Sunday, May 1, 2011

Double Happiness Celebration - Shanghai

Let me start by saying that the title of this post almost became the name of this blog. At the time I didn't know that Double Happiness was even an actual Chinese/Japanese symbol. It is a character used often at New Year and in weddings. We saw this symbol all over China and see it frequently in Japan as well. It's my favorite!

Shanghai did feel like a giant celebration. I loved the vibe of this city and the big, international feel. When we first got to China we had a layover in Shanghai for a while before continuing on to Beijing. Brad and I left the airport to explore a bit until it was time for our flight. We took the MAGLEV magnet train that goes and in incredible 431 km/hr (or 268 mph).

From there we got on the metro and rode up to Peoples Square stop. Right out side of the metro stairs we were greeted by a fabulous skyline and 3 very friendly Chinese people who were eager to talk in English, take pictures and invited us to go along with them. We declined the offer preferring to make our own way and plans. Right down the street from the metro stop we saw a pretty park entrance and a tall clock tower. We found out it was an art museum with a restaurant and bar on the roof. We went up to Kathleen's 5, riding in an elevator with beautiful people speaking French and they told us they were all there from Morocco for an art exhibit downstairs. Upstairs on the roof there were more amazingly dressed people and I felt a bit out of place with my flight carry on and casual travel clothes, but we were seated without a problem by staff speaking fabulous English. Soon we had drinks in our hand and could enjoy the panoramic view of the Shanghai skyline and slowly watched the lights come on as the daylight faded.

We spotted a cool looking restaurant down in the park and decided to try it for dinner. We went to Barbarossa - a Moroccan style lounge - the coolest restaurant I've been in since I left the USA and had the best dinner I've had since leaving USA! Great start to our China trip. We made our way back to the airport with the metro and MAGLEV and got back without a problem.

After Beijing and Xi'an, Shanghai was our last stop in China. I was exhausted already, drained by the massive amounts of people and from the sheer amount packed into a weeks trip. But, that didn't stop us from continuing at break neck speed to see and do all we could. We got off the plane and took the MAGLEV again and rode the metro over to Nanjing Road East. We got to the hotel at night and it was beautiful seeing the city all alive and lit up. We took a night walk to see what was around the hotel before asking the tour guide to point us in the direction of the bars. On the trip we were lucky enough to make friends with the other tour-goers and it was fun getting to go out with them. We took a taxi over to this fun bar street and sat on the sidewalk with our beers and had fun talking to people from all over the world. We even saw a bar fight from a few bars down which involved lots of pushing, a glass table being flipped over, rapid fire Chinese and the cops descending.

The next day started with a visit to The Bund. This pretty waterfront area has beautiful historical buildings, fancy hotels and restaurants/bars with one of the best Shanghai views.

Next was the Xintiandi area with more beautiful places to eat and relax. We took a Shikumen Museum house tour to see how the people in Shanghai lived in the 1920's before having lunch at a cute German restaurant.

After lunch we went over to the Yu Garden Market where massive amounts of people were milling around in the huge market area. I was SO DONE with being grabbed for pictures and stared at like a zoo animal. The sights, smells, shops... it was a bit overwhelming.

In this crazy market place there is the beautiful Yu Garden. This garden was packed to the rafters like the rest of China, but even so, it was incredibly beautiful, detailed and conveyed a peaceful feeling. There were pagodas, flowers in bloom, koi fish, carvings and beauty everywhere. It was a fabulous last bit of sightseeing.

Before leaving Shanghai, Brad just had to go over to the Gibson guitar store and check it out. In fact, if the store had taken credit cards he would have left China with this incredible souvenir. He sadly couldn't get the guitar but, we did end up coming home with a bunch of wonderful souvenirs such as a huge, beautiful silk bed quilt and duvet from the Beijing silk factory, various items from the Silk Street Market in Beijing (Brad did find a guitar to play with, but didn't get this one either) and jewelry from the jade factory in Xi'an and the pearl factory in Beijing. My husband is the best ever, I swear.

To properly end our China adventure we went to a beautiful spa and got fabulous massages our last night. To make a long story short, this was our third attempt for a nice, relaxing spa experience and I guess the third time was the charm!

It was back to reality for us, but after any long, exhausting trip it is so very good to be home! I would totally suggest going to China. It was incredible. I would suggest going with a tour group only because it took out the major stress of the transportation aspect of the trip. Having a Chinese speaking member of your group, or a Chinese speaking tour guide is a huge benefit. If you can, I would suggest going for longer than a week if you do 3 cities like we did because it was so fast paced. Otherwise, I loved all the cities, the culture, the food, the history and the whole experience in general. I hope you all have enjoyed hearing about our China trip!


Megan said...

It sounds like you had an amazing trip!

Mary said...

I LOVE that you've posted so many details and photos of your trip! Time of a lifetime for sure. :)

Julie said...

What a whirlwind of a trip. All of the cities and sites are so magnificent. You really showed us a fascinating culture. Loved the pictures of Brad with his Gibson; he still has that dream, doesn't he? I bet he owns one soon. Such wonderful, love-filled memories from this tour. Double Happiness for you both forever!