A Shanghai Quickie – Pics Edition

China has banned WordPress, making it extremely annoying for me to post because I have to use the mobile app! While the app is great in that it allows me to circumvent the firewall, it is also more limited in terms of features so I think I’ll have to wait til I get home to post more in depth.

It’s been an interesting trip so far with some ups and downs, but we’ve been having a good time! Here are some pics from our short stay in Shanghai – we were only there for one full day and then we took the high-speed train to Jinan the next day.

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A home cooked meal our first night in Shanghai.

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Our room at the Astor House Hotel, right across the bridge to the Bund

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Spring has sprung in Shanghai and there’s plenty of pretty flowers to prove it!

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A view of the water and buildings of Zhujiajiao, a water town close to Shanghai.

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A pavilion among spring flowers in Kezhi Yuan in Zhujiajiao

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Of course you have to get the xiao long bao while in Shanghai!

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A cloudy night view in Shanghai, all lit up.

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We’ve got a ticket to ride… To Jinan!

I have so many more pictures I would love to share but unfortunately it will have to wait til I am back in the States! Next up, Jinan in pictures!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Originally posted on my other blog because I didn’t know how to switch it on the WordPress app! This was actually from Friday but better late than never ūüôā

I am feeling so cool right now because I’m writing this post on one of the free iPads in the Delta terminal! This morning marks the start of our 2 week trip to China and I’m both excited (for the actual trip part of it) and dreading it (13.5 hour flight is so exhausting!). There’s also the imminent language barrier so it’s time to brush up on my very elementary Mandarin!

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Surprisingly enough neither me nor my husband are very tired considering we spent much of yesterday driving down to NYC from Syracuse – although I did take a nice long nap when we got home! We woke up at 4:30 and by 5:30 we were on the road, getting a ride to La Guardia Airport courtesy of my wonderful dad! It was a quick half hour drive and then we were in! We had checked in online the night before (I love this!) so all we needed to do was drop our bags off and we were good to go. Being used to the chaos of JFK, we had arrived super early but at LGA the security check line was insanely short – we were done in 10 minutes and then we were on to the food court! As expected expensive but actually pretty decent.

Delta Terminal D also has a pretty cool lounge area where they offer seating with mini iPads with free Internet usage – quite surprising in this day and age of charging fees for breathing the air and whatnot.
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Chilling with our free iPads before our flight! Also they keep you updated with your flight status at the bottom so you don’t miss your flight while playing with their electronic goodies.

So our trip will be mostly visiting family, starting with Shanghai to visit one of my husband’s cousins and his wife. It’s a little mind blowing to think that the last time we saw them, his wife was pregnant and since then they’ve had a little boy who is now 3 years old! Time seriously flies.

While in Shanghai we will be visiting Zhujiajiao, a water town just an hour away. I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed because the weather is great in Shanghai today (78 degrees and sunny!) but by the time we land it will be down to 50s with chance of precipitation. Similar weather in Jinan, the main city we will be staying in and my husband’s hometown. Why does bad weather follow us wherever we go?!

Still, it’s warmer than the 30’s weather we are used to so I suppose I can’t complain! In fact it’s practically swimsuit weather for us!

Tuesday Trip Back in Time – Shanghai, China 2010

the narrow aisle of the sleeper train, with bed compartments on the left and fold out chairs on the right

I awoke muzzily to a chorus of snores, a veritable symphony of sleep apnea as a trainful of sleeping Chinese variably shifted, snorted, and settled themselves into sleep. We were on a sleeper train from Jinan bound for Shanghai, the nine-hour ride bringing us into the city by 6 AM. It’s a useful but rather unglamorous affair, each car outfitted with a line of six-person sleeper compartments down one side and a very narrow aisle with fold out seats and tables on the other side. The compartments are also not completely enclosed, but have one side open to the aisle for easy access in and out – but also not providing much in terms of sound insulation. Earplugs are your friend!

Restrooms are located at the end of each car, along with hot water dispensers. Hot water dispensers are very common in public areas of China – everyone seems to bring with them a thermos or jar of tea that they add water to and sip all day long. I even ended up buying a special tea bottle with net inside to keep the leaves separate from the water. The beds themselves are pretty hard but that’s pretty common for Chinese beds in any case, and they did have pretty good head clearance so that was a plus. Honestly, I slept quite well on the train – the rocking motion is so soothing and reminds me of the NYC subway, another site of restful naps while clutching my bag.

