November 12, 2013

Shanghaied For a Weekend

We went to Shanghai for a weekend before the workish portion of our China/HK trip.

We landed after the mag lev was closed on Saturday night and paid an exorbitant fee to "rent a car" (with driver) to our hotel. I was struck with the reality of expensive travel and how it compares to my younger dreams of luxury travel.  The so-called privilege of paying too much for an immediate car to your destination rather than waiting in the public taxi line or taking a bus doesn't feel like a privilege when the reason you're doing it is that you were too busy to do any research about transport and now it's late enough,  you're tired enough, and the thought of trying to navigate the unknown travel with your broken Mandarin is actually a little bit scary.  In my younger years, I would have been prepared to do what was necessary to save money.  Now, I just really needed to get to my hotel and go to sleep, and without any knowledge of how to do that, I was obviously just a sucker to be preyed upon.

The hotel was my favorite of the trip (E preferred the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, but I was grumpy enough about the lack of jogging track that it is dead to me).  Our room had awesome views of the Bund, although the first day views were a bit sad and dreary due to smog and fog.

We woke super early due to jet lag and walked the Bund amongst the families.  It was relaxing and relatively quiet, not remotely as crowded or chaotic as I'd remembered Beijing being back in 1994.  On our walk back, we saw our first memorable Chinglish sign:

We walked to the People's Square and People's Park via Nanjing Road, and E was quick to point out that the most prominent features and clearly the most popular based on the crowds, were the Gap store opposite the Apple store.

After sightseeing for a while, we selected an authentic-looking sit-down restaurant.  I mean, how could you resist this menu advertisement?

Our personal dishes came in an autoclaved shrink-wrapped pile, which was new to me, but I suppose it did inspire some confidence (along with the A food-safety rating on the wall).  The food was delicious, the experience was interesting, and the people watching was superb.  It was a super-small crowded collection of tables, and often people would come in and share tables with strangers (we were given our own 2-top, no doubt the "foreigners' table").

After lunch we headed up to the bar in the Jin Mao Tower (middle tower in the picture below, the Grand Hyatt Bar on the 87th floor).  Unfortunately, due to the air quality issues, the views were not that great -- frankly, we were a bit depressed.

But, we headed to Xiantiandi for Din Tai Fung for dinner and everything was better (mmmm... xiaolongbao).  Din Tai Fung was one of my favorite parts of living in Bellevue and I was excited to be in Asia where I could get it in every city we were visiting.  I still do not understand why there isn't a branch in the bay area.  It would clean up.  Someone, please, do this.

It rained overnight and we woke the next morning to clear skies.  In fact, there were gorgeous kites flying high above the Bund, and a group of folks in all white or all black doing tai chi at the base of the Bund in front of the People's Heroes Monument (you can see both if you zoom in on the photo below).

E and I love tall buildings.  All big and impressive infrastructure, actually.  I mean, we once snuck across the Brazil border to go visit a hydroelectric dam. So, given that the views were better it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that we went back to the towers in Pudong, and this time headed up to the 91st floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center Tower and enjoyed the views while gorging on an amazing buffet breakfast at the Park Hyatt Hotel's restaurant (note that we are looking down upon the tower we were in the day before -- pretty cool).

From there, we walked along the raised walkways until we found the entrance to the sightseeing tunnel under the Bund (near the base of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower).

The sightseeing tunnel was perhaps the most awesomely kitschy thing we did this trip.  Individualized cars go through the tunnel that is lit with neon and flashing lights with accompanying music, all with the goal of implying a trip to outerspace and back.  Definitely more interesting than the previous day's taxi cab back to the other side of the river.

From the exit of the sightseeing tunnel, we walked our way to an outpost of the famous Yang's Fry Dumplings. They were good, but it was best that we'd had breakfast first. I think I could have easily made myself sick if I tried to fill upon on these alone...

And then, sadly, our time in Shanghai was over.  Off to Hong Kong...


Arvay said...

I'm going to make me one of those signs! Please cherish my weeds. They are life!

Jen said...

The Chinglish signs are hilarious. I was trying to figure out why they translated the menu like that... it's bizarre.

I love Din Tai Fung, and also wonder why they don't have a Bay Area branch. It's ridiculous. I'm looking forward to going there at least a couple of times when I'm in Taiwan over Thanksgiving.

bt said...

@Arvay--yeah, the sentiment is adorable, no?

@Jen--agreed, the menu was bizarre, and I'm perplexed at the lack of DTF in the bay area. Part of me wants to build a consortium and go to them with an offer to take a franchise... If only I had Taiwanese mandarin speakers to join me...

Jen said...

As long as I can negotiate in kindergarten-level Mandarin, I'm your woman!