Shanghai Urban Planning Center

25 Jul

Yesterday (Sunday July 24), we had another day of ISA planned touring. At 9 in the morning we met in the hotel lobby to jump on our usual bus #67 and head to the Zhongshan Park Metro Station. Because my package from home with granola bars and dried fruit is still being held in Chinese Customs, Emily and I stopped by Starbucks in Zhongshan to grab some breakfast. I got a warm blueberry muffin, which was a delicious way to start my day off! We then took the metro to the People’s Square stop and then walked a few blocks to the Shanghai Urban Planning Center. To see the plans that China has for Shanghai, not only commercially but also residentially was almost overwhelming. The model for Shanghai in the year 2020 is very impressive and even more so considering the fact that China is right on track to make the model a reality.

We found in the 2020 model a restaurant in the French Concession that we love

Model for 2020 Shanghai

We then had lunch and then went to an Art Gallery. The gallery is in the process of being moved to a more suburban area so unfortunately many of the exhibits were closed off. Emily and I then branched off from the group to people watch while hydrating ourselves at a nearby Starbucks. We watched passer byers for about an hour and a half before we quickly hailed a cab and took off for the nearby French Concession. We still had an hour until we were supposed to meet Josh, Ryan, and Sarah at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Cantina Agave, therefore we headed to a tea shop that we had visited a couple of weeks before that is only about a block from the restaurant. We were able to try some of our favorite teas; green tea and oolong tea, as well as some cold tea. Emily bought 3 bags of tea, one oolong and two green. My ATM card was not working yesterday so I was not able to buy any tea, but I have already planned to go back to make some purchases! Also, I am still on the hunt for that perfect tea set!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to finally get some good rest. I had to spend some time studying for my Chinese language quiz today, (which I think I did pretty well on), but I was still able to get to bed at a reasonable hour. With today being Monday, I have gotten back into my class, gym, dinner routine, but hopefully since there is only 2 weeks left we will start to shake up the schedule a little bit!

Until next time!

Hikari

25 Jul

Once again I enjoyed a very busy weekend full of new attractions, experiences, and food. After class on Friday July 22, Josh, Emily, Ryan, Sarah and I took one bus and two metros to visit the Shanghai Zoo. It is one metro stop short of the Hangqiao Airport Terminal 1. Immediately upon stepping out of the metro we could smell the zoo, which is located almost directly above the underground metro stop. We were all excited to see some animals, but especially Emily who is in AOп and desperately wanted to see her sorority’s animal; the Panda. Unfortunately the Pandas were behind a glass wall and looked near death so Emily couldn’t get the picture with them that she had been waiting for. Considering the animals living conditions, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pandas were playing dead in the hopes of being removed from the zoo. Some monkeys had no vegetation in the cages, elephants are in buildings in fenced off areas that are only about twice their size, and the gorillas are in glass rooms with no vegetation or natural light. Because the zoo is so greatly below Western standards, the Shanghai Zoo is not advertised to visitors of China. Although it was a lot of fun to see all of the animals, the trip developed a more depressing feeling when we discovered how bad the living conditions of the animals really is. (Not a single zookeeper was spotted during the hours that we were at the zoo).

One of my favorites: the Golden monkey

Miserable living conditions for the elephants

Bears in Action

After the zoo, we headed to an area closer to our hotel for dinner. We went to a brand new Japanese restaurant called Hikari. The food was fabulous and we received extremely large portions for an extremely reasonable price. We began talking to one of the 3 owners, Mark, and we learned quite a bit about him as well as the restaurant. He used all of his money, as well as much of his parents’ money to start his dream restaurant. Because Japanese food is still not very popular in China, he plans on most of his business coming from expats. We really liked him and wanted to help him out so we gave him all of the information we could about advertising to tourists. We most importantly told him about “Frommers” which our group has started referring to as “the bible” because we don’t do anything without first checking what Frommers has to say about it. Mark gave us each a business card and we promised to be back for dinner at least once more during out stay in Shanghai. When we left Hikari, we walked a couple of blocks to the Shanghai Brewery. The five of us sat at a high top table for hours, sampling the many drinks available. We had so much fun that night. It really made me realize how much I will miss “the group” when we all leave Shanghai and go our separate ways in the States.

The next day (Saturday July 23), Emily and I woke up at 9 in the morning to go workout before our day of fun in the Shanghai sun. Although the rest of the ISA group spent the day in Nanjing, Emily, Sarah, Ryan and I decided to stay in Shanghai. The day in Nanjing was going to be spent in Museums full of some extremely sad history, and we decided that we had already seen enough depressing museums to last us a year. A company called The Ice Cream Truck was hosting a beach party on The Bund and we deiced to attend. There was a really good DJ that flew in from Germany and we were able to meet a lot of really cool and interesting people. It was nice to spend the day like the locals and not as a tourist. We had a lot of fun that day and are very happy with our decision to spend the day in Shanghai.

