Monday, September 24, 2012

Settling into Shanghai

Our 13 hour flight from SFO seemed to pass by fairly quickly, we had a row of three all to ourselves which gave us a little extra space and somewhere in the middle of the flight we passed out so that when we landed in Shanghai (5PM local time) we’d be able to stay up until 10PM. Our journey from the airport could have been more efficient but Todd was adamant about taking the magnetic levitation train from Shanghai airport, even if it ended up being the equivalent of 4 stops on the metro.

We spent the first evening wandering around the French Concession area of Shanghai, which was the neighborhood of interest closest to our hotel. Being our first stop in China, it didn’t seem that different...wide leafy streets, nice shops and bars, etc. Perhaps we didn’t find the main neighborhood center, but it left us underwhelmed; we were expecting something more unique.

Thanks to our jet lag we awoke early the next day, around 6AM, and decided since we were up so early that we’d take a daytrip to the town of Hangzhou, an hour+ south of Shanghai. Hangzhou is known for its huge West Lake park area. Although our train was delayed about an hour and the weather was pretty crappy, it still made for a decent day to walk and boat around the lake visiting different sites and taking what views we could (a few too many clouds).

Being a weekend the park was packed with Chinese visitors, and here we had our first of many photo op with Chinese folks who seemed excited just to see a waigouren (foreigner) While many of them would simply approach and ask if it was OK to take a photo with us, others would surreptitiously try to include us in the range of their cameras or slyly hold their phone in front of them like they were reading something but strangely the lens on the camera phone would follow us around...

Back in Shanghai, we took a walk along Nanking Road, a pedestrian shopping street which was more than alive with people, vendors, and other interesting people-watching opportunities. We continued with a stroll along the Bund, the promenade on the bank of the Pudong River that snakes through Shanghai. The Bund is a nice wide walkway where on one side of the river you can see the buildings from Shanghai’s business district in the 1930s, built in very European architecture, while on the other side you see the neon-lighted, high rise strewn skyline of the Pudong neighborhood - just 20 years ago the area was a swampy its the international business district of Shanghai.

The next morning was bright and sunny so we ventured to the Lupu Bridge which, after about 400 steps, provides a viewpoint over all of the southern part of Shanghai. In the photo below, you can see the three tallest buildings in Shanghai in the far this was our 'day of heights' we headed that way next.

Afterwards we visited the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, which is styled in the more traditional Chinese architecture, and jam-packed with tourists wandering around.

After a walk through People’s Square and a pit stop back at the hotel, we charged out for another high-rise view, this time from the 90th floor of the Jin Mao tower, which had been the tallest building in Shanghai until the World Financial Center took it over at 109 floors, which also is set to be eclipsed by another tower currently under construction. We each had an overpriced drink as we watched the city’s buildings light up as the sunlight slowly faded into dark. If we had to do it over again, we probably would have just hung out in the Hyatt lobby on the 87th floor, or tried the World Financial Center.

We had wanted to take a cruise on the Pudong River but had a hard time finding the docks where the cruises left from, and our feet were getting pretty tired. Then in a surprise we came across what looked like a ferry dock, so we paid 2RMB and 10 minutes later we boarded a public ferry across the river to the Bund, allowing us to take in the Shanghai city skyline view from the water!

We sought out dinner on Huanghe Street, which is apparently famous as a food street, and we were moderately successful - some really good dumplings, some less than great fried chicken, and a couple beers for 12 RMB ($2). After that we took our tired feet back to the hotel to pack and get ready to depart Shanghai the next day.

No comments: