We spent one very fast week in Shanghai, and despite extensive use of the subway and walking eight to ten miles a day, were only able to experience a tiny fraction of the city. Shanghai is an intense mixture of ancient culture and tradition, modern city-ness, western-esque consumerism and 12 million people – of whom all that we interacted with – were really really nice!
Because of this amazing mixture it is possible to enjoy classic Chinese street food from a vendor making simple fare on simple equipment, well, right on the street, and then walk around the corner and into the biggest, nicest, GAP, Old Navy, or Dolce and Gabbana store and then cross the street and visit a temple or museum or park. There were groups of gentlemen effortlessly flying these kites so high they were nearly out of sight!
To make the most of our visit Amber had lined out a number of things we wanted to see for sure. A typical day would start with a visit to a street vendor for on-the-go food to eat while walking to the subway. Honestly, I was never quite sure what we were ordering but it was fascinating to watch them prepare it and it always tasted amazing. One of my favorites was a huge crepe like thing, called jian bing, with an egg thinly spread over the crepe, sauces, cilantro and a crispy wafer of some kind folded into a wrap. They were about 45 cents and delicious! Once at our destination, we walked. We walked a lot. There was just so much to see and it is all so unique – even stopping to choose a bottled drink was an adventure!
The Xintiandi district (car-less shopping and western food lined streets) was holding its annual festival while we were there. The day we visited there was live guitar music and a large mural in creation. We were not sure exactly what the mural was depicting but it appeared to be a struggle between good and bad and the two characters in the little box translates to “chief of the celestial bodies” (I think).Shanghai is such a city of contrasts. The younger generations are dressed in virtually the identical clothes of their counterparts in U.S. cities right down to the name brand label or an AC/DC t-shirt. And of course everyone has their mobile device in hand at all times as they hurry along chatting with friends, or sipping milk tea or Starbucks from a plastic drink cup. The city’s beautiful, modern, artistically built skyscrapers are the number one choice for selfie backgrounds. At the same time, Shanghai is clearly a city proud of its traditions and history and all those things that make China what it is. We noticed that, whatever site we explored, as visitors trying to understand this country, there were many more native youth appearing to do the same.
With all of the walking and exploring in the 90 degree temps and high humidity there were plenty of times I felt like this guy looks!
Coming up, temples and an ancient water town!