Monday, March 28, 2016

China/Korea 2009: day 2 (Shanghai)

Shanghai day 2: Tuesday 9/29/09
Map of my Shanghai stops, this day in red; here are the photos from today. Yellow highlights in the text correspond to flags on the map.

Got up early (for me) at 8am, wanted to get to the Shanghai Museum as early as possible to avoid any crowds and to be finished in time for lunch. Took a cab there, much quicker and easier on the feet than walking like I did yesterday. Free admission to the museum (but a 40 RMB charge for the audio guided tour), where they have several permanent and a few rotating exhibits. The permanent ones are Chinese sculpture, bronzes, porcelain, calligraphy, watercolors, name stamps, coins, and jade, with the visiting exhibits including Colombian gold. Briefly talked with a guy and a couple of girls outside the museum while I was taking pictures of the surrounding skyline, they invited me to have tea with them (a classic scam), but I hope they weren't real people disappointed that I turned them down instead of scammers. Finished at the museum a little after 1, and bought a Museum t-shirt at the gift shop, then waited for a taxi. And waited. Finally got fed up, started walking back towards People's Park and still never caught an empty one. 

I checked my email since I was all the way over at the Radisson which has free wifi, then finally found a cab. The cabbie couldn't figure out why I didn't want to just walk the 1.5 km to Xintiandi in the French Concession area. That's a much higher class shopping area in a much higher class area, with older houses and tree-lined streets, though with the shopping for blocks on either side of the street, it felt more like a typical outdoor shopping mall in the US (except these guys close at 7 pm). First order of business was lunch, though it was around 2:30 or so. I went to the Crystal Jade Restaurant for some dim sum (2nd floor, SW corner of Zuhong and Madang), and had shrimp dumplings, duck with noodles, BBQ pork buns, and a pot of jasmine tea. Outstanding. The whole thing cost about $12 (78 RMB). After lunch took Xingye over to Fuxing Park, a century-old park with everything from couples taking dancing lessons, old people doing tai-chi, statues of Marx & Engels, guys playing Go and other board games, a big group of people playing cards, statues, flowers, kids playing, and people walking backwards. Left the park going north on Sinan to the main road Huaihai and went west a couple blocks to Maoming checking out the stores before turning around and taking Huaihai back towards Xintiandi, killing time by walking around until I got hungry for dinner. Huaihai was all decorated in lights at night, presumably for National Day, although who knows if they'll stay up through next year's Expo, but with the drizzle that had started coming down making the roads slick, the wet roads helped light the area. Fortunately the Chinese have embraced coffee bars with free wifi like we have, though theirs is still filtered by the Great Firewall of China and I can't get stuff like Facebook, Twitter, or even some news articles that the government here doesn't want us to read. Caught up on email while resting my feet, then headed in to the Xintiandi area to see what's for dinner. 

Walked around the mall and decided to go with Din Tai Fung which has outlets all over the far east (Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta, Kuala Lampur, plus places like Sydney and LA, but new to this location). Pork and crab dumplings (they had to give me a card on how to properly eat them), drunken chicken (marinated, with skin and bones, in rice wine), hot and sour soup, and some red bean paste buns for dessert which were actually pretty good. Stopped on the bridge to take pictures of the Oriental Pearl working girls in the hotel bar. Things I miss: being able to drink water from the tap, ice in the drinks, and soft beds.

It's starting to strike me that I'm really a foreigner here. Every other place I've gone, I'm a tourist, but here I'm a foreigner. Western culture is new here, and though they're embracing Starbucks, KFC, and Gucci, their whole system is just different, non-European. Everywhere else I can at least read the words, and in many cases figure out what's going on if they speak slowly enough. But not only do they not share an alphabet, they use pictograms and combinations of them to mean other things. If I were to read "man mountain snow happy" how am I supposed to know that means "ice cream"? (That's totally made up, by the way.) But I digress.

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