Welcome to China – but no access to Facebook or WordPress for me. Guess I knew this, but it did not really register until I tried to access my blog. But I am writing my posts anyhow and my cousin will show me a way to post them later –more updates will then follow when I am in Hong Kong and Thailand.
Only been away for 3 days, but – as you will see – I already saw a lot and thus time flies. Feels more like a week or more. And already only one more full day in Shanghai before I fly to Hong Kong. The plan is to spend tomorrow strolling through the old French quarter, the hip shopping area and maybe I will take some more photos of the Bund at night and I guess I have to go on the Transrapid.
But here they are – my different posts, all in one:
Traveling with a cold, not much fun. Only upside, once your ears are blocked on the plane, you hardly hear the children around you screaming …
2. Jan 3rd was travel day for (what felt like) all ex-pads returning to Shanghai from their Christmas break at home. I have never been on a flight with that many children.
3. I guess my annoyed look is pretty scary. At least the little boy next to me convinced his mom to swop seats with him after I glared at him when he kept kicking me – I ignored it the first 50 times … but there is a limit.
4. Warnings were given to me about Chinese being very pushy (and a little rude) when in line … no one told me the German ex-pads at immigrations are worse!
5. Someone wise – you know who you are – gave me the great advice to look at things that might look like a challenge in a more playful way. In short: I am having great fun playing my very own “scavenger hunt” (only in my head) and rewarding myself points for achievements:
Actually finding ATM at airport would have been 100 points, but I granted myself 50 for exchanging cash before even collecting my luggage
Maneuvering around unofficial taxi drivers: 10 bonus points
Noticing scammers that try to lure you away from tourist attractions, telling you they are closed, only to direct you into their stores: 100 points (I had been well trained for this one by my cousin Markus!
Not many tall red heads in China. I had my picture taken countless times today. A few times I was even asked to pose with people. Slightly feeling like a celeb, but the effect is wearing off quickly!
Staying with my cousin Markus and his wife Mona has many advantages – free housing, local tour guides, great company and as an extra bonus, they are foodies, and have taken me to some amazing places for meals.
Within three hours of arriving in Shanghai I was at Din Tai Fung the dumpling place I had read so many great reviews about. So good!!! And since really close to where I am staying, I might go back for more before leaving. But day 1 got even better: My hosts had made reservations for us at Lost Heaven a traditional Chinese restaurant with great design and great food.
My highlight so far was dinner at Mr. and Mrs. Bund – right on the famous street Bund. What a place: charming name, great design, amazing view and good service and delicious food. A bit hard to describe, but a bit like French cuisine meets tapas meets China. Am so glad, Mona and Markus know the manager of the place, she got us a table (hard to get) and even one with an amazing view. And then she treated us to desert: tarte tatin and strawberries with coca-cola sorbet. Life can be pretty good. Someday I will come back without a cold … when I can appreciate the full flavor of every dish!
Tonight we have reservations for a Korean place. For lunch I had Indian. Culinary tour through Asia in Shanghai!
Had my Indian curry at a foodhall – more like a huge department store for food. Many levels of local and international food. Including shrimp in snack size packages …
When we shopped for breakfast, I was surprised by the choice of bread (fresh whole grain rolls!) as well as all the international brands at the shop just across the street from my cousins flat. Literally – a shelf full of German jam (all imported with German labels), various types of regional German bratwurst 😉 and a larger German beer selection than in my local supermarket at home! The explanation I got: More and more people here think that foreign products will not have been tempered with … a lot of people lost trust in local products after the baby milk powder scandal a few years ago.
My travel theme this year seems to be: go to a city for a few days but spend the first day there traveling someplace else. Helsinki for 2 days – first day in Tallinn. Shanghai for 4 days – first day in Hangzhou. Mona and Markus came with me to visit the famous Westlake. And while the train station in Shanghai was super modern and run like an airport, I was glad I had my personal guides that speak the language! (And I will likely continue the trend by spending my first day in Hong Kong … in Macao).
Back to Hangyhou: The modern highspeed train only takes a little over an hour for the 200km trip. And along the ride it got more and more foggy – I thought. I soon learn the fog was smog. With air pollution levels at over 300 in Hangzhou. Thanks to my cold, I could hardly breeze anyhow, so I did not notice much difference.
We took a boat on the Westlake – fog / smog can be very mystical! Then went to see famous stone carvings – I just love the budda’s smile! We visited one of the largest temples in China and took a stroll through an old Chinese village that has been turned into a luxury hotel.
Today I ventured out on my own. Subway system is great here. I will not understand why only backpacks need to be ex-rayed before entering the subway – but since there has never been a wait, I don’t mind being checked. Some random pics below. It got late and I need to go sleep. Will add and update when in Hong Kong.