This was my second visit to China.
The first one being in September 2011 (Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Beijing). One of these days I will get to sort through over 4000 pictures I took the first time I visited Asia).
Let me say it right from the start — I love Asia. Some places less than others, but generally, I am surprised at how much I like visiting Asia and how comfortable and “at home” I feel in every place I have visited so far. Exception being Beijing, and even then, only because of the horrendous air pollution that caused me to have the worst respiratory allergic reaction I have ever had in my life .
This time around, the trip was only for 6 days and strictly business. We went to visit a trade fair to review the vendors and to try and find consistent quality products in China. I think the trip was well worth it.
Since I still have ALOT of frequent miles left over from my days of credit card shuffling and miles hoarding, I ended up taking a 24-hour stop-over flight from JFK to Shanghai via Chicago on American Airlines (big mistake to flight domestic metal on international routes — try to avoid at all costs).
The good part about the flight was that the flight ended up costing me $5.60 USD and only 30,000 AA miles one way.
It was funny, having to explain to a couple of middle-aged mid-west ladies on the flight that the man on the tail of the Alaska Airlines fleet is not Bob Marley but an Alaskan native. Mind blown!
Then we flew right over the North Pole on the way to Shanghai. Sadly it was very cloudy and I couldn’t see much of the ocean or ice floes and no Santa Claus was in sight either.
Taking the crazily-driven cab from the PVG airport to Shanghai, I noticed two things: every cab seems to have a USB phone charger jack and that my cab driver must have gotten the instructions to deliver me extremely fast to my hotel from the “greeting” lady at the airport.
He bobbed and weaved through the already fast traffic on the highways, squeezing between the cars and trucks at speeds up to twice the speed of the other cars. I was very happy when he dropped me off at the hotel, with my knuckles white from grabbing the door handle, hoping for the best.
Coming in, I knew that Shanghai was famous for its dumplings before coming in, so the first thing, after dropping bags in the room, I went to grab a bit at the local hole-in-the-wall dumplings place, right behind the hotel in one of the smaller alleys. They were delicious. I think I paid about $2.50 USD.
The place looks like this and is often packed with content customers slurping soup with dumplings from about 7 AM till midnight.
Food is everywhere in Shanghai (as in most places in Asia I’ve been to). This is a “combo” plate at a mall’s food court near one of the exhibition centers in Pudong. Most of the time, Chinese food in China has nothing to do with the American style Chinese food we have back in the US.
What follows below is a collection of food pics, be warned — you will get hungry looking at these!
One of my favorite veggie sides, stewed in rice vinegar and soy sauce with some garlic and chillies.
I can eat eggplants almost every day!
Extremely spicy beef, where there was actually more chillies and garlic than the beef. It tasted similar to a very good Szechuan style beef back in the US.
I think this is a local dish, Two Fish heads (actually one head, split in half). Stewed/steamed fish head loaded with chillies and sauces. Good stuff.
Squid in claypot with obscene amount of chillies and garlic and green garlic. Yum.
Crayfish boiled in chillies and soy sauce with garlic, onions and bunch of other stuff. Very very good!
A table setup for a small group. The food in this picture actually was the closest to the Chinese food back home. Me no like too much, but showing it here for the sake of documenting. All the dishes are fish, mostly deep fried.
A typical breakfast stall selling steamed dumplings with meat, veggies and sweat pastes inside. Breakfast of choice for me. There is something very comforting about it.
All convenience stores (akin to 7-11s) sell these weirdly looking (and smelling) things. I didn’t dare to try. Feel free to chime on in comments on what these are. By the looks of it, it’s various meatballs, sausages etc. in broth and curries?
All this food porn makes me happy! (and fat)
And of course, travelling would not be interesting without making fun of horribly misnamed and mislabeled things and dishes, and Shanghai delivered — big time! I would totally try any and all of these dishes!
A big part of me wanted to just help and translate the menus for these places, but then I was simply lazy, plus they are more fun this way.
When you don’t know what to do with your money, you can always recycle it!
After a heavy meal, it’s best to walk it off and what is a better place to do it than on the Bund.
The famous Bund looked exactly like it did in the pictures and brochures. Nice, relatively clean, very well lit at night and full of tourists and very few interesting places and food joints nearby. The only thing that surprised me is the relatively small number of non-Chinese tourists.
For some reason (I guess the European architecture and it being right on the river), the Bund reminded me some parts of St. Petersburg, at least when I visited Russia in 2003.
I was surprised to see a Golden Bull on the Bund. I will get back to it later in the post.
The view of Pudong across the river from the Bund is truly beautiful with all the lights.
It always makes me happy to have people ask to take a picture with me. I wonder why this girl asked me to take a pic with her?
On one particular Tuesday (I think) the Bund was full of what looked like brides and grooms, except the brides were all wearing red.
