A Travellerspoint blog

July 2013

Checking in from China

sunny 40 °F

27 June 2013 – 05 July 2013

We’ve been on the road for about ten days and I thought it would be a good time to catch up before classes start tomorrow.
I’ll back up just a bit…

The 27th through 01 July were spent visiting with my Mom in Redwood City. Hottest week of the year and no A/C, it seems the weather gods are getting us ready for Asia. During our time there, I was able to get some things sorted for Mom and we made the short trip over the hill to have dinner with Jim’s cousin Marty and his wife Deborah on Friday night in Half Moon Bay. It went from really warm to “on the chilly side” in a matter of 20 minutes. Always nice to be able to visit with the Benson’s.

Our time there did drag a little – it was a nice visit but we wanted to get going. Occasionally, we’d look at each other, both thinking “we’re ready to leave”.

On the 1st, we had a twelve hour flight to Shanghai on China Eastern. Really not bad at all! We had arranged for our guesthouse to pick us up at the airport and after passing through Customs there was Lily with her “James Burke” sign. Normally, we’d make our way to the Maglev for the quick trip from Pudong Airport into the city but with an extra heavy bag of “school stuff”, convenience won out especially after a 12 hour flight. Ultimately, we were glad that we had a driver. Shanghai is HOT and HUMID…..really HOT – about 97 F with about the same amount of humidity. I will never complain about hot and dry again. Good food and a cold beer at the Shaanxi restaurant right next door to the hostel and it was time for bed.

Phoenix Hostel is basic and clean, the staff was friendly and the big plus is the great location: short walking distance to People’s Park and the Shanghai Museum with a little longer walk to the Bund.

Phoenix Hotel

Phoenix Hotel

We lost a day going over, arriving late on Tuesday. Wednesday, weather is pretty much the same – sunny and HOT!!. We were up early – like 430am. Our internal time clocks are all messed up. We wait until about 0645 and start to wander – it’s already hot. Shanghai is just starting to open her sleepy eyes – a few people on the streets – no westerners at all. We do have a couple errands to run – SIM card for the cell and breakfast. Our guesthouse is close to Huanghe Street and our favorite dumpling shops… Yang’s here we come!! They do a local fried dumpling call xiaolongbao. We found this shop on our last trip and have been looking forward to noshing on these lovely little gems since we decided to start our trip in Shanghai. This time, Jim was well versed in “how” to eat them without having them explode all down the front of his shirt.
From breakfast, we walk to the Bund – probably a mile, wander around and make our way back to the hostel. Have I mentioned how HOT and HUMID Shanghai is this time of year?? Yes, we knew it was going to be hot…and humid but it is one of those things you have to experience and then remember how uncomfortable it is. I don’t know how the people who live there do it…and not sweat.

A small guilty pleasure Jim and I have when we travel is to take in a movie or two. I know we’re just starting this trip but there really won’t be any cinema time during class. We’ve been to Shanghai before and enjoyed the museums and tourist attractions so we decide on IMAX 3D Superman – yes, in English with Chinese sub titles. Other than sitting a little too far forward – we really enjoyed it.

Let me introduce to you a new character to my blog – you’ll be hearing a lot about her for the next 6 weeks – so I thought I would give you all a little background. Brenda was with us at HUST in 2011, she lives in Chandler and during our time here in 2011 she and I became fast friends. When we decided to head back to China this year, I contacted her to see if she was interested in teaching again – yup!!!! Brenda and I will be teaching partners for the three weeks of class. After class, Jim, Brenda and I will be traveling to Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia before we part ways and she heads to Bali for a relaxing five days. She’ll then be homeward bound, hopefully with some great memories. Us…after Malaysia – it’s up in the air. Can’t let out all our secrets :-)

Water Lily in People's Park

Water Lily in People's Park

Back to Shanghai… Brenda arrives at the Phoenix and joins us for dinner and we’re all still dealing with jet lag so it’s off to bed.
Thursday, our plan is to take Brenda to our “other” favorite steamed dumpling place for breakfast. From there we headed to the Old Town area which was recommended in some of the guide books. Personally, I wasn’t terribly impressed. It was very commercial – tons of shops. Feeling no need to linger it was on to the Bund and got our tickets for an evening river cruise. The last time we were in Shanghai, our guest house was quite a ways out and we never made it to see the lights along the river at night.

Lunch at Shanghai Grandmothers on Fuzhou and it was back to the hostel for some down time.

The sun starts to set about 715pm this time of year. Our cruise left the dock about 740pm and wandered the Haungpu River for about 90 minutes. At 100yuan (about $15), it is one of the best deals in Shanghai. Being three of the very few Westerners on the boat, requested for photos were abundant.

The Bund at Night

The Bund at Night

We headed back to our street to grab some dinner after the cruise – not really sure how late places stayed open. There was a small restaurant across from our hostel and we took a leap of faith. It ended up being a really good leap. Unbeknownst to us, it was place that only sold chili crab and most of the staff spoke very little English. After our questions and a few blank stares, one of the waiters disappeared upstairs a minute or two later down come a young man; the English speaking owner. He guided up through the menu with ease. When our crabs (kind of langoustine, crayfish things) came out, our eyes grew wide as saucers. It was a huge tray filled with crab, beef bones (meant to flavor the crab but also for us to suck the marrow out of the bones) in a deep red chili sauce. We were also given a plastic bib that went over our heads and covered us to the knees. Little did we know that those bibs would be a saving grace for our clothing. Also, to complete the outfit was a pair of plastic gloves. It was time to get cracking – literally!!!

Chili Crab

Chili Crab

Up close and personal with a chili crab

Up close and personal with a chili crab

Our crab fest was a wonderful way to end our time in Shanghai. After dinner it was off to bed. Jim and I made our way to the airport the next morning and Brenda exploring more of Shanghai for one more day. As we said our goodbyes, we had no idea what an adventure lay ahead.

Posted by pjburke 00:10 Archived in China Comments (7)

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