Wow! I'm back in Japan after 10 days of madness in Shanghai. It was quite an experience and made me realize that there is a hell of a lot more to Asia than just Japan. Natsumi and I headed to Narita airport on Dec 21st, and arrived in Shanghai at about 9 o'clock in the evening. By the time we got to the place where our hotel was it was around 10:30, so we just dropped off our gear and headed out for some food. Natsumi had lived in Shanghai previously as a student, and the hotel was near to her old campus so she knew the area well. The little restaurant that we went to that night was great. It was a little shishkabob restaurant that had the best food. We ate until we were full and drank beer until late. When the check arrived, I finally understood that we were in China. The grand total came to 34 yuan, or the equivalent of about $5 canadian. Nice.
The next day we went to a not-so-tourist-friendly market area called Qipu road. It was pretty crazy, and not a lot of tourists go there. The sheer quantity of shops, vendors, noise, and kiosks was a bit hard to take in. We did a bit of shopping there, and then moved on. Our next stop was the more famous Nanjing road. This is the more upscale area near the center of Shanghai where many name-brand shops, fast-food chains, and coffee shops. We spent some time walking around there, then headed to People's Square, a park area closeby. There was a huge Hong Kong style shopping mall there, and we ate some more delicious food. After that, we walked to the river to stroll along the famous pedestrain walkway know as the Bund. At night it is lit up and gives a great view of Pudong across the river. Later we headed back to Chifeng road, near our hotel, to do some "DVD" shopping.
The next day (Dec 23rd) we visited Yuyuan Garden. It was a beautiful temple area, and also a huge maket bazaar. We did some poking around and shopping there. On the way to Yuyuan, we took a very "scenic" walk though a neighborhood that was very traditional Chinese. It consisted od very, very old buildings, some without walls or even floors, but all still with tenants inside. It was weird to see such run-down and slummy looking places but see smiles on the faces of all the people around us. It really put into perspective just how different my life is than anything these people know.
Christmas eve was a bit of a downer for me. The first part of the day had been great. We had met up with a friend of Natsumi's, Akina, and visited some cool shops, a great market, and then headed to Nanjing Road. There, I split off from the girls and went walking around on my own for a bit. I was trying to buy a bottle of water at a kiosk when the "incident" happened. As I took my wallet out of my pocket, someone tried to rip it out of my hands. It fell to the ground, spilling out some cash onto the street. I went straight for the wallet, but the 4 other guys who I didn't even know were there went straight for the cash. It didn't take to long to realize that this little group of guys likely had me pegged for a while before and saw their chance. Anyway, only a bit of cash was lost, and all my important papers and cards were safe. If you are ever in Shanghai, keep a tight grip on you wallet! I should have been more careful!
We woke up early on Christmas day so we could eat some 'Baozi' which is a steam-bun filled with meat and/or vegetables, and is officially my favorite Chinese food. Even better, each bun only costs about 0.7 yuan, which is about 10 cents canadian. SWEET! Later in the day we did some shopping on Huaihai Road. By the time we were ready for Xmas dinner we were pretty beat, so we had a delicious KFC christmas.
We spent boxing day around People's square, and also near to Akina's apartment. We went to an enormous tea shop, tea shops actually, and were allowed to sample many kinds of Chinese tea. Later that night we went out to dinner with some Korean friends of Natsumi's. It was a very weird meal, as there were many languages being tossed around. There were 8 people there: 2 Chinese, 3 Koreans, Natsumi, Akina, and I, but we all didn't share common languages. Most of the people were Chinese language students in Shanghai, but none of them spoke any English. Akina doesn't speak English either, so as a result all of the conversations were in a mix of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and English. Confusing to say the least. Also, one of the Chinese girls (a Korean guy's girlfriend) was a bit of a cold fish and didn't seem very friendly at all. Not sure if there was some Chinese-Japanese hostilities or what, but Natsumi and I had more than a couple of chuckles at her expense during the meal.
On the 27th we headed to Shanghai station. We went to this are that was a huge underground are that was all eyeglass shops. I managed to get a great pair of glasses with prescription lenses for about $25 dollars. Silly me, I didn't check them until I got home and found that the prescription was off a little. Ah well. Later, we went to the trendy area of Xintiandi. It is a pretty upscale little are full of shops, restaurants, etc. In the evening we met a Shanghainese friend of Natsumi's called Xiao Li and enjoyed a delicious traditional Chinese-style meal.
On the 28th, we visited Jing'an temple and the nearby area. There was even a Burger King there! Of course we had to go it. I hadn't had Burger King in 3 years, as there are none in Japan. Whoppers are great! Later that night we went to the high rise district area called Pudong. From there we could get a beautiful view of the Bund. Also, we headed up to the 88th floor of Jin Mao tower.
Our last day we went back to Qipu road maket to do our shopping. We were able to buy tons of shoes, clothes, watches, etc. It was a tiring day, but we managed to get it all done. To cap off our trip, we headed back to the same shishkabob restaurant that we went to on our first night and enjoyed another night of good eats and good drink. Our flight the next day left early, so we had to get up at 4:30 am to catch it.
The trip was short, wild, intense, but was an unforgettable experience. If you want to see more of the photos from this trip click here.