There was also a fashion photoshoot going on
The Golden Calf is a popular attraction, and I don’t know the history behind this one, but few things I noticed — it is a rather crude copy of the original one in Manhattan and its balls are not polished up by countless tourists rubbing them for good luck and financial success. Go figure.
There are dozens of cruise boats docked at the Bund, capable of taking thousands of tourists on a dinner and tour, but I haven’t seen much interest from the crowd, nor did I have the time to go on a boat ride up the Huangpu river to get a different view of the city and suburbs.
Just a block or two off the Bund, you get to see the “real” Shanghai streets and alleys.
Early morning street by our hotel.
An elderly lady riding the handicap 3-wheel moped. She was really gunning it too!
But when you go to the touristy shopping area around Yuyuan Garden, it is probably one of the very few places in all of Shanghai to see the older-looking, although much less authentic, and relatively recently built Chinese architecture buildings. You can feast your eyes on all the gabled roofs, dragons and elaborate woodwork you want.
I actually am not sure how authentic this tea house is. It did look old enough, but then it sits on concrete piles, so you never know. I was too lazy to find out more by reading brochures or travel books.
On a clear day the teahouse looks like this, with the tallest building in China in the background. Gotta love the contrast.
The shopping area was full of touristy stores, which I mostly avoided, but I loved the candy shop, with seemingly thousands of different candies. I haven’t tried any — there were so many that I couldn’t decide which ones to try. I did, however, try the mooncakes at one of the shops, but they were mostly disappointing.
Speaking of the moon cakes. I noticed people lining up for some food, practically everywhere and of course I was curious to find out what it was. Surprise — mooncakes ;). This particular line was the longest, probably about 100-150 people patiently waiting for their fresh mooncakes to take home.
A visit to the Yuyuan Garden itself is a must, although be prepared to be overwhelmed with the infinite number of alleyways, statues, rock formations, dragons, buildings and ponds. On that particular day I wasn’t feeling too well so I quickly got tired of it and left for hotel.
We stayed in Grand Central Hotel Shanghai in Huangpu district, right next to the famous walking shopping Fuzhou street. Great place to be in Shanghai for up to a week, with everything close by, but I can see how staying there for longer than a week would get really old really fast.
The mandatory picture of the Chinese people practicing Tai Chi in the morning in public. I love the yellow mascot deer on the right, also doing Tai Chi.
Bike parking lot, right next to the East Nanjing Metro station.
I am still all ‘templed-out’ from the February visit to Myanmar, so I wasn’t too enthusiastic about visiting the Jing’an Temple in central Shanghai. The original temple was built almost 800 years ago, but during the Cultural revolution was converted into a plastic factory. The current temple is a modern, rebuilt version, so less historical, but I liked it, anyway.
I really liked the modern golden glass building at the back of the temple. Creates a great feeling of historical and cultural continuity.
The silver Buddha statue.
Various 3D stone carvings depicting the life of the Buddha were nothing short of amazing in quality, vibrancy and detail.
It looks like the rabbit is making some ancient chinese herbal medicine.
Time to get down to business, visiting various industry trade shows and fairs.
The International Sourcing Trade Show was rather empty and filled with bored people eagerly awaiting anyone to stop by and talk to them at their booths about sourcing all your water pumps, car parts, plastic tubing and machinery needs in China.
The fair area was not as big as Guanzhou’s, but still very impressive in size and constantly growing.
The nearby mall was almost totally empty with shops stocked with luxury goods waiting to be bought.
Not a fan of museums lately, so I skipped the China Contemporary Art Museum. Loved the building’s architecture though!
The bored-out-of-their-mind hair models at the Hair Fair, showcasing colorful extensions.
Changfeng Park area of Shanghai, about 20 minutes subway ride from the People’s Square. The Wusong river eventually joins Huangpu, which flows into the Yangtze river and the East China Sea.
In Pudong, there isn’t much to see, except to wonder around amongst the tall buildings, thinking about China overtaking the US in economic output. It’s boring yet rather impressive.
We went up to the altogether boring, poorly designed and underwhelming 87th floor Cloud 9 bar in the Grand Hyatt for some overpriced drinks and a view. As we found out on the way down, you get a better view and no entrance fee on the 84th floor, in the lobby of the hotel. Do that instead if you ever in the area.
I met a Russian girl from my hometown on Tinder so we went on a “date” and ended up in a jazz club in the French Concession area. I wasn’t too impressed with what they played and especially what the singer sang. The place was well stocked with older expats taking out cute young Chinese girls out. Typical scene.
The pollution wasn’t too bad in Shanghai when I visited. I was quite surprised that most mopeds were actually e-bikes, so that must cut down the pollution severely. When I visited Beijing in September 2011, millions of mopeds and bikes really made the air unsuitable for breathing.
It was good to see a greener technology in action. Even “freight” bikes and mopeds are electrical.
Shanghai has over 100,000 millionaires at this point, and I finally got to see a Ferrari on my last day there, right outside the hotel I stayed at.