Do not worry this entry is not a review of the Madonna/Sean Penn flick nor am I going to discuss a tryst with a person who was a different gender than once believed… although that would really liven up this blog.
One of the best things about working in Hong Kong is the plethora of public holidays. From January to June, there is at least one long weekend each month. For April's holiday, I went to Shanghai with my fellow secondee, Cheryl. Air travel in Asia is such a pleasant experience compared to the US. Even on a holiday weekend, there are no lines at the Hong Kong airport. Also, the planes are boarded in 10 minutes or less, and once the plane leaves the gate, it actually takes off. I calculate I have spent at least six days of my life on the tarmac at JFK or LaGuardia. No more waiting for this gweilo!
Within an hour and a half of landing, we were checked into the Shanghai Hilton. I cannot say enough about the efficiency in Asia. The bullet train from the airport to the city is quick and easy. The subway, which we took from the bullet train to the hotel, was rather easy to figure out too, though I did need help using the ticket machine. Lucky for me, a deaf man, who I had an entire conversation with before realizing he was deaf, helped me.
My four days in Shanghai were spent sightseeing, shopping and eating, and visiting with my friend Emma, who had recently moved to Shanghai. Emma speaks fluent Mandarin and was a great tour guide.
The food in Shanghai was fabulous. I strongly recommend a restaurant called Lost Heaven. It was the first – and best so far – Yuannesefood I have ever had. The Mexican food at Cantina Agave was quite tasty as was the Indian Food at Kaveen’s Indian Kitchen. Of course, we had the famous dumplings at Wang Jia Sha – and they were fantastic. Also, the lychee martini at the Peninsula Hotel rooftop bar is not to be missed.
We had so much fun shopping. We spent quite a lot of time at the Taobao Market on Nanjing Road. The market, also known as the fake market, has everything and anything: underwear, pearls, fake luxury goods, and all sorts of electronics, even the iPad2. It was a bit overwhelming at first because the vendors are quite aggressive. They are not afraid to pull your arm and drag you into their stall. The first thing we purchased was coats. Shanghai was quite cold compared to Hong Kong, so we each purchased a faux Moncler puffy jacket. Now, I can look like the Michelin Man in style! We bought a lot of odds and ends and had a ball doing it. The bargaining is the best part. Whatever price they seller names, you cut by about 40 to 60 percent.
We also shopped in the boutiques on Xinle Road and in Xintiandi, but thought they were overpriced so we did not buy anything.
The sightseeing was great. We saw the Bund, the Pearl Museum, People’s Square, and Shanghai Old Town. We went to a traditional tea ceremony and then to an authentic restaurant where nobody spoke English and there was no English menu. The food we were served was not bad but we left the restaurant still hungry and ate again two hours later.
We also got reflexology. Like everywhere in Asia, there are tons of reflexology places. Ending the day with a foot massage is always a good idea. There is a foot massage place right across the road from the Hilton. Go see number 23, or Mike as one of his clients calls him. My guess is this client is a Michael Jordan fan. One thing I should mention about traveling with Cheryl is that people talk to her. If there is a survey to be taken, Cheryl is always selected. If there is one person who knows English in an entire city, they will find Cheryl and talk to her. Mike was the only person in the foot massage place that knew English, and he did not stop talking to Cheryl the entire hour. He told us his entire life story about how he learned English in middle school and the only job he can have in China is a masseur because he is blind.
I loved Shanghai and I even got a little bit of work done thanks to Cheryl’s assistance.