Monday, August 13, 2007

Shanghai Roundup

We’re a bit behind on our updates (too much fun to be had, too little time for blogging), so we’ll have to resort to something of a more cursory update.

Sunday morning we opted for brunch, Shanghai-style, with a dim sum feast. The place was great—bustling with locals and no other whities in sight—and naturally we ordered far more than we could consume. Veggie dumplings, pork dumplings, rice noodle rolls, durian pastries, a gelatin that tasted like pancakes, beef balls, chive pancake, radish dumplings, you name, we ordered it. The meal was delicious, though by the end we were a bit defeated.

To burn off our full stomachs, we headed to Moganshanlu, a hip artsy area with lots of little galleries that was described in the guide book as the meatpacking district of Shanghai. There was clearly no High Line in sight nor a nascent Whitney Museum, however, so that comparison may not be totally on the mark. We explored artists’ workshops, Josh befriended one of the artists, and felt generally modern arty and chic.

Because too much culture can have a negative effect, our next stop was the massive Qipu market, the center for all things fake in Shanghai. To describe it as a ring in Dante’s Inferno would not be an overstatement. But we persevered, emerging with a couple bags to bring home all our travel purchases, a belt and a wallet.

Outside, we quickly stocked up on some street food (dumplings and delicious bing), and then hopped in a cab for Xintiandi, the open air mall-ish development new to Shanghai. It is alleged to be an urban planning feat of genius so I (EB) was naturally picking up tips left and right. We waited out the rain with some pastries and coffee (they had a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf—we don’t even have them in NYC!) and then walked to People’s Square where we amused for what felt like hours by adorable Chinese children playing in the fountain.

Jon and Amy then headed off to the airport to pick up our newest addition, Halliday Hart, and Josh and I took to wandering. We walked south from People’s Square, bought Josh some trendy Chinese sneakers, and made our way to Taikang Lu, an “art” street that was mostly made up of tiny little alleys that appeared filled with trash, bicycles and old men playing cards, but that at the end were a warren of shops, cafes and other fun little treasures.

Back to the hotel, we met up with the rest of the team—now with Halliday in tow we officially constitute a tour group and Josh is required to carry a flag—and headed off for a pre-dinner drink. For dins, we opted to go back to Jishi, where we went the very first night of the trip, for some more delicious pork knuckle. That was paired with bean curd, chicken with pepper sauce, pork with chili sauce, eggplant and other yummy treats. Once again, it was great.

Monday morning we headed off to the Shanghai Museum to fulfill our cultural quotient for the day. There were learned about Chinese minorities, jade, paintings, porcelain and also the Great Vowel Shift going on in the English language (the last because Josh wanted to share some learnings with the group, not necessarily because it was related to China’s long and storied history on display at the museum).

All that culture certainly builds up an appetite, so we opted to gorge ourselves on soup dumplings (pork, pork and crab, chicken). It was more than humanly consumable, but we polished them off, all $5.50 worth for the 5 of us.

We walked for a bit to burn off the calories from lunch (actually burning them off would take 3 laps of the Earth, minimum) and explored some side streets north of People’s Square. After our own version of supermarket sweep at a Chinese supermarket—never can have enough unfamiliar snacks—we headed back over to Taikang Lu to check out the shops and alleys as a group. A few purchases later, we headed back to the fabric market to check out our clothes. For the most part they came out well, though Josh’s order (12 shirts total) came back with all the collars and bottoms screwed up, so we will be heading back yet a third time this morning to see if they have been able to repair them. Apparently Chinese tailoring is a magical art where they allege that if they mess everything up, it can all be fixed in a couple of hours and you will never be the wiser. We’ll see how that goes.

Back to our hotel to get changed and gussied up, we headed out for our final night in Shanghai and our last night together as Team China. Our first stop was the Cloud 9 Bar at the Grand Hyatt in Pudong, which gave us pricey drinks with a fabulous view of the Bund and the city below. It took three elevators and about 9 hotel staffers to escort us to the top, but the experience from the 87th floor was totally worth it. Our cocktails finished, we headed to 3 on the Bund for dinner at Jean-Georges. “Jean-Georges?” you may ask. From this street food-loving, dumpling-scarfing crew? Well, for our last night we figured we should live it up and see if in one meal we could equal the cost of every other meal on the China trip combined (we may just have done it). There’s no need to regale you with the wonders of the meal or the fabulous view of Pudong, suffice it to say the meal included foie gras in three forms, and foam of every possible variety. It was an unbelievable treat.

Our bellies beyond full, we headed home for our last night at the Old House Inn.

One last administrative matter—it is with sadness that I report that this blog entry represents the last of the Olken-Kelly-Herczeg-Koch (and most recently including Hart) group adventures. This morning we parted ways, half to Vietnam and the other to Japan. Though we are bummed to part ways, we will all meet up again in NYC, Boston and San Fran in the weeks to come. For you, our blog readers, however, this should mean twice the fun, as the blog moves in two directions and perhaps includes twice the posts. Please keep commenting, as having dueling Vietnamese-Japanese blogs means we are in stiff competition to see who is the funniest. And we, the Tokyo two-some, would like to say to the Hanoi-bound threesome—Bring It On.


Ron said...

How trendy are Josh's trendy Chicom sneakers? Will they be worn widely in wild Tokyo? A fashion statement for fun rides on Fun Wa?

Kathleen said...

Awww ... I feel so close to you as I sit at my desk sipping my delicious Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf beverage. That picture made me hungry -- yum!

Ali said...

what kind of bags did you see at the market?