China trip: Shanghai

Our China trip started in Shanghai, or more accurately with a flight from Boston to Shanghai. Air Canada via Toronto was an excellent flight. Brand new plane, on time, great service, can’t complain. We both managed to sleep for a chunk of the trip, but boy, it’s a long long flight.

Shanghai was steamy, muggy, and huge. Those are the first adjectives I’d use.
The weather was hot and humid the whole time there. Really unpleasant. It would be a much more fun city to visit during the more temperate seasons, I think.
The city itself is impressive. So many skyscrapers, so many roads, all clogged and full of traffic. Way fewer bicycles than I expected, and way more high-end cars than I expected.
We stayed at The Bund Riverside hotel, which was reasonable. Nice staff, decent rooms, clean, professional, and a good location. Also a decent view from our high floor.
Nanjing Road was fun for shopping and walking around. The alleys and street markets around it were even more fun, and provided my first exposure to duck neck. The first of many interesting new foods we encountered on the trip.
The YuYuan gardens were nice. It was a bit crowded, as you would expect. But the gardens were beautiful. We also visited the old Jewish area of town nearby, which was interesting, but very small. Not much to do there.
We went to an acrobatics shows, which was awesome. I really enjoyed it. The performers were mightly impressive, able to bend, contort, flex, and muscle in various ways. Really cool, highly recommended.
We met my friend Sam Chow, a former SDM student now living in Shanghai. He took us to a great local restaurant for some BBQ food. I had the best grilled octopus I’ve ever had, which is saying a lot, since that’s one of my favorite dishes in general. I make a point of ordering it almost any time it’s on the menu, especially in Greece or in Greek restaurants. This was better, spicier.
We also had the local speciality dumplings, xiaolinbao, several times. These are the ones with scalding-hot soup inside that you need to suck out carefully before you try to eat the whole dumpling. Delicious and fun at the same time.
But by far my biggest impression of Shanghi was the sheer size and the infrastructure involved. Even before much of the current construction is done for Expo 2010, the city is enormous.
There are many, many skyscrapers, and many, many-lane roads. All are clogged, busy, occupied, with very little empty or spare space. It’s impressive. 20- and 30-story buildings look tiny in comparison with their huge neighbors. The skyline is impressive.
Shanghai was a fun place, but I’m not sure I’d want to live there, given the weather and the crowds. Still, fun to visit.
(Flickr photo by ruishidalong.)
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