First things first: The hospitality of the people we encountered in China was absolutely staggering.
Our flight from Yantai (read my post about that leg of our trip here) to Shanghai was at 7:00am, so we were up by 4:00am to be sure we had plenty of time at the airport. We were travelling with our friend, Wenbo, which was an incredible experience in itself! We had met his roommate, Kay, maybe twice in the States, but when Kay learned we were visiting Shanghai he immediately offered to have his family meet us there (and show us around, and lend us their only car...!). Kay's parents greeted us at the Shanghai airport, took us to our hotel, and helped haggle for our rooms (a new concept for us).
Once we were settled in, we all went to lunch at a restaurant that specializes in Yunnan province food, where we had some of our favorite food of the whole trip. Scrambled eggs with lavender buds, black fungus with greens, rice, some kind of barbecue... it was all incredible.
After lunch, we hit the pavement and headed toward a small, older area of the city. Right away, we found a beautiful Buddhist temple and, as it was on our list to tour a temple at some point on our trip, we stopped and looked around.
The temple was home to lots of kitties, who lived with the monks in a mutually advantageous situation. They kept the mice off of the food offerings which worshipers would lay on the altars, and they got a home and fancy pillows to sleep on in exchange. It was pretty clear how much they loved the monks, too - they followed them around everywhere!
It rained off and on while we were in Shanghai, and one this afternoon became one of the highlights of our trip to China. After visiting the temple, we ducked into a small, sweet-smelling tea shop, where we spent about an hour being served tea by a very kind woman who owned her shop and took pride in its independence. As she showed us the tea ceremony, she spoke to us in Chinese and our friend translated for us. Her tea was hands-down the best tea I've ever tasted.
This was also during our second week in China, and I had been traveling with two men for the entire trip. I remember wishing desperately to have some female interaction which wasn't an aggressive sales pitch or a request to take a photo. This hour with this woman, as her grown sons wandered around her shop, filled that gap in a tiny way. I was grateful, even though I couldn't really tell her directly.
As we looked through the teapots available, since I had planned on buying one and hadn't found what I wanted yet, we saw one which wasn't quite straight (not the one in the picture, that was HER teapot). She said this other one was imperfect as it was made by hand, and no one had wanted it. Our friend was really confused when our eyes lit up at its teeny indications of human touch. He pointed out the things that made it imperfect, and frowned when we said, "We know, that's what makes handmade things so special!" Home it came, along with tea of several sorts, quickly jotted-down instructions for brewing, and a happy, grateful memory.
We continued walking the ancient strip, the clouds threatening to break into rain. We were eating meat on stick when it started pouring, so we took refuge in a crawfish shop, where we chatted with the staff (I say we, but I mean Wenbo) while eating crawfish (Wenbo and Justin actually ate the crawfish) and sipped on Tsingtao beer until the weather cleared.
The day ended with a moon bridge sighting and a lot of happy feels.
The next day, we ate lots of food and looked around in some of the nicer shopping areas. We weren't all that interested in buying a lot, but we were thoroughly entertained by the excess of badly translated phrases printed on most of their popular clothing. I came home with one which says fittingly "More Less." I'm not really sure what they were going for in terms of translation, but it feels like the right idea for Meanderblog values, don't you think?
From there we headed to Shanghai's famed waterfront area called The Bund, which abuts the Huangpu River and offers a skyline you'll never forget. We saw it during the day, though the weather was still very heavy and there was a thick grey fog obscuring our view. Still, it was really quite spectacular.
We ate at a lovely fancy buffet, where we had a booth near a window that looked out onto the river below.
On our way back, we took another look at The Bund, this time all lit up for the evening. Stunning!
Our last day in Shanghai was just as wonderful. We spent some time in the well-known Tianzifang district, another ancient part of Shanghai which has been transformed into a hub for food, craft, and architecture. After hours exploring, we breezed through a city park and flew back to Beijing in the evening.
This is merely a highlight reel of all we experienced in beautiful Shanghai. Thanks for coming along with us! The next and final installment of our adventure through China will outline our day trip to Suzhou, the loveliest leg of our journey. 'Til next time,