OH MY Shanghai!

Happy New Years Canadians!

I spent a wonderful 4 days in Shanghai, “Paris in China” or so it’s been called, over the holidays! The trip wasn’t as eventful or exciting as my experience in Beijing, but visiting the South definitely helped to cross another city off my bucket list for the country! It’s interesting because a lot of people from Hohhot, or the North of China in general, have negative things to say about people from the South (and vise-versa), very much like people from the rest of Canada think negatively of Quebec (haha). They said that they are weirder, snobbier, ruder and less-respectful of Chinese customs then those in the North. Personally, I failed to see these characteristics in Southerners, but to be fair I didn’t talk to many of them. The only real differences I noticed were between Beijing and Shanghai, and big Chinese cities vs small Chinese cities. If Beijing was the height of excitement and action, then I would say it’s the Toronto of China, therefore making Shanghai the Ottawa of China. While Beijing was very hectic and electric, Shanghai was very historically and architecturally beautiful, very clean, and though the city is the biggest in population for China, it didn’t give me the busy, metropolis feel that Beijing radiated. The majority of our time in Beijing consisted of seeing historical sights and touring, but in Shanghai it was all about relaxing, shopping, and taking it easy. Shanghai is well known for it’s influence in business, fashion and culture, so we were content with moseying the markets and visiting famous shopping centres, never making concrete plans but playing it by ear instead.

After a hectic Christmas morning (skyping with my family and eating breakfast, I didn’t even get time to open all my presents before heading to the airport!), we arrived in Shanghai early afternoon and checked into our hotel. I was supposed to be having Christmas dinner with Derek and his brother’s new family, but after I called him I found out that it had become Christmas lunch and I had missed it! THE NERVE. And he didn’t hesitate to rub in how delicious the meal was either!! So that night Roxy, Tamlyn and I ventured to a very popular tourist destination called Tianzifang for dinner. Tianzifang is amazing, I know that if I lived in Shanghai I would spend all my time there. It’s a quaint arts and culture enclave, hidden behind the modern, neighbouring streets. It has a very trendy, gypsy-market feel to it. It’s made up of a labyrinth of narrow, brick-walled alleyways/passageways, with shops ranging from art stores, coffee shops, restaurants (Italian, Indian, Mexican, Thai, etc), souvenir stores, clothing stores (both traditional and modern), antique stores and authentic jewellery. I think we spent the majority of the 4 days in that area, we loved it so much. We ate at an Italian restaurant for dinner: pizza and daiquiris! Derek joined us, and we decided to spend Christmas night at a club called Soho, which was conveniently having a Christmas Special: All You Can Drink for 80 kwai if you’re a girl, and 100 kwai if you’re a boy (payback Derek)! To avoid disappointed comments directed at me from my relatives, I’ll avoid giving details of the rest of the night. But lets just say, I can clean up puke (not my own) off a taxi-cab very well.

The next morning, some of us were a little worse for wear, so we didn’t get to do the major shop-a-thon we had planned to do Boxing Day. We ventured to Tianzifang in the afternoon for lunch (pizza again!) and to do a bit of shopping, but were so exhausted we went back to the hotel and basically slept for 4 hours. We awoke, got ready for the night, and went to Tianzifang for dinner, where we were meeting Derek and Santi, a teacher from South America whose contract ended in Hohhot the week Tamlyn and I arrived. He’s living in Shanghai now and offered to take us out for the night. His wife was a jazz singer at the Hilton Hotel in Shanghai, so after dinner (at an Indian restaurant with the best Indian food I’ve ever had!) we went to the Hilton to watch her perform. The Hilton is, as you may guess, classy and very high-end; the kind of classy that makes me disappointed with my own life. We ventured up to the very suave and swanky bar/lounge were Santi’s wife was performing. The jazz music and band were fantastic, my dad would have really enjoyed it. Santi’s wife (I’m so sorry, I can’t remember her name!) and the cello player were from South Africa, so they came over and talked about home with Tamlyn and Roxy and were more than happy to take pictures with us. We stayed for about 2 hours, but we didn’t drink anything grandiose because it was very expensive there, plus none of us felt up for it after Christmas night. We left the Hilton fairly early, maybe around 10:30ish pm, said goodbye and thank you to Derek, Santi and his wife, and went back to our hotel for bed!

