Despite a few aches and pains, I ventured onto the streets of Shanghai after my delightful and much needed Starbucks. It’s amazing what a little fresh air and exercise will do for my mind and spirit.
Shanghai is an immense city with a population of 24 million people of which 21 million live in the urban area alone. By comparison, the largest U.S. city by population is New York City with a mere 8.4 million people. The Shanghainese do everything big. There are bright lights like Hong Kong and Times Square and a skyline that extends for miles and reaches high above the clouds. The city motto must be, “bigger better and modern.” It’s a city of excess with more high-end shopping than Madison Avenue and the Vegas strip combined. If only my budget allowed…
It’s an interesting mix of east meets west. With every Prada and Cartier, there is a line of Zara, the Gap, Haagan Daz, Starbucks and Dairy Queen. The Chinese must really like ice cream, they are tempting me at every turn. It’s a remarkably clean city minus the hacking up a lung-spitting crowd, which seems to pertain to only a handful of men but it is noticeable. These men aren’t shy about really snorting it in and letting it all out that’s for sure. I’m just glad their reach excluded me thus far.
The Huangpu River, the largest in Shanghai runs through the heart of the city dividing it into two parts. It’s easy to see the appeal of the city. It’s vibrant past re-emerging with construction cranes dotting the skyline on every corner. Still an active port and the largest in China, Shanghai took a drastic dive in 1949 when foreign investment dried up due to Communism. It is once again known as the financial capital of Asia with nearly every European and U.S. bank represented.
Today, I conquered the Bund (the scenic and historic area of the wharf), Pudong, the financial district and the observatory at Jin Mao (along with 1,000 grade school kids waving at me saying hi), Nanjing Road, a mix of Times Square and Fifth Avenue/Michigan Avenue, the People’s Square and lastly Yu Gardens. It’s a very manageable city and user-friendly maps make it easy to walk all over on my own. All the signs are labeled in English, which means no need to translate Chinese characters all day long. I wish the Russians would take note. Using that as a crutch, it really encourages people to move about freely, if only the restaurants took such pity on me.
Eating is an issue for me. I don’t like American Chinese food. I don’t eat it and I certainly have no idea what 90 percent of the food is here even when when I am looking directly at it. That could also be because I don’t cook and no one speaks English. After walking up and down endless streets for hours, I decided to take the plunge. I would not be that tourist at McDonald’s although the thought did seriously occur to me after rushing out of a few places due to the smell.
After thoroughly inspecting a few restaurants, I settled on a cafeteria-style place only because it looked clean and busy. It was not an easy decision. I recognized steamed broccoli and thought that would be a safe choice and I really went crazy and ordered some noodle soup to which I added the broccoli. There were items that resembled heads of birds and weird hands and broccoli while not my first, second or third choice seemed safe and edible.
While I definitely deserved a blizzard after that big step, I couldn’t quite explain in sign language peanut butter cup blizzard so I enjoyed a traditional tea before walking home to relax and recover before dinner. Eating is something I typically look forward to but maybe it’s a good time to cut back on the whole eating thing anyway.
Last but not least my learned tourist tip of the day (please note I caught on before I was scammed- a very proud moment indeed). A boy and girl about 18-23 approached me to take their picture. They started telling me they were from Beijing and asked me where I was from and I asked them to take my picture…HA HA. Then they quickly got down to business and told me about a tea event they were going to see and would I like to join. Thankfully, I thought better and said I wanted to walk alone and check out more sights. They pushed hard but I continued walking. Just an hour later I was at my next sight and a girl asked me to take her picture and then started asking me where I was from and what I was going to see….An alarm bell went off and I was on to them! One scam averted. Be weary of an over friendly teen!