Long time no see, my dear blog. As promised, I couldn't return to you until things finally settled back down in April.
As you know, I've been abroad in China! Let me just say, it was by far the most educational travel I have ever experienced. I think there is a distinct difference between "travel" and "vacation"-- and this trip was definitely travel. As I was alone for the majority of the time in Shanghai, it was a challenging and exciting experience.
You can only imagine how much I stood out in the crowded streets of bustling Shanghai. I thought the stares I received in Italy were bad... they were NOTHING like the looks I got in Shanghai. People were generally confused.
Further, I learned that there are some major cultural differences in China that opened my eyes. In a country that is expanding faster than it can sustain with extreme modernism juxtaposing ancient tradition... there are bound to be some growing pains.
The Shanghai I saw was nothing like the Shanghai 20 years ago and I can confidently say-- is nothing like the Shanghai in 20 years. While it is a futuristic city combining the sleekest and chicest, it is also a town deeply rooted in an ancestral heritage. Take a look at my Shanghai adventures:
The first night, I was with Mama Deb and we were exhausted. We ventured over to a lovely spot for drinks and a nice dinner. Then she was off to work in Suzhou and Shanghai was mine for the taking!
In the first day in Shanghai, I slept in and then went for a traditional Chinese massage. It was positively lovely. Then I explored the Jing'an Temple which I had an amazing view of from my hotel room! (This is the perfect example of a combination of the modern and the ancient.)
Later that evening, I met up with my Shanghainese friend, Farrah, who treated me to a very traditional Chinese dinner: Hot Pot.
After explaining the concept to my American friend, he said, "So it's similar to fondue?" I guess you could say that. The concept of hot pot originated in Northern China during the frigid winters in which the prepared food would be cold by the time it arrived on the table. In order to combat the winter, they brought the kitchen to the table. With Hot Pot, a boiling pot of flavored soup is brought to the table with a strong flame underneath. Then, you choose from a variety of raw goods to cook in the pot and then eat.
Farrah made sure to order what she considered "safe" raw foods for me as she has taken American friends to Hot Pot before who got scared off. The menu was exotic indeed. We stuck to traditional dumplings, cellophane noodles, meats and veggies. The scariest thing was shrimp meatballs, but they were delicious!
I was thoroughly impressed with Hot Pot and so happy that I got to experience such a local meal with my local tour guide.
After dinner, Farrah took me to see The Bund at night which was simply charming. It reminded me a lot of The Embarcadero in SF.
At The Bund, there is a great little tradition (albiet touristy) in which you let a red wish lantern fly off into the night as you make a wish and let go. Farrah insisted I do it!
What a lovely tradition, that of course I managed to mess up in some goofy Mac manner. Everyone knows that whenever I try and do something cute or charming, I goof up. Well in this lantern instance, as soon as I let go of the lantern... a huge gust of wind came and flew the lantern into the tree (in picture 2)! The open flame was in. the. tree. The lantern man hurriedly started shaking the tree and finally the lantern was set free into the night.
I looked at Farrah and said... "Does this mean my wish doesn't count?" She just laughed!
Well looking back, I can tell you that it did not negate my wish... because the wish is coming true (more on that later!)
Stay tuned tomorrow for Shanghai Memories: Part 2 and of course the second part of our trip in Hong Kong!