Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Shanghai–with Andrew this time!

It was definitely a relief as the immigration officer briefly perused Andrew’s passport and documentation and stamped him into China.  No questions about being turned away previously – we were free to enjoy the best part 4 days in Shanghai.  It was 01:30am, and we zoomed into the city in an airport taxi. It was great to check-in and go to sleep.

July was much, much warmer than May but we planned around the weather and tried to be reasonable in each days itinerary.

1st stop was the Shanghai Museum, but when we saw the lines we decided to park that for another day.  Instead we went across the road to the Shanghai Urban planning museum.  Here we spent a good couple of hours exploring the exhibits, which were informative and impressive.  Particularly interesting was the information on the Lilong or lane housing and the huge model of the city.  The city was trying to modernise living conditions, but it is a difficult process of balancing heritage and urban demands.

Shanghai urban
On our 1st evening we joined a food walking tour with Shanghai Foodie.  There were only 5 of us, so a good small group.  Jim our tour guide was very good at telling us snippets about the areas we were in.  One of the most noticeable comments was about urban development and lack of documentation making many of shop owners open very long hours, effectively to get as much money saved before inevitable closures would happen. 

We started a beer in a bar in the Xintiandi area (drink here, don’t eat here said Jim) before heading to a tiny noodle shop.  Great noodles with a variety of toppings.  While it looks empty in the picture, when we went in we crowded around 1 table and there were no spare seats in the 4 table cafe.
From here we have an eating rest while we had tea.  With Coffee culture expanding at an exponential rate, traditional tea-shops were disappearing.  This was followed by Xiao Long Bao, specially cooked by the owner as XLB are usually a morning/early afternoon thing. From there we had some soy snacks, spring rolls, and were very well fed!
more food
We finished with more craft beer.  Locally made and Epic, from New Zealand.  One of the beers they put a shot of gin in.  The gin was … from NZ.  Shanghai foodie evening tour, is wonderfully low key and relaxed, and recommended for a taste of local foods (pun-intended)

Having seen the museum lines mid-morning yesterday, we had a plan to be in the line for when the museum opened.  About 400 other people had the same idea and we stood in the morning heat for about 50 minutes.  There were fans cooling things down and we were under a sun-tent - unlike the people who arrived after us.  The old-lady vendors were doing well selling chilled water bottles.  Most of the locals were paying with their phones, scanning QR codes, not cash payments.  Inside the wait was worthwhile to see some of collections.  Particularly interesting, were the bronzes and ethnic displays.

We visited the Bund on a couple of occasions.  In the evening, we were joined by 10,000 other people.  Incoming foot traffic had to be directed down one side of the street and others leaving on the other side. Andrew commented he had never seen such committed crowds.  The number of people standing at the metro station encouraged us to walk an extra half hour home, rather than try buy a ticket and join the masses.

We walked many kilometres in the french concession areas.  There is a a variety of things to see from small boutique shopping areas to residential and expat cafes.

We managed to fit in two particularly good restaurants.  One, Xibo, had distinctive Uygur cuisine from NW china, Xinjiang.  This meant slow cooked, delicious lamb.  Andrew is now willing to travel to that region for the food.  We also went to the perennially popular Lost Heaven on the Bund – we had to make 2 trips to get in, as it was fully booked the first night we tried. These were in addition to the pancakes and dumplings we ate at various times.  We ate well in Shanghai!
more food2
 Locals use bike delivery services constantly.  Everywhere you go they are rushing from job to job.  There are almost no petrol motorbikes in the central city areas we were in, they are all the deadly silent electric bike.  They pop up out of nowhere and pretty much think they own the footpaths and roads.  People still found foreigners a novelty and we were asked to join a few photos.

On our final morning we went to the Yu gardens, classical Chinese gardens.  They were delightful and being a Monday morning there were a few less tourists than crowd in at the weekend.
chinese gardens
gardens 2
The journey back to the airport was partly on the Maglev.  The 30km journey was only at 300km per hour. Some parts of the day it runs at 431 km/hr.  The train is magnetically levitated, so it doesn’t have surface drag slowing it down. 
Through to Kuala Lumpur before the 6:30am flight back into Vientiane

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