Correspondent Update: Shanghai Surprise

12 02 2010

Shanghai (Indiana University)

By Michael Sieber

Xie  Xie means “Thank You” in Mandarin.  Xie Xie Shanghai for another intriguing visit.  This town is NYC on steroids and stores to prove it.  While not a big fan of BARBIE, Shanghai has the first and only global Barbie Store on Huahai Road.  It is worth a look to see all the unique Barbie’s made by local designers and the well-known Robert Best designs.  There is even a bar and restaurant on the top level and you can also design your own Barbie from four templates and one goes by the name Lin.

The Bund is a popular stop for most tourist but there really is not much to see – except for the incredible night time skyline.  Furthermore – at the moment there is so much construction – in anticipation of the World Expo 2010 that is difficult to walk around.  The Blue Ocean Baby – the mascot for the World Expo 2010 is all over town and hard to miss.  Five on the Bund is a restaurant with amazing views – make sure to have a reservation.  Afterward venture down to Glamour Bar for a cocktail and if you forget to make a reservation upstairs there are food options at Glamour Bar and your wallet will thank you.  Five on the Bund is rather expensive for Shanghai.

As for a place to relax after all your daytime running – it is suggested to stay in PUXI and avoid all the chaos of The Bund – but only 10-minutes away from the action.  PUXI is centrally located and one will have the opportunity to stay in China first and only carbon-neutral hotel – UrbnHotel. Upon entering the room at Urbrn Hotels in Puxi area of Shanghai – a bottle of organic wine was waiting to be corked and a personalized note welcoming one to the hotel.  Love this place already.  Not only is the service 5-Star the hotel  – the hotel has implemented sustainable practices and techniques in the design and construction of the hotel.  A favorite is the wall of suitcases that is located in the hotel lobby.  If you foolishly stay somewhere else – make it a point to swing by the bar for a drink to take in the cozy atmosphere.

Another major attraction, Yu Yuan Garden, is a famous Ming Dynasty Garden but it simply feels like the “China Town” of China.  This is a good stop to make if you are looking to purchase souvenirs  for friends or family.

Shanghai is a bigger than big city – and it would take one years to see everything – even so – consider a trip outside the city to see how the rural residents live wonderful thriving happy lives.

I had the unique opportunity to visit a very tradition Chinese village in the mountains via a 4.5 hour fast train ride to JinZhai, where it is possible to witness locals making tofu and be invited to share tea with a local villager.  Be careful of the tofu that “smells bad, but taste good”  – this is not true.  After a few chews on this chicken-strip-looking tofu you will feel like your have just visited  a Dalhart, Texas cattle ranch and there is no oxygen tank in sight.

It was learned that Jinzhai has produced more generals for the Chinese army than any other area.  In addition one will learn how hospitable the Chinese are with their rice wine offerings and welcoming ceremonies.  The rice became too much that  it was necessary to order some green to have a vessel for spitting the rice wine back into otherwise I was destined for a huge hangover and a guaranteed “Asian Flush.”

For a short 2-hour excursion, Xitang, where parts of Mission Impossible III was filmed, is city with waterways – similar to Zhujiajiao but with less people pestering one to purchase their wares.  One can freely walk about this beautiful city and it is recommended to stay for one night at any of multiple hotels so that one can experience this town after dark.

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