Thursday, March 29, 2018

Good Morning, Shanghai!

In Gucheng Park, looking towards the Bund.

Poor SK, jetlag kept her up into the wee hours of the morning and so she had barely a few hours of sleep by the time Bro and I were awake. I know she must be really tired but I can see she's determined to push through it so I just have us all carry on as if she was on the same time zone as Bro and I.

While SK was in the shower, I took some photos of the views outside our apartment window and shot a video tour of our very modern and comfy Airbnb.  It's spacious, with all the modern amenities we need and is located just about 3 blocks from East Nanjing Road pedestrian street and two blocks from the Bund.  For $160 per night, you can't go wrong!

From our windows, we have wonderful views of the skyline of modern Shanghai as well as not so modern Shanghai.



From our living room windows, I can peer down to an adjacent rooftop which is as you can see, is the outdoor space for a family.


You can't see it very well in the photo below, but the family has a set of pigeon coops - it's that set of boxes on the lower right of the photo.




We're on our own timetable i.e., no rush so when SK was ready to go, we left.  She's been put in charge of the apartment key which is kept inside a lockbox that is controlled by a manual combination lock.  It's nice that we don't have to carry the key with us whenever we leave the apartment.


Like our apartment in Hong Kong, this one in Shanghai also does not have a very nice looking hallway areas.  Wisely, owners spend their money on the interiors of the apartment and whoever owns this building isn't investing any money in prettying up the exterior spaces.  No curb appeal here.


The moment you exit the elevators on the ground floor, you're greeted by the sight of all the bicycles....none of which appeared to be secured by chain and lock.  People seem to just be very honest here.  Do this in DC and the bike will be stolen in little time.


Bro didn't quite know what to make of all the bicycles in the lobby but SK, with her humorous perspective, interpreted the collection as "art".   That's seeing things in a positive light!


We were venturing out in search of a place to have breakfast.  We didn't have to venture far.  Just across the street to be exact.  There were two restaurants, located next to each other, that were open for business.  Both had menus posted out front and we checked them.


We settled on one of two as luckily, we were each able to identify a dish that we could happily eat.  I took photos of the dishes that Bro and I each wanted and used them to order our meal - Bro wanted the spicy noodles and I wanted the congee.  The congee was okay but not anywhere as good as the bowls I had in Hong Kong.  SK was happy to be in dumpling land so that's what she ordered - a bowl of the steamed dumplings.






It was a nice breakfast.  Food was okay but the conversation and laughter more than made up for it.  Time to hit the streets.   The other were relying on me to guide them today so the first place on the sightseeing agenda was YuYuan Garden.  I visited the place when I was in Shanghai in 2009 and I liked it.  Bro typically does the navigation work and now, he has SK to assist him.  It's nice to just be able to say where I want to go and someone else figures out how to get me there.  YuYuan is located quite some distance from our Airbnb apartment but not so far that you could not comfortably walk there so that's what we opted to do instead of taking the subway.

Last time I was in Shanghai, it was part of a tour to China and even though I had planned to be in Shanghai for several days,  I only had a day to walk around on my own because the other days were set aside for day trips to Hangzhou, Suzhou and several nearby water villages.  So, in some ways, this is my first real look at Shanghai and having just come from Hong Kong, the differences between the two cities could not be more stark.  For one thing, there aren't as many high rises here.  You can actually see a lot of sky without having to strain your neck too far upwards.   Compared to Hong Kong, there's not only a lot more vehicular traffic here but there's literally a million more bicyclists!  I swear that every second you are walking, someone is passing you by on a bicycle.  It's non stop bikes!  Oddly enough, you don't see a single motorcycle though electric scooters are also a fairly common sight here.


Like Hong Kong, there is food everywhere to be had in Shanghai.  For breakfast, it's common to eat dumplings here.  These were like pot stickers. 


We also stopped at a vendor who was making what I would describe as the Shanghainese version of jianbing aka the omelette crepe that is beloved in Beijing.  Even though he was not a very nice man and would not allow me to take any photos, what he was making looked delicious and I wanted Bro and SK to try it so we bought a crepe to go.  I have to say, it was very tasty!

For Chinese, breakfast time is also time to start preparing for lunch. 


In Shanghai, you still see buildings that recall an earlier era....like what you imagine the buildings might have looked like back in the early part of the 20th century.  Looking at all the laundry hanging out to dry, it's obvious people live here.  This is all mixed in among buildings that are sleek and ultra modern and only open during business hours. 



Even though our walk took us through the commercial heart of the city, most establishments had yet to open up for business which might have explained why the streets were so quiet and there were barely any people on the sidewalks.  I am certain this will change in very little time so I am enjoying my leisurely stroll while I have a chance.  Weatherwise, it's nice here.  Nice sunny day, comfortable temperature.  In fact, we also had nice weather in Hong Kong.  It's the reward for traveling in spring.


As there are a gazillion bicycles in Shanghai, there are also a gazillion bike rental racks.  The racks here are huge.  In DC, you might find a rack holding 20 bicycles.  Here, I would say the racks are at least twice as long if not longer and they are literally available every few blocks and there are several companies offering rental bikes.


Our stroll to YuYuan Garden took us to Gucheng Park, the largest park located in this part of the town.  Lovely bit of green space.




We walked through a small section of the park to exit on the side near YuYuan Garden.  Once we got back out on the streets, we got a bit lost but I knew if I spotted the old style buildings, I knew we would have arrived at the shopping complex, Yu Bazaar, that surrounds the garden.  The buildings in Yu Bazaar were all constructed new but made to match the architectural style of the garden which dates back to 1559.   Soon enough, not only did I spot the old style buildings but the crowd of people around the area were sure signs we had arrived at our first destination for the day.  When I was in YuYuan Garden in 2009,  I was pretty much the only person wandering about the place.  Seeing the horde of people heading into Yu Bazaar, I was already certain we would not have that same experience today.

On to YuYuan Garden!