Shanghai Short and Sweet

Trip Start Jul 03, 2006
Trip End Aug 21, 2006

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It was Friday night and I still hadn't made plans for the weekend. Part of the program is that we're supposed to venture off on the weekends to explore China, and I was lagging on that part. At the teahouse, Mei Li informed me that she was planning on taking off Saturday morning for Shanghai and that I was welcome to join her. With that, my plans were set.

At 8:30 Saturday morning, Mei Li and I set off for the bus station. Three hours and a $7 bus ticket later, we had arrived in the "Paris of the East," (or "Whore of the Orient," if you want to use a less complimentary name.")

Upon arrival, Shanghai reminded me instantly of Hong Kong. It is a teaming Asian city
(pop: 13.2 mil), with an overwhelming western influence. Skyscrapers sprout up along a pulsing waterfront. Flashing signs with every famous logo float throughout the city like fireflies. Everything looks like it is for sale. And then there is the French Concession. As Hong Kong has its areas that were built by the British for the British, so it was the French that made their mark Shanghai. Part of the city looks so much like Paris, I wondered if I needed my passport to enter.

With only one night and one day in Shanghai, Mei Li and I had to choose our activities carefully. We decided to focus on two tourist spots and three restaurants that our guidebook recommended. Having arrived at lunchtime, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and lunch on the Bund, tourist spot #1. The Bund is also known as the waterfront to English speakers and "waitan" to Chinese speakers. We chose the trendy restaurant "M on the Bund," which, from it's 7th floor perch, offered a million dollar view of Shanghai.

After lunch, we decided to look for lodging. We also decided that, since we only had one night in Shanghai, we wanted to stay somewhere nice. We headed for a highly recommended hotel on the Bund called the Peace Hotel. The Peace Hotel was said to offer luxury, history, and convenience to Shanghai's main attractions. After looking at one of the rooms, however, we weren't that impressed. Apparently, in its heyday, the Peace Hotel was the place to stay in Shanghai, but, unfortunately, much of its luxury didn't survive the Cultural Revolution. Instead, we decided to look for lodging near the other tourist spot we wanted to check out, the French Concession.

In the French Concession, we found the Ruijin Guesthouse, which offered all the Western comforts one could hope for...soft beds, a bathtub, complimentary breakfast, and CNN International. It was heavenly. We decided that for one night, it was okay to escape China.

For dinner we went back to the waterfront, and ended up eating at the Peace Hotel's restaurant. We were not disappointed by the food, especially the steamed dumplings. We also took some time to stroll along the waterfront and take pictures. (We had tried this earlier in the day, but the air was really too smoggy for good pictures.)

Later in the evening, it was back to the French Concession to check out a popular bar strip that happened to be right next to our hotel. One of my classmates from Monterey is studying in Shanghai for the summer, Cait, and she was able to meet us out at a fun little bar called the Blue Frog, "Lanwa." Being that it was the first time I've been out to a bar since I've been in China, I lasted until 11pm and then was falling asleep. Thankfully, Mei Li was too, so I didn't feel like a total wimp.

The next morning, Mei Li and I enjoyed the free hotel breakfast and then enjoyed going back to bed. Check out wasn't until noon, so we relished every hour, minute, and second of our soft, cushy room. After they kicked us out, we strolled along the streets of the French Concession, browsed the western shops, and marveled at how kind of boring it was because it didn't feel at all like China. It could have been any international city, anywhere. To make up for it, we ate lunch in a cute Chinese restaurant, called the Grape Leaf, "Putaoye," that had amazing dumplings. After lunch, the weekend was over, and it was time to get back to Chinese China (not Shanghai) and back to the books.

A couple of funny stories from the weekend...the Shanghainese were very puzzled by Mei Li and me...two foreigners who were speaking to each other in Mandarin. More than one person approached us and asked us why we weren't speaking English, so we had to explain our language pledge to them. Other people didn't actually approach us, but we could feel them eavesdropping on us. During our meal at M on the Bund, the hostess came up to us in the middle of our conversation to correct our pronunciation. We had been saying the word "curious" (haoqi), whose first syllable takes the fourth (falling) tone, too abruptly. Foreigners often do this to emphasize that it is fourth tone, and the hostess hurried over to correct us. It's not "haoqi," she explained, but "haaoqi," a little bit rounder, a little bit softer. I pity this poor woman's ears if she actually listened to our whole conversation, because if there's one thing I suck at about Chinese, it's tones. She's probably still having nightmares.

The other funny story is that in our cab ride home from the bus station, the cab driver was so curious (haaoqi) about us foreigners that he turned his head completely around and stared at us while driving. It scared the heck out of me, which he got a big kick out of. Then he asked Mei Li and me why our noses were so long. Only he used the word tall..."Why are your noses so tall?" That is a question I really have never been asked in my life and I didn't know how to answer it except by asking him in return why his nose was so short.

That's all from Shanghai. Got our big midterm coming up on Friday and have to study, study, study. Until next entry! ~Yin Yin
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