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).




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