So here I am sitting in my new favorite cafe... Wagas. It is lovely. I am in Shanghai, and we have been here since Saturday. I am actually quite proud of us, because we made it from the "hotel" to Luxu all the way to Shanghai with our friends Don and Carole. It's hard to explain the sense of accomplishment when we are able to make it around a place like Shanghai by ourselves, when we don't speak the language. But we did it, and we are getting to slowly know the way around: 1) the taxi protocol...which requires standing in the middle of the road, risking life and limb, to flag over a taxi that may or may not decide to take us to our destination, sometimes forcing our way past others who are jostling for the same taxi, and then trying (often in vain) to explain to the driver where we are going.
CHINA TIP #1 for those with no clue...When travelling around China (or, for that matter, any country where you are unable to speak the language) collect and carry business cards for all of the places you like to go, or want to go. If you don't have a business card, many places have little maps and directions that you can print off the from the internet in the language. Last resort situation: Try to say your destination in the language, so that you can relay to the driver... Possible repercussion: the driver will assume you speak the language, and will start talking to you. Doesn't matter... this usually results in peals of laughter by all involved. My business card holder is stuffed full, but my Chinese is improving quickly.
So, we have spent the last three days exploring Shanghai, and 2) the metro system.
China tip #2 for those with no clue: When the metro train starts to make a horrible siren noise, it means that the doors are about to close, and there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that will stop them from closing, even a person, in between the doors. The result? If this occurs, as it does, (AND NOT JUST TO ME) try to pry yourself from the doors as quickly as possible. Problem; sometimes there is more of you on one side of the door than the other, and sometimes it is not on the same side that your friends or son is. If this happens, and you are in the train and they are not, or vice versa, gesture maniacally to your friends the number of stops that you will meet them at. Preferable solution is that you all are aware of the stop you need to get off at.
I have decided that there are basically two major things to do in Shanghai; Shop and eat. Ok, that is not true. There are a lot of other things to do, but man, Shopping and Eating must be at the top of that list. Even the metro stations have malls in them. It is really interesting, and sometimes annoying.
China tip #3 for those with no clue: You must learn these three words… BU YAO, XIEXIE (sounds like bu yow sheh sheh)… Yes, Darci, your phrase book has proven invaluable. This means, "I don't want it, thank you". Some people I have seen just forcibly say "BU YAO!" But I don't feel comfortable with that. Give me some time. ;)
We have found some pretty great restaurants. 1) The Cantine: Great fresh juices and Panini sandwiches and roasted potatoe french fry things. 2) restAURAnt (or AURA): Kurin was very pleased with the pizza, and I had an amazing roasted root veg salad with a sundried tomato dressing. 3) Wagas: great healthy lunches, dinners, and best of all, 50% OF BREAKFAST before 10 am. 4) Gourmet Cafe: BURGERS, BURGERS, And BURGERS. This place was pretty great, and even gives Gord at Armani's a run for his money. (Armani's still wins though!) They have six different flavours of French Fries, 16 different kinds of burgers and AWESOME onion rings. I had the Beano Burger (vegetarian) and Kurin had the Portobello Burger. WE are finding eating vegetarian difficult, but still preferred to the alternative. Ok, so that brings me to 5) Ming Tang Organic Restaurant: This restaurant is located in what is called the Cool Docks. Really great artsy area, in a warehouse district. The main street is really scary, but once you walk through the side alley, you emerge into this beautiful courtyard, with fountains, and lovely buildings that have been filled with cafes, art stores, quilting shops, and YES, the tattoo and piercing store I was looking for all day. (long story short, I lost the ball on my eyebrow ring) Anyway, Ming tang was lovely Chinese cuisine, but best of all was Helly, the lovely dietician and organic economy consultant J for the restaurant, who left the restaurant to walk us all the way to the bus stop, wait with us, and tell the bus driver which stop to let us out at for the metro. Then, before she could get off the bus, the bus started driving away... and we were saying "hey!" The bus driver didn't realize that she was not coming with us. lol
Anyway, really just reiterates my point about how kind and friendly the people are here. I am sure that not everyone is, but so far, I have only met 1 person who was not overly nice, and that was the chick at the tattoo parlour... a possible modern day narcissus, the clincher being that every piece of art on her walls were photos of herself. Great tattoo artist though. Shanghaitattoo.com
Ok... I must to bed... 50% off breakfast comes early you know. J Last thing I want to say is that Shanghai is definitely NOT cheap. It is exponentially more expensive than the "towns" of Luxu and Shenta. That said, we could probably have done this trip for cheaper, but all in, I think we have spent around 400 dollars... 2400 rmb. We will have to be more careful on future trips if we are going to save any money or travel more extensively around China... or Japan for that matter. Our hotel this time was 216 a night... compared to the 160 at the hostel and the food here is comparable to meals in Canada, if you eat at the more trendy restaurants. So basically, if Kurin and I are going to come in to Shanghai even monthly, we need to stay at hostels, eat noodles and rice, and learn the metro and bus system so that we can reach our goals.
We have done more than I ever imagined I would, but I still want to make it across China to other places.
Next: Ningbo and Suzhou.