Sarah, Ryan, Emily and I at a Shanghai Beach party on The Bund

Our new German friend

The Pearl Tower

21 Jul

The Pearl Tower (its so tall you can't fit it all in one picture). The tiny "ball" at the top is the restaurant and the "ball" underneath that is the observation deck. The bigger ball at the bottom is an arcade and roller coaster

Sunday July 17, 2011

On Sunday, the ISA group met again in the hotel lobby at 9 am, but this day we were headed to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Emily and I did not enjoy this museum the least bit. It was geared towards young children, so we quickly found a restaurant to sit, rest, and wait out the 3 hours allotted for time in the museum. From the museum we walked next door to the A.P. Market. This market is filled with knock-off purses, clothing, accessories and anything else you could think of. I splurged and bought a clutch as well as a pearl ring and a set of pearl earrings. We stayed there until 4:30 when Ryan, Sarah, Emily, Josh, Em and myself jumped on the metro and took three stops to the Financial District.

Me beside the Shanghai World Expo Mascot at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

We each bought a 300 kuai ticket and headed up the 263 stories to our dinner reservation at the top of the Pearl Tower. The building, and therefore the restaurant, is one of the tallest in the world. We were so high up that when the elevator started going up, our ears immediately started popping.The restaurant is revolving and every 2 hours you can see all of Shanghai. Luckily we were able to reserve a window table which made it all that much better. The dinner was an all you can eat buffet style with both chinese and western cuisine. THE FOOD WAS FABULOUS! I had countless plates of fresh tuna and sushi. I would say our table as a whole spent the most time at the chocolate fountain. The timing of our Pearl Tower dinner was perfect because it gave us a chance  to see all of Shanghai during the day, dusk, and completely lit up at night. Shanghai at night was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It is absolutely mesmerizing.

View of Shanghai from my dinner seat at The Pearl Tower

View of Shanghai from my dinner seat at The Pearl Tower

View of Shanghai at Night

Another view of Shanghai at Night

When we left the restaurant we walked down the three floors to an observation deck. You could walk outside where the floor as well as the “walls” were glass. (The walls were only about 6 feet high and there was no ceiling). It was a little nerve racking but VERY cool. We left the Financial District around 9:30 and headed back to the hotel. I was exhausted from 3 nights of very little sleep yet 3 days full of activities, so I was asleep soon after hitting the pillow.

On the Observation Deck. It was Extremely Windy!

Since Sunday, (today is Thursday), I have gotten back in to our weekly groove; class until 3:30, then the gym, a quick shower, and then dinner at Zhongshan Park, (unless we splurge somewhere else usually in the French Concession or on Nanjing Road). Nothing was really planned for this week, but this weekend we will take a day trip on Saturday to Nanjing along with some other smaller activities.

The Tea Experience

18 Jul

Saturday July 15, 2011

Saturday morning started fairly early. Half of the group met in the hotel lobby at 9 am to take a metro and then a pretty long walk to a chinese woman’s apartment for “The Tea Experience”. The woman is considered a master at Chinese tea, (which is extremely difficult and time consuming to become) and she “teaches” tea from her home. We were able to watch her make, (which is much more difficult and time consuming than I could have ever imagined), as well as try many types of teas. These teas included green tea, white tea, oolong tea, dark tea, and black tea.I was not a very big fan of the dark tea which she said you would either love or hate. She was a very nice and informative woman who gave us each a bag of our favorite tea to take home with us. [The bag of very nice and expensive green tea that I now possess has increased my desire to find the perfect tea set to buy! The Tea Experience lasted for many hours, until 1:30 when we left for the Financial District to eat lunch and go visit the Shanghai Aquarium.

The Tea Experience

The flower that is created when making Lavender Tea

Going to the aquarium was a nice thing to do to keep from wasting our time in Shanghai in our hotel room, but Emily and I both agree that we wouldn’t have minded saving the money that we spent on the tickets.From the aquarium we headed back to the hotel to rest before the long night ahead. I took a nice long nap while Emily and Em watched reruns of The Bachelorette and Pretty Little Liars. I was not very happy about having to wake up from my nap, but I was definitely ready to go to dinner.

A couple taking wedding pictures at the Shanghai Aquarium

We went to a tapas bar in the French Concession, which we discovered is a very fun place to be in the evenings! I, along with the other girls, ordered a roll of sushi and a mini pizza. They were both absolutely DIVINE!! After Dinner we went to a club called Shelter. It is an old bomb shelter that has been converted in to a club. It was a really cool and different place, but we were all so exhausted from the previous week, that we didn’t stay for very long.

