November 3, 2007

Day Two

So, last night I slept fine, but just now I woke up at 5 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. I'm also really hungry :-) I knew this would happen, so I'm not surprised. I figured I'd take the opportunity to talk about what I did yesterday.

My coworkers and I started our day on the metro to Nanjing Dong Lu (Nanjing East Road), the famous shopping street. The sidewalks were packed with people walking here and there, buying things and selling things as well. I learned another phrase in Mandarin, one that came in handy numerous times: "bu yao xiexie," or "no thank you, i don't want it." This phrase came in handy because street vendors offered me everything from postcards to fliers to DVDs as we walked down the road. Every 10 feet or so was another person hawking their wares outside of stores. Most were toys; I saw these balls that you throw on the ground, and they disintegrate into a puddle of goo, only to re-form again 5 seconds later. Those werre actually pretty cool :-) We walked by the famous Peace Hotel.

Nanjing Road terminates at The Bund, where I got some nice photography of that iconic Pudong skyline. We walked the length of the promenade on the side of the Huangpu River, taking in the sites and just looking at everything as we passed by. Again, I must have said "bu yao xiexie" dozens of times. If you say it while not actually looking at the person and while putting your hand up with the palm facing outward (the universal sign for "stop"), it's even more effective.

From the Bund we ventured into the Nanshi ("Old City" colloquially, although "Nanshi" means "Southern City"), another popular tourist destination. Here the crowds became more thick and at times it was hard to move. I was worried about pickpockets, but my wallet and camera survived okay. Nanshi is full of the pagoda-style buildings that everyone associates with China, but they're all facades. The buildings are as modern as you and me, modern enough to house three Starbucks, a Dairy Queen, and a Juice Zone among jewelry shops and other tourist traps :-)

We wandered past the Yu Yuan (Yu Gardens) and across the Bridge of Nine Turnings, past the Huxingting (Midlake Pavilion), a famous tea house. We gazed at some of the shop stalls. At some point our nostrils were assaulted from all sides by this terrible stench; I was informed that was stinky tofu. An apt moniker if I ever heard one. We saw people eating small, fried birds in a cup. I mean like, the whole bird :-)

At some point we decided lunch was in order, so we entered this famous dim sum place in Nanshi called Lu Bo Lang (Green Wave Pavilion). It is so famous, we stood in line for nearly an hour! My legs were killing me by this point :-) But the dumplings were amazing, and so was the egg soup. I'm pretty good about eating stuff here; if I see something that looks interesting, I'll just take a bite and see if it's good. So far that's served me well.

After lunch we entered the City God Temple, a Daoist shrine to Huo Guang. Many Chinese were there, bowing and praying to the statues (which are enormous and beautiful).

We exited Nanshi and took a cab over to People's Park, where we walked around a lot and saw the outsides of the Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art. In the middle of the park, we came across several dozen older people chatting and holding signs. I wondered what was going on, and my co-worker who speaks/reads Mandarin guessed that it was that activity where the parents of busy young single Shanghainese get together to match up their sons and daughters on dates! I was really amused because I heard a story about this practice on NPR not too long ago. (That link is to a story from 2006, but they must have re-ran or updated it recently.) And here I was witnessing it. Awesome.

In this part of the city you can see a lot of the different styles of architecture that comprise the skyscrapers. There doesn't appear to be any uniformity or clarity of design. I thought about it though and decided that what I enjoyed was the variety of styles, even if they are mashed together unappealingly. Regardless of aesthetic, it's neat to be able to turn your head and see a building with wavy sides right next to one with a towering spire.

One co-worker had expressed a desire to see a Chinese acrobatic show. We headed into the metro and ended up at the Shanghai Center Theater. There was no show that day so we're going to try today instead. We were a bit hungry again so we walked a bit to Element Fresh, this hip cafe that's in the middle of a shopping center/luxury hotel complex. The waitstaff spoke English. I had a peanut butter/banana/chocolate smoothie while giving a small dissertation on the various types of electronic music :-) I definitely saw more expats in here than anywhere else so far. I'm not surprised because just down the street was a Gucci store right next to a Marc Jacobs store. I'm pretty sure I've never seen a Gucci store in my life; now I can't say that anymore :-)

After that we were feeling sleepy, so we took the metro to Zhangjiang High Technology Park and hailed a cab from there. Luckily this time the cabbie knew where my hotel was on the first try. Just in case though I'd remembered I had a small map that my office provided me.

After being out and about for so long, I was tired, so after some ESPN I immediately went to sleep. At least I got a good 7 or 8 hours in before I woke up :-)

Today I want to go to the Jinmao Tower and also try and find the Shanghai Jewish Center.

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