Sunday, October 25, 2009


Hi From Shanghai!

It's awesome here - truly futuristic. Our hotel is on Nanjing Road, which just one block from us turns into a massive pedestrian walkway and mall that has every kind of store imaginable. Taking one step out of our hotel and looking around it feels like we are in the movie Blade Runner or Back to the Future. The buildings are huge and a lot of them have circular/saucer shapes at the top... Sort of like the space needle in Seattle. Some of the buildings have large television screens that stretch the width and height of five floors. At night all of these buildings light up - it's a really beautiful place and a fun change from Beijing.

Yesterday we took a long walk to the Yu Gardens and Bazaar. The Yu Gardens were built during the Ming Dynasty and they are the very definition of peaceful serenity.

The gardens wind around through small stone caves and doorways and the curved rooftops are lined with the curvy body of a dragon.

The Bazaar at Yu Gardens also winds around a central point which is the zig zag bridge.

In ancient Chinese culture it was believed that evil spirits could not turn corners and thus the zig zag bridge keeps people safe. We bought a few things here, a SIM card for my mom's camera, a couple of small Chinese dolls, some postcards and a few other little souvenirs. One thing we've learned here is that every single price you encounter is negotiable. Every. Single. One. It's actually kind of fun and literally nine times out of ten, while negotiating, if we just say "okay, you know what, we'll think about it and come back" the salesperson says "OK! OK! FINE!" and we end up paying the price we've offered.

We planned on walking back to our hotel along the Bund - a long walkway on the edge of the Huangpu River that has a gorgeous view of the Pudong skyline. The Bund is famous for its colonial era buildings that still stand today. But as we made our way over there we realized that the entire thing had been torn up and was under construction - i'M assuming because Shanghai will be holding a World Expo in 2010. It was a bummer because I was hoping to get some good photos but it was also a bit scary as we ended up walking along a shoulderless street with tour buses and taxis wizzing by. Luckily we weren't the only ones, but if my seven days in China have taught me anything it is that it is best to steer clear of the crazy traffic at all costs.

One thing that further adds to the beauty and whimsy of Shanghai is how much the Shanghaiese seem to embrace the arts. Just today we have seen a group of elderly people dancing in couples in the public square - once they were finished a nice man came to us and said that they do it every morning for exercise since many of the men and women retire by the age of 50 or 55. He said that he was ninety years old and we simply could not believe it. He joked that it was probably "the dancing."

Then, as we walked further down Nanjing Rd. we came across what was deemed the 11th Annual Shanghai Arts Celebration, which had people beating drums, dancing and singing on a large stage, there were also awards for photography being handed out. And as if that wasn't enough, there is a sculpture exhibition literally across the street from our hotel in the small park.

And finally, as we headed back towards our hotel tonight after some delicious Haagen Dazs ice cream sundaes we came across a band that was set up about halfway down the block from our hotel. They played very well, but even more fun - there were couples dancing and twirling all over the sidewalk.

I have a great video of a few of these artsy events, but the internet here in Cambodia is so bloody slow I want to poke my eyes out (obviously I am posting this after drafting it up yesterday)...So those will come in a recap post when I get home in a few weeks.

People seem to smile more here and the light hearted nature of the atmosphere is contagious - though I will say that it is exceedingly crowded everywhere.

We love Shanghai, and I also really liked Beijing, but we are glad to keep moving on to Cambodia tomorrow (also will be glad to post these blogs that I've drafted up!). Stay tuned :)