Emily and Josh at Shelter

Tsing Tao

18 Jul

Friday July 15, 2011

I posted my latest blog on Friday after my Chinese culture lecture. After I posted it, we left for a Confucian temple. Unfortunately it was an extremely hot and humid day and the one in our group responsible for leading the way that day has zero sense of direction. A 20 minute walk from the metro station to the temple turned into a 2 hour, not so exciting, adventure. Once at the temple, we were so exhausted from the trip that I don’t believe we appreciated or enjoyed it as much as we should and could have.

Confucian Temple

Tree of Wishes, Thoughts, Wants, and Prayers

Confucian Temple

From the temple, we walked to the Yu Garden are that has beautiful gardens (which we had previously toured with the ISA group), as well as a multitude of shops in beautiful architecture buildings surrounding the gardens. We found a cool little stand where a man would write anything you wanted in Chinese characters on the back of beautifully designed cards, fans, or scrolls. He was entertaining and fun to watch. Emily and I were on our own at this point and continued to explore the Yu Gardens area until we ran in to Josh, Sarah, and Ryan. Tsing Tao, an extremely popular type of Japanese beer, had set up a bar, chairs and tables, and a stage beside one of the main ponds. Luckily, Sarah, Ryan, and Josh walked by at the same time the festival was setting up so we were able to enjoy a table and chairs. I have learned that getting a seat anywhere in China is a luxury.

This is how you must cross many of the streets in Shanghai

We sat for close to 2 hours listening to the band until it was time for us to leave for dinner, where Em would later meet up with us.We walked 10 minutes to the metro line, then at the other end, took a cab to the restaurant: Burger Bistro. The sign read that the restaurant was FAMOUS for its burgers and after having one for myself, I don’t doubt the claim! We all left the restaurant very please and very full! From the restaurant we went back to the hotel to rest for about and hour before going out to a bar called Windows Underground. The bar was a lot of fun and we met a lot of new people. We met a chinese guy, Samuel, at the beginning of the night and he stayed with our group all night. ( We all exchanged emails in hopes that we can meet up again before we have to leave). We also met a group of people that are working in Shanghai for the summer. We discovered that one of the guys grew up just two streets down from Ryan. Even when you are in one of the largest cities in the world, it is still such a small world!

Rockin and Rollin in Shanghai: Me, Emily, Ryan, Em, Devin, and Zack

Sichuan Cuisine

15 Jul

Ai Ni (I love you) written on a Pumpkin

I haven’t blogged in quite a few days, but I have gotten into such a groove of a routine of class, working out, dinner, and then walking around Shanghai or going back to the hotel to relax for the night. A group of us joined a gym which is about a 20 minute walk from our hotel, (which I might have mentioned in an earlier blog post). The gym is on the fourth floor of a 10 story  building which I enjoy because when I run on the treadmill, (which is located beside the floor to ceiling windows), I can watch people on the busy street below. A trainer at the gym, Dylan, is extremely friendly and have at least two conversations each time I make a trip to the gym. He constantly follows the guys around, amazed at how “big and strong” they are. Back at school in South Carolina, I try to work out as often as possible as I am trying to get in shape to play club soccer in the fall at USC, but it  feels like a drag. However, for some unknown reason, while I have been in China I am almost constantly craving the gym.

A typical dinner in China is a family style dinner. Everyone sits around the table and the table orders multiple (traditionally 6) dishes to share. (This has added another meal to my “wish list” upon returning to the states: Buckners. It is a family style restaurant between the airport and Macon). The restaurants are broken up by the type of food that is served, which is very different depending on your location in China. Last night we went to a Sichuan restaurant called Baguobuyi. Sichuan food is food from west China and is recognized by its extremely spicy dishes. Sichuan is by far my favorite! I am not usually drawn to spicy food, but I realized that the menu there did not have very much pork which immediately gave the restaurant gold stars in my book. It has been hard for me to get good meat/protein while I have been here because the majority of the meat here is pork, which I whole-heartidly try to avoid. The most popular dish last night was a dish similar to little bread rolls. Half of them looked like typical rolls, and the other half looked more like dough, as if they had only been baked for a very short period of time. Dipped in an icing type of sauce, the rolls started quite the conversation about Cinnabun. Many of us decided that we would immediately buy a cinnamon roll upon landing in an American airport! 🙂

The majority of people in my group have been stuck in Stage 2 of traveling abroad. (Stage 2 is when you miss your home country to the point that you start to see everything in the country that you are in in a negative light. You see everything as being worse than in your country and you begin to resent a lot of things around you. It is NOT a fun stage to be in!) Thankfully, I was only in that stage for a couple of days. I think that is has been so much easier for me because not only am I here for future career/business purposes, but also because I am sincerely interested in and fond of Asian culture, language, and really just Asia (more specifically China) as a whole. Many other people in my group are here strictly for business/ career reasons. They see the life American business men are able to enjoy in Shanghai, (the nice restaurants, hotels, etc.) and want to enjoy those same perks. Obviously not being in that position yet, they feel robbed having to live in an area not nearly as nice, and with non of the same perks.

