On Thursday, we took a mid-morning flight from
We passed mile after mile of high rises. Our guide told us that
As we drove into downtown, an overall haze was apparent. We think it is smog, though did not affect our eyes or breathing in any way. After checking in, we took a short walking tour on the Bund. This is an Indian word meaning 'riverfront' and is pronounced like 'bun', not as in the German 'boond'. One side is 52 blocks of magnificent buildings (most of which were built from 1880 - 1940) in a variety of architectural styles. On the other side of the street is a wide walking path directly on the river. We then went onto
We are staying in the newly-renovated Waldorf Astoria. Allow us to digress for a moment, as this is an extraordinary hotel-- blending upscale old-Shanghai 30s glamour in the public areas with amazing high tech amenities in the private areas. This is not a hotel where mere mortals stay (as a testament to that, the Shanghai Film Festival was opening while we were here and friends had a Susan Sarandon sighting; we had to 'settle' for Matt Dillon, omg)... so we are fortunate we could stay here with the group. Anyway, to our amazing room -- it had ornate ceiling moldings, a chandelier over the bed, a 42 inch TV which also features a wireless keyboard for internet access, gas masks (in case of a fire), a bedside touchpad which shows the outside temperature, lets you turn the lights on and off, open / close the curtains, call for your personal butler (from bed!), adjust the A/C, and allow you to check the local time in over 50 cities around the world. Yes, it also has a clock and an alarm. In the bathroom there is a TV behind the mirror! You only see it when you turn it on! And the piece de resistance: a hands-free toilet! You walk into the toilet alcove and the lid opens automatically (the boys have to press a button to make the seat also go up). It has a heated seat, and you can press buttons to 'rinse' and 'dry' when you are done (toilet paper is provided for those who wish). Of course, when you stand up, it flushes automatically and the lid closes. It almost made it hard to want to leave the room! For the record, our time there was limited.
Thursday evening, we joined (eating) forces with a family for a sumptuous set Shangainese feast. As with our other dinners so far, there are multiple courses served to each person. We began with an artfully-presented plate of four Chinese amuse-bouches-- sauteed trumpet mushrooms in a delectable sauce, barbequed pork belly, yellow croaker fish (which sounds like amphibian but was a lightly dusted river fish) and marinated fungus. Lest you recoil in horror, this dish was the tastiest of any on the plate (once we got past its gray palette). It tasted like the Chinese equivalent of cole slaw, bathed in rice vinegar. Next course, hairy crab soup. We missed hairy crab (a
Friday morning we got up early and saw from the delivered newspaper that the forecast was for the upper 70s with rain expected 'for the plum reaping season'. They made it sound like it was scheduled! But we went out anyway. There was a little mist, but many people were on the Bund promenade. Lots of people flying kites!
And groups doing tai chi!
How Chinese is that! We walked to the 'Memorial to the People's Heroes' which is dedicated to those who fought in the Opium Wars (the British!), the Democratic War (1910; Sun Yat Sen), and WWII (which is referred to as the 'anti-Japanese War' in Chinese textbooks). Then back to the hotel and another sumptuous buffet breakfast.
Then the group headed out for the day. We walked partway along the same stretch of the promenade and then down an escalator to take an amazing ride under the river to the Pudong side. They have these 'pod cars' that hold about 20 people standing up. The doors close and you go into the tunnel. Then the walls come alive with colored lights in different patterns. At another point swimming fish are projected as if you can actually see into the river. It is a true Disney-like experience. The ride takes about 5 minutes (for the 1/2 mile distance). Then we were in Pudhong. The mist had turned into a light drizzle, but all were prepared with umbrellas. We took a short bus ride into the old section. This area has been populated for at least 400 years, and many of the buildings are several hundred years old. We walked through Yu Yuan Gardens, a small but magnificent oasis built by a wealthy man for his parents. Adjoining this is a touristy shopping area with many small winding passageways (it reminded us of
candies, and baked goods. There were even 3 Dairy Queens and 2 Starbucks!
Our guide said this is not the area for 'the real thing' but great for authentic tschotkes. In other words, don't look for Rolexes, real jade, or real pearls here. And you must bargain! With a little stubbornness, you can get them 80% down from their original asking price... and we did!
Friday afternoon, we ventured out on our own and took the Jewish tour of
Rather, we spent our Friday evening at a Chinese Acrobats show. Think Cirque de Soleil but death defying, heart-stopping, breath-taking, how did they do it and one centimeter short of ruthless. There were many segments in which this writer literally could not breathe (and I am the risk-taker of the family). It is obvious that OSHA concerns have not crossed the ocean.
Saturday morning brought us to the
But, back to impressive. Very impressive was our 'farewell to
I chose ribbons of ahi tuna on a bed of pureed avocado, garnished with spicy radishes, and bathed in a ginger marinade. OK, let's be real. At this point, we could have readily gone back to the hotel and called it an evening. But, no. Four more courses for each of us!
I chose a delicate parsnip soup poured atop a coconut, lime and mint foam. OK, Spiaggia, try to top that! Suffice it to say, this course was amazing. Next up... the main course.
Anyway, it is Sunday morning, June 12. We just got back from a walk around the neighborhood - we find that is the best way to really experience the people and culture of an area. Here are some pix of what we saw:
Until then, be well.
wendy and wayne