Monday, June 22, 2009

Exploring Shanghai.


T
oday was an *off day* for me as I deliberately left one day that would be unplanned. I woke up around 8am and as I was getting ready for the day, decided I would head over to Yu Yuan Gardens though I have to admit, I had no idea what I was going to be seeing.

With rough directions from the clerk at the reception desk of the hotel, I headed out.

This is how humid Shanghai is. Took my camera out of the bag and the lens immediately fogged up! The view is of Nanjing Road which is the main shopping (pedestrian) only street in Shanghai. My hotel is just a block off Nanjing Road - very conveniently located.



 













This is the street my hotel is on. I'm staying in Old Shanghai...in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of Shanghai life. I love it!
 










This is the dumpling man I bought my breakfast from every morning. Plop down 4 RMB with the cashier inside the restaurant and then walk up to his window and collect 4 breakfast sized soup dumplings in bag....chopsticks included!
It was a weekday morning so I was curious to see how Shanghainese go about this time of day. Do they pick up coffee or tea at a local place like we do at Starbuck’s? No. What is the Shanghai equivalent of McDonald’s? There isn’t any but there are lots of street vendors selling food. Are Shanghainese drivers in the same rush as metro DC drivers? Worse. They don’t stop for pedestrians at crosswalks :-(




















Shanghai is a very modern city – full of brand, spanking new skyscrapers. But every now and again, you would be reminded that there is still an old side to this city. Sometimes the contrast between new and old can be quite striking.


















Somewhere along the way to Yu Yuan, I asked for directions to just make sure I was still headed in the right direction. Few Chinese speak English so hand gestures by a very nice, young girl told me to continue in the direction I was already headed in. Soon I saw street signs to guide me.

After what seemed like an eternity, I arrived at a set of buildings that looked like Chinese pavilions. I took a wild guess that that was where I needed to head. Soon I saw the souvenir vendors. I was somewhere tourists were expected to be. Following my instinct, I soon found myself inside a grand shopping complex. These were the shops of Yu Yuan Gardens. I really was not in a shopping mood so I wandered around basically window shopping.




Eventually, I stumbled on the ticket office for the actual gardens. 40 RMB later and I was inside a serene Chinese garden that occupied several acres enclosed within stone walls. There was one beautiful gardenscape after another. Ponds, bridges, pavilions were artfully placed creating interesting vistas at every turn. Fish, plants and statues added interest. Vendors occupied several of the pavilions so you could do more shopping if you wanted to.

Here's a slideshow of the photos I took while wandering through YuYuan Gardens.

 
The gardens were relatively crowd free so being there turned out to be the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the shopping complex that lay just on the other side of the walls. I spent quite a bit of time in the gardens but after a while, it does all begin to look the same.
By the time I exited the gardens, I was ready for lunch. I decided to just head for one of the restaurants in the shopping complex. It was a huge, cafeteria style place – food was not fancy but it was filling. Lunch was veggie dumplings, some noodles and a soda. After lunch, I decided to head back to the hotel. I trudged back in the sweltering heat and humidity. By the time I arrived, I was dripping in sweat – I must have looked like a drowned rat! Back in my room, I decided to rest for a couple of hours and then head out for a Chinese foot massage. I’ve always wanted a foot massage and I saw a couple places on my way back to the hotel that looked decent. But I think jet lag was finally hitting me and what I planned to be just a nap turned into a long restful sleep. I’ll have to get the foot massage another day! :-)