Day 3 was our shopping day. We woke up early FOR US, 9am or so, and headed to Huai Hai Road, an elegant, famous shopping street in Shanghai that features western stores that we don’t get in Hohhot and ate lunch at Starbucks, respectfully. We shopped there all morning and into the afternoon, and ventured back to the Tianzifang area for the afternoon. I think we shopped from something like 11am-6pm straight. Respect. We met Derek around 6:30pm and went to a Steak and Burger restaurant he suggested that ended up being delicious! We actually had no real clue of what we wanted to do that night, we just knew we weren’t down for going to a bar. Derek brought us to Nanjing road, the No.1 Commercial Street in China! This was probably the most touristy thing we did while in Shanghai. Nanjing Road has both traditional stores and modern shopping centres. It kind of reminded me of Time Square in New York: lots of flashy signs, tourists, beggers, large awe-inspring buildings and stores of all sorts on either side. We got ice cream at Cold Stone and enjoyed it on the patio (yes, it was warm enough to sit outside eating ice cream on December 27th!) before venturing down the road towards the Bund. The Bund is the waterfront located at the end of Nanjing Road in central Shanghai. The buildings lining the waterfront and across the water are attractively lit with colourful spotlights and would be beautiful and interesting to gaze at anyway because they were built in very Gothic, Renaissance-like styles. I’m glad we came to that area, it gave our trip to Shanghai more significance for sure.

The next morning, Roxy flew back to Shanghai (she was unable to book the day off work) and Tamlyn and I went to meet Derek in the area that his brother, Richard, lives in. Derek found Tamlyn and I dancing on the street corner to our own singing while we waited for him, I’m guessing he was probably wondering why he agreed to spend the day with us. We briefly visited a technology market before checking out a coffee cafe on the campus of Richards school. I’m not even a big coffee drinker, but you can’t get cappuccino’s in Hohhot so I take advantage when I’m in other cities. Down the street from the school is Double Rainbow, a building where blind men give massages. It sounds creepy, but it’s legit in China. Blind people are more suited for feeling the knots and muscles in the body, plus I suppose it creates many jobs for blind people who would otherwise be begging on the streets or subways (case and point, my Zombie experience in Beijing). They didn’t open until 2pm, however, so we took the subway back to, where else, Tianzifang! I had last minute purchases and gifts that I wanted to pick up in the area, so we shopped around for the last time! We ate these delicious pizza pita-like things at a tiny shop, and they were so good we went back and ordered more! We bargained and bartered for a bit, and at 1:30 we headed back to get our massages! It was very interesting. They use their elbows, forearms and fingers and REALLY dig into the knots on your back! It hurt a lot at times, but strangely felt good at the same time. When it was over (it was 45 kwai for 45 minutes, amazing!) we all felt light headed and peaceful. We went to Richards apartment to research where we could find Mexican restaurants in Shanghai because we were craving nachos!!! We found one not to far from where we were, lucky enough. It was absolutely delicious too! We had a few drinks while we ate, it was our last night in Shanghai so we thought, why not? After dinner we got some coffee and wandered around the area for a while, taking in the sights and enjoying each others company before saying goodbye to Derek and heading back to our hotel. We were leaving at 6:00am the next morning, so we called it an early night.

All in all, Shanghai was a very relaxing, pleasant experience. I’d say that if I had to pick a Chinese city to live in forever, it would be Shanghai. So far. Like I said, its extremely large but it doesn’t really give that impression. It’s culture driven, yet modern. It’s clean and has a lot of qualities and areas that appeal to me as a person. There are also a lot of foreigners living there, so the locals don’t gasp and stare like they do in Hohhot. People are also a bit more classy and proper in the big city, as opposed to small cities like Hohhot where a child is free to piss on the stairs of the grocery store without anyone saying anything. I could see myself visiting Shanghai again sometime.

New Years here was nothing special, btw. We were considering flying to Xi’An to see the Terra Cotta Army over 3 days because we were given New Years Day off as a holiday. But we decided against it and spent New Years relaxing because, much to my great displeasure, Winter Intensive begins on Tuesday. Back to one day off and 40 teaching hours a week until end of February. Kill me now!! Thank God for my trip to Vietnam in T-minus 3.5 weeks! The count down begins!


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ben Babcock
    Jan 02, 2012 @ 00:51:08

    Awesomely detailed entry, Steph. And I can totally see blind men giving massages as something that suits you. 😛 It sounds like you’re getting so many new experiences; I’m not sure if I’m jealous or glad I’m not in your shoes. 😛

    My New Year’s Even included an impromptu snowman construction.


  2. maryanne
    Jan 02, 2012 @ 09:46:01

    happy new years from your dad and i…..u had eventful 2011….what will 2012 bring?


  3. Gail Johnson
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 06:02:09

    So glad you had a great and relaxing time in Shanghai! Happy New Years to you and your friends. I had a quiet time here in Keewatin, supper New Year’s eve at Marilyn’s and watched tv New Years Day! Your story and pictures are again great!
    Miss you and think of you all the time! Love Nan


  4. Lois Christianson
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 01:58:24

    Hi Steph
    Sounds like Shanghai is very interesting.
    So your next trip is Vietnam. How interesting.
    You’ll be busy teaching for awhile and earning enough to pay for your next trip.
    Avery happy New Year and look foward to your next blog
    Think of you often
    Love Aunty


  5. Giancarlo Cerquozzi
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 10:21:04

    I’m glad you’re doing well Stephanie Chow!

    It sounds like you’re doing so many neat things – I love living vicariously through you via these posts.



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