounted here. Peter reaches his hand towards me and through a hole in the wall between the sinks of the boys and girls restrooms. Oh these people are clever, try to freak people out by removing the mirror. Mission accomplished!

With my blood flowing I am ready to eat. And eat we do. The food is just as delicious as our surroundings and we dig into several courses and appetizers. Maybe we do or maybe we don’t drink a bottle of wine. The dinner was fantastic and Lost Heaven is definitely one of my favorite restaurants of all time.

After our meal, we walk back to the Bund to check it out at night.

The Bund is even more impressive at night. Like most tall buildings in the Shanghai, the financial district buildings and boats are lit up brilliantly. We find ourselves next to a big group of Chinese people chatting excitedly and Peter ends up talking to them (of course). They are from another area in China and speak with a different dialect. The young boy ends up wearing my hat and they grab Peter for a photo. They then push me into the photo and a mother holding her daughter tries to get the girl to put her arm around my shoulders. The girl looks at me with a look of absolute terror and hides her face in her mother’s hair. Needless to say, she did she not put her arm around me for the picture. I don’t bite! Normally…

While this kind of thing happened a few times, we did not get as many requests for pictures like I expected. On Nanjing Road, a girl passing us with her family pointed us out, grabbed us for a quick picture, then left. And on Gulangyu Island a man stood with us for a quick photo while we got some juice. At least they are quick about it! What did happen often was people pretending to take a picture of somebody in front of us while actually taking a picture of Peter and me. It was always kind of hilarious. We may be American but we are not stupid.

The Bund also has some lovely buildings of European influence running along the main street. I believe many of these buildings are foreign embassies. Are we in the French Riviera?? Nope, China.

After a very long day and night, we drag ourselves home fairly late and pass out from exhaustion. I think I slept about 10 hours. It was much needed for we have a long day of traveling ahead of us!

Day 6- Today we have a flight to Xiamen which is south of Shanghai and across the water from Taiwan. But before we get on the plane, we return to the People’s Park where Brian took us to on my first day in Shanghai. We eat lunch at Barbarossa Restaurant which overlooks a pond and is unfortunately a bit hot inside. But we make do with the warm air and I cool off with an iced coffee. We then eat some pretty good food. But the star of the show is a pasta dish smothered in a creamy sauce with bacon and I can’t remember what else because that bacon haunts my taste buds. Go to the Barbarossa just for that pasta dish.

We also watch as a guy cleans the pond using a stalk of bamboo to pick up the algae like a big chopstick. This guy is pulling up heavy, soggy green slime easily with the strong bamboo and tosses it to the side of the pond. I wonder what they do with that green sludge. They probably serve it in this restaurant. Seaweed salad anyone?

With some more time to kill, we grab boba tea and take a quick peek inside the Shanghai Art Museum. The galleries are located inside the former clubhouse of a horse racing course. On the second floor we find a wonderful exhibit of the 2011 Martell Artists of the Year, art, fashion, and fashion photographers Inez Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. There of photographs of many famous actors and models like Kate Moss, Tom Cruise, and Clint Eastwood. You can see Tom and Clint in the photo below. I love this photo because the contrast in the Clint Eastwood photo is replicated oppositely in Peter’s black hat against a white background. Also, Tom Cruise (photo far left) is Peter’s doppelganger. Perfection.

Below is an old paper puppet intricately cut and designed to fit together perfectly.

Suddenly in a rush to get to the airport, we flee the museum and hop in a taxi to the Hongquiao airport. Brian told us to get there really early in case of longs lines so we arrive at least two hours before departure. The airport is completely empty and we end up waiting at the terminal with hours to spare. So we buy packaged goodies, including oreos, and watch the diving championship on TV to pass the time.

After a delayed but OK flight we arrive in Xiamen. While waiting for our bags, I go to the restroom and return to find Peter talking to some random guy. I am introduced to Kevin who is visiting his home in Xiamen before he goes back to school in Beijing. Kevin offers to show us around Xiamen one day we are here or meet us for dinner. We happily oblige and get his number. I have come to learn that Peter is not afraid of strangers and makes friends everywhere. Even in Chinese airports.

We wait in line for a taxi behind this white guy with his Chinese girlfriend. We all exchange knowing looks of… yes we are the only white people around and God Bless America. Little do we realize that we will be seeing him very soon. We get in a taxi which ends up being the MOST TERRIFYING RIDE OF MY LIFE. Seriously, my life flashes before my eyes and I am sure we will be skewered kabobs on the side of the road. At one point he stops in the middle of the highway after taking the wrong exit, REVERSES ON THE HIGHWAY, and starts driving again. Hopefully that gives you an idea at the insanity of this cab ride. In a panic, I try to find the seatbelt and realize it is completely inaccessible behind a seat cover. DAMN DAMN DAMN. I close my eyes, grip the seat, and pray that this guy gets us to our destination intact. Please be a crazy but insanely great driver. Please. Of course we arrive, unscathed but I am scarred for life. My heart is in my throat and my hands are shaking. But we are at our hotel, which looks…. new? As in there are no furnishings and the front desk is bare except for a computer and phone. Whatever. We get in our humid, windowless room, and pass out. Exhausted again.

Stay tuned for Xiamen!


6 thoughts on “China: Neon and Night Lights

  1. I can’t believe how similar our photographs of the Financial District (taken from the Bund) are. I’ll have to post mine, they are on FB now.
    I didn’t make it to the Aquarium yet, but it looks fun, putting that on my list for the next trip.
    One of the apartments we looked at was actually right next to the building that is going up (in your second picture) that will be taller than the “Bottle Opener” building, it was our second choice – the kitchen had nothing on the one in the apartment we got.
    It’s really nice to find someone who has been to Shanghai and experienced some of the same things.

    1. Definitely post your pictures! I would love to see them. Some other suggestions I have: please get dinner at Lost Heaven, this incredible restaurant right off the Bund, and go watch the jazz performances at the Peace Hotel. Also, if you go to the Liuli China Museum, make sure to go across the street and find the labyrinth of incredible alleyways full of shopping. You can find my pictures in the previous post.

      But nice apartment! What a great location, you are very lucky. My boyfriend lives far away from the Financial District in a crummy apartment complex haha. Shanghai sure is overwhelming but will definitely be an adventure!

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