Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vegan Travel In China: Shanghai (Part 1-the sights)

I know, have been willfully remiss in updating my blog...China was such a big trip with so many pictures to edit (took about 3000 pics) that to even start blogging about it was a daunting task. Just going to dive right in where I tried starting weeks ago:  

So got back from China two weeks ago (um more like 6 weeks now), let me just state that the jetlag was seriously potent coming back, mine lasted about a full week. Pretty insane.


Let's begin at the beginning with this caveat: I am of Chinese descent but this is my first time in China (many many years ago, I was in Hong Kong before the handover to China, so that doesn't really count!). This was also my sister, SKO's first trip to China as well. And the occasion for said trip? Grandma is 77 & her dream has been to visit Mt Huang Shan, the famed mountains known for gorgeous peaks in mists & sea of clouds which have inspired many Chinese watercolors & poems.


The trip began well, I had accumulated enough miles to fly all of us in business class which I kept as a surprise until we got to airport check-in. I knew I was saving all those miles for a reason...14hrs is a long direct flight...started at Continental's President's Club to wait for our flight, Grandma was thrilled & had to call my uncle to tell him about flying business class. It was her first time! She's super cute.
Continental definitely rocked the vegan menu- there were so many snacks & meals, it was kind of crazy. There was also a fab dessert cart that unfortunately wasn't vegan, which poor SKO would have appreciated had she not downed her champagne way too quickly for an early morning empty stomach. She was quite ill thru most of the food service. My yummy foods ranged from veggie burger, delicious salads & Indian entrees- breakfast was dal & savory donuts...yum. Yep, that was definitely a painless 14hrs...

We flew into Shanghai. I thought a cosmopolitan city would be a good way to ease into China. I found the cutest hotel online- a renovated schoolhouse in the Luwan District, part of the old French Concession which was the area designated for the French. The area has many old mansions & tree-lined streets. Apparently a trendy area, with little boutiques & cafes...

Seems great so far, but I was pretty jetlagged (read exhausted) and was definitely not prepared for the sheer number of people, no sense of personal space/jostling/pushing & hygiene issues, mind you, I am a born & bred new yorker...I was overly tired & could not deal with seeing people blow their noses right into the street- this one woman actually did that & flicked the remaining mucus off her finger. Yep, I was horrified & still would be even if I wasn't a bit of a germ freak. Anyway, my sister & I definitely experienced some serious cultureshock (think squatter toilets, no hand soap & carry your own tissue pack because there is no toilet paper even in the fanciest malls), especially since we are part Chinese, I speak Cantonese, but not Mandarin which is what you need if you want to travel stress-free in China or join a tour...Thought I had enough Mandarin to get around & there would be English spoken at least at the hotel...nope.


I am a bit of a control-freak, it's what I do for a living when producing shoots. I normally handle everything on a trip but found that I had to rely on Grandma to translate for the most part. This made things more difficult & frustrating, especially since Grandma's used to just going along with me when we travel. Won't bore you with the interpersonal dynamics, but I know that I definitely would have had a better time if I spoke Mandarin. And any country that I have traveled to, I had some knowledge of the language, enough to get around & understand them. With Mandarin, I could certainly ask directions, but to understand was a whole other thing. And in case you were wondering, that cute hotel, The New Westlake Hotel that I booked, they were helpful, but mostly in Mandarin...