We were coming to Shanghai not just to play tourist, but also because one of my husband’s cousins lives there with his wife and it would be an opportunity to visit them. I had actually visited Shanghai the year before and seen the famous Bund, so this time we decided we would forgo that area and focus on the old city area of Shanghai as well as the downtown shopping¬†area. After this trip, we would head to Guangzhou to visit his high school friend and then it would be back to Jinan for the remainder of the trip.

Our train arrived promptly at 6 AM, as the sun was just rising in the city. Our taxi took us to our hostel first, driving through a city that was waking up. The sun made for some dramatic silhouette shots with the distinct shape of high rise buildings in the foreground. Our hostel was once again, sparse but definitely livable, and they even included a hot water kettle and cups for us. The best feature of the hostel though was its location – it was right across the street from a MTR station and also close by to many food shops.

building silhouettes against the sun

view from our room window – the subway station! and people doing early morning tai chi.

Our first order of business was food, glorious food! After we dropped off our backpacks at the hostel, we quickly got acquainted with the restaurants in the area. In general, we follow the rule that if a restaurant is crowded, that means good things are happening there! Here, we found  a restaurant where people were massed up front, shouting out orders for noodle soups and fried buns. The smells were tantalizing and the place definitely passed the popularity test, so we decided to give it a try also Рand we were not disappointed!

a steaming bowl of noodle soup is the perfect way to chase the chills away!

little pan fried buns – shengjian mantou

inside the buns, a tender nugget of pork and soup

The noodle soup was flavorful, with chunks of pork and vegetables to add substance, and of course the tender noodles. My favorite part though was the pan-fried shengjian mantou, buns filled with pork and soup that are fried on shallow round pans. The tops of the buns are steamed and are tender, while the bottom is fried resulting in a nice crispy crunch. And of course the inside, tender pork and fragrant soup… yum! Makes me drool just remembering it.

Of course the most famous food of Shanghai is probably the xiaolong bao – dumplings that also have pork and soup inside but are completely steamed and are shaped different as well, like little¬†volcanoes¬†I’ve always thought with the twist on the top. Maybe it’s ¬†because we often eat it when we are back in NYC so we didn’t actively seek out the xiaolong bao here, but I’m sure they would have been delicious as well!

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it literally says… ShangHai Old Street (read from the left). Even I can read that!

Now that our hunger had been satisfied, we made our way to Shanghai Old Street, an area that is now a tourist attraction due to the virtue of having the first bank, jewelry store, gold shop and tea house in the city in that area. Now it has been built up into many small stores in classic Chinese architecture, with pagoda roofs and lanterns hanging from the eaves. The stores can range from amazingly intricate paper-cutting to touristy chops to bubble tea shops – it’s really a very diverse range of goods in one area! And I do believe they had a McDonald’s there as well, haha. Also famous in the area is a teahouse in the middle of a manmade lake, at the end of a zigzag bridge. The bridge is always crammed with tourists taking pictures – of course we were did it too! The zigzag bridge was made because it was thought that bad spirits wouldn’t be able to navigate the sharp turns – after all, it would be much more difficult than just going straight through! Makes an interesting kind of sense.

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The lavish exterior of the shopping area – note the many stores on the lower level! Although it’s pretty touristy… I love the architecture.

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Deeper within the shopping area, with plenty of shops to tempt people into emptying their wallets.

cool paper cutting stall - look at the intricacy and detail!

cool paper cutting stall – look at the intricacy and detail!

chinese calligraphy brushes for sale

chinese calligraphy brushes for sale

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pretty lacquered boxes

the teahouse at the end of the zigzag bridge - can you say photo op?

the teahouse at the end of the zigzag bridge – can you say photo op?

However, the ¬†main reason I was attracted to this area was the YuYuan Garden, which is right next to this area. There is an entrance fee, but I consider it well-worth it because you step into a beautiful garden with meandering paths, multiple pavilions and lovely water features. There are many different areas of the garden, with a small bamboo forest, a rock garden, etc. It’s easy to get lost (literally) but in an enjoyable way as you admire the scenery.

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After the garden, we headed over to visit my husband’s cousin and his wife at their apartment, which was very modern and had a good view of the surrounding neighborhood. We had a delicious home-cooked meal and sat down to chat in their living room, which was connected to the small dining area and kitchen. It was not a very large apartment, with two ¬†bedrooms and one bathroom, but the layout made the most of the limited space and it was very comfortable! I don’t even want to ask how much they had to pay for it, though. Housing prices in Shanghai are notoriously high and have gotten even higher in recent years.

We didn’t get to stay long in Shanghai this time around, but we definitely enjoyed the time that we did have! Shanghai is a huge city with lots of do and see, so I’m sure we will be back t visit… especially now that his cousin and wife have a new baby boy!