After becoming more comfortable with the public transit system, the buses and metros, we have become more adventurous with our wandering. From this, we have found some FANTASTIC western style food. FInally some good balanced meals! I think finding good food that we enjoy has been the main catapult in getting many people out of stage 2 and into stage 3. (Stage 3 is once you have learned to accept the country you are in for what it is and you start to really enjoy it. For myself, finding good western style food is exciting for another reason. I am hoping to be able to come back to China for 3 months next summer to do an accounting internship with a company in Shanghai. I enjoy finding fun restaurants and bars that I can take people to next year. Hopefully I can have some people come over to visit considering I would be here during my 21st birthday and would love to be able to see some familiar faces on that day.

Today I had class from 9 am to 10:45 am. Friday is the day of only discussions in my Chinese culture class. In about an hour, a small group of us are planning to take a very long walking tour along an area in Shanghai that will allow us to visit a daoist and Confucius temple, as well as many other things. That will take up a majority of our day. So after the tour we will go to dinner and then plan to spend the rest of the evening at a jazz bar. Tonight will probably be an early night considering we have a reservation at 9 tomorrow morning for a 3 hour “experience” at a tea house.

It has recently hit us that we only have 3 more weeks in China and there is still a very long list of things that we would like to do and see before we must leave. Josh and Emily spend about 60 minutes the other night writing out a very well thought out schedule for this weekend and next Friday and Sunday. ( Next Saturday we will all take a day trip to Nanjing). I will try to be better about blogging to keep you all updated with our adventures!

Ren shi ni hao gao xing.

It was nice to meet you.

(Just another phrase for anyone who may at some point travel to China)   🙂

Marriage Market

11 Jul

The Shanghai Museum

Yesterday (Sunday July 10) was a fantastic day. Nothing overly exciting occurred, but it was a nice relaxed day and night, one of the few days so far that weren’t rushed and borderline stressful. Emily, Em, Josh and I headed to Zhongshan Park metro station around 12 for lunch. We ate Subway, (a favorite comfort food for us in China) and then had yogurt with fruit for dessert. At 2 pm we met up with the entire ISA group in the same station to head to People’s Square/ People’s Park.

One the weekend in People’s Park, which is located in the center of People’s Square, there is a “marriage market”. In China, the people are very studious and therefore busy with their schoolwork and jobs. Most of them do not believe themselves to have enough time to spend looking for a spouse. (The legal marriage age in China is 22 for females and 20 for males). Because of this, the older generation will take their son or daughters resume to the “marriage market”. The resumes are hung on trees with 女 (female) or 男 (male) largely written in the top left corner. The parents then walk around reading resumes, hoping to find their child a spouse.

Resumes on trees at Marriage Market

Arguing over a woman's child. Someone must have a fantastic resume!

Wall of Resumes

From the market, we walked a couple of blocks to the Shanghai Museum. The landscape, near by architecture, and the museum itself were all exceedingly beautiful. We paid 40 kuai qian, (about 7 dollars), a person for the audio tours which turned out to be a great investment. Without them, I would have never been able to fully appreciate all of the things that the museum had to offer.

People's Square in Shanghai, China

People's Square in Shanghai, China

Em, Emily, Josh and I left the museum around 5:30 and began our search for a western meal. We flagged down a taxi and gave him a business card from a Mexican restaurant we had spotted multiple days in advance. We have almost gotten a pretty good routine down to manage our way around Shanghai. When we see a restaurant, attractions, or just a general area we like, we find the nearest place with a business card and keep one in each of our wallets. Handing a business card to a taxi driver is much easier than communicating directions that we don’t know, much less in Chinese.  We went to a Mexican restaurant that has award-winning tequila, so we all got margaritas, DIVINE nachos for an appetizer, and a variety of enchiladas, burritos, and fish tacos for the main entrée. We also found a great café near by to try another day.

By the time we were finished with dinner it was dark outside, but the weather was great so we decided to start walking and see where it led us. We discovered that a metro line was just blocks away which was a great surprise. Before we jumped o the metro back home, we found a great teashop. The owner was full of information and was extremely helpful. She educated us on teas while freshly brewing the different kinds for us to try. Like I said earlier, It was a fun, relaxing, and beautiful day and night in Shanghai.

Full dining set in The Shanghai Museum

I have a test coming up this week in my mandarin class but I will try to post again in the next day or two. Thanks everyone for reading my blog. I fully enjoy reading all of the comments!

ZaiJian!