Enough wordiness & whining, here's a tiny sampling of Shanghai's scenery-
Along the newly restored, expanded waterfront along The Bund with the river on one side: 
and beautiful,various architectural styles on the other from Baroque to Art Deco where Western banks & consulates were housed, now homes to financial institutions & hotels: 
  We did an evening boat tour of Shanghai:
  Some interesting Communist propaganda- not sure what it's for, army recruitment?
And those much famed Chinese bicycles (you know all those pics of people on bikes- yep, that was still the image up til several yrs ago), though as with fast-moving progress & wealth, there were many more cars than bikes- these were the most bikes that I saw in any city that we visited:
Apparently in Shanghai, people still hang their laundry out, wonder if people ever get their clothes stolen? Probably not because one would probably be promptly executed if caught.
This is the bazaar next to the Yu Gardens- big tourist attraction, lots of food & over-priced souvenir shopping, but yes, I did hit the Starbucks for soy lattes (yes, sometimes there is soymilk, but only offered hot & sweet as a drink, not as a dairy alternative in coffee)- many many times in China.
The Yu Gardens were quite beautiful & actually serene (most people skipped it because of the entrance fee), but most interesting to me- the detail of figures along the rooftops, so cool...

And even cooler dragons running the length of the walls...

And small details everywhere for anyone looking- see happy faces:

I leave this post on a peaceful reflection of my China trip, definitely an interesting learning experience, next up my favorite: temples & food in Shanghai (which will NOT take another month for me to post, promise).




11 comments:

Theresa said...

It sounds like an interesting trip. I felt a fair bit of culture shock in Bangkok, even after spending three weeks in another part of Thailand. It was the same things you identified -- lack of language, severe crowdiness, etc.

I look forward to hearing about the rest of the trip!

VeggieGirl said...

What a trip! Great photos and insights, as always - looking forward to hearing more (and to seeing you SOON!!)

Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day said...

Wow.. that whole experience sounds soo intense.. the pics are great! I can't wait to see the temples..

btw, I have been meaning to get back to you and tell you that YES, I did get the lipgloss and I love it! Thank you! (I had a computer without a working kebyboard for months and could never write back!)....

VeggieGirl said...

Just emailed you regarding NYC plans! :)

M for Short said...

OH THANK GOODNESS. I was beginning to think we would never hear about China! Well, you & Jon have a first visit to China in 2010 in common. He spent 2 weeks in Beijing in March. (Although he did not fly in business class. Score to you!) He also was startled by the sheer masses, and his follow-up trip to Tokyo he noted that there was just as many people, but they were just 'orderly'. Looking forward to your next installment. (BTW, I will be in NY 6/5, leaving 6/16 but even 11 days is super fast since I haven't been up since last July, but who knows. May try to contact B for a stop-in.)

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Your Grandma is SO cute! Sorry to head about the language barrier and frustration, I totally understand.

Andréa N. said...

Wow! Awesome pictures! Your grandma and sister are very cute. And I'm curious about the food now.

Andrea (brazil nut)

sarahnotsoplainandtall said...

Hi there!
I just found your blog and thought Id say HI!
Im a model that recently moved to LA from NYC...but Im coming back to New York for a few weeks! Since being out in Cali I have become very interested in the Vegan lifestyle...so I cant wait to check out some of the great places back in the Big Apple!

Would love for you to check out my blog at some point!
http://sarahnotsoplainandtall.wordpress.com/
xx
Sarah

erika said...

Ooh I'm so glad I found your blog! I studied abroad in Beijing for 6 months in college and I've been to Huang Shan! I'm really excited to hear about the rest of your trip.

I agree that it's easier to travel in China if you know Mandarin. I do speak it and when my family came to visit we traveled all over, to Xi'An, Guilin, Yangshuo, Hanzhou, Shanghai, etc., but we couldn't have gone some of those places if I didn't speak Mandarin. There just aren't many English speakers there, and almost none in rural areas.

Did you have people get frustrated with you because you look like you should be able to speak Mandarin? The kids of Chinese descent in my program had that happen, where people would get mad at them for not speaking perfect Chinese.

FoxyTere said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip, love the photos. I would like to personally invite you to check out Rockin' Raw in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The cuisine is Peruvian/ New Orleans Bvegan at its best!! You can the best of both worlds right in your very own backyard...
rockinraw.com

VeggieGirl said...

I hope you still remember me and are around! I miss you!!!

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