Tag Archives: shanghai

China – Day 2

Tuesday morning, after our MSG filled street food breakfast, we caught a subway over to the Laoximen station. From there we walked to what I call the cricket market. I think technically it is the bird and flower market. But that doesn’t sound nearly as interesting. Surrounding by the chirping of thousands of crickets of many sizes and colors, we explored the crowded little market filled with animals, smells, bird and plants of all varieties. Tried not to cry when we saw ten or more dirty kittens crammed in a small cage, or the caged puppies. Fish, turtles, rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, crickets, grasshoppers, thousands of caged birds from small song birds to a large grey parrot, to birds that said Ni Hao (hello) as you walked by.

Cricket Market

Cricket Market

All sorts of fish

All sorts of fish

They even make pet food in the market, sell meal-worms for the birds and you can watch the shop keepers and they shove little chunks of lettuce into the hundreds of teeny cricket boxes to feed them.

Food for animals!

Food for animals!

(Back in April 2011, I did a post about this market: Bird and Flower Market – with lots more pictures!)

Later in the morning, we went to Jing’An temple, then did a lot of aimless walking about town and exploring.

Incense burning at the temple

Incense burning at the temple

A mix of old and new - this is Shanghai

A mix of old and new – this is Shanghai

Our afternoon beverage, was brought to us by Liquid Laundry, a fun new restaurant, bar and brewery opened by the owners of Boxing Cat Brewery. It definitely has a totally different feel to it that Boxing Cat, but I loved it. Fifteen craft beers on tap, including their own – brewed in house, some Boxing Cat beers and also guest taps from around the world.



We tapped that!

We tapped that!

We ran into Boxing Cat’s brew-master Mike and were able to catch up briefly with him and the fabulous beer happenings in Shanghai. If you are ever thirsty for something delicious make sure to check out both Boxing Cat Brewery and Liquid Laundry.

Brew master Michael Jordan

Brew master Michael Jordan

Post beverage, and a difficult search for a taxi, we found our way to the Xujiahui area where we met four of my former coworkers for hot pot dinner at Little Sheep. After eating our own weight in hotpot, we rolled ourselves back to the hotel and crashed.

Old co-workers - these girls are the greatest!

Old co-workers – these girls are the greatest!


China – Day 1

Our first two days in Shanghai were spent exploring the city at our leisure. Monday, we started what would become our daily tradition in Shanghai of street food and Family Mart (a Chinese convenience store) for a quick breakfast.

Kid Castle!

Kid Castle!

From our hotel, we walked towards my former apartment complex, passing by the Kid Castle Royal branch where I had taught so many Chinese kiddos. Then I showed John where I lived.Unfortunately, we did not see my actual apartment, but we went in the building and took the elevator up to the 28th floor and I reminisced.

From outside my apartment

From outside my apartment

A stone’s throw away was the very familiar Luijiabang metro stop, we hopped on for a couple stops to People’s Square.

From People’s Square, we took a quick walk all the way down East Nanjing Road, and ended up at the Bund where we marveled at the skyline of Pudong – including the new Shanghai Tower.

On the Bund

On the Bund

Then we found our way to YuYuan Garden, where we ate xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings) and roamed the alleyways with thousands of others.

Later in the afternoon, we grabbed a subway over to the Xintiandi area so I could show John my favorite watering hole.

Boxing Cat Brewery

Boxing Cat Brewery

After a delicious craft beer at Boxing Cat and struggling to get in contact with Chinese friends without working phones or internet, we managed to have a bartender make a phone call and get us an address in Chinese for a cab ride.

We had a delicious dinner with Xiaoping Ma (who I met at OHSU in Portand, when she did a fellowship there in 2009) and her girls Eva and Amy.

Old friends!

Old friends!

Showers & Coffee

To get a tourist visa for China – you need a hotel reservation. Months ago, I booked some cheap one I found on a Chinese travel website thinking – we can always find something new between now and then, or, how bad can it be – we will save money! It was also close to where I used to live, so I figured it would be nice to be familiar with the area.

After approximately 29 hours of being awake and traveling, we finally arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport. Immigration was a breeze, but our luggage took forever. Thank the Lord it showed up finally, and we went to find our way to a taxi.

I thought I wouldn’t be persuaded by the Chinese people trying to get me to pay exorbitant prices for their private cabs, and said I would just go wait in line for the official city taxi. Yea, well everyone had to take a taxi as public transport does not run all night in China. After looking at the hour long line for a taxi, I decided that it was worth the $20 or so to pay to stay out of that line.

Our smoky cab ride wasn’t as long as I expected. But when we got to the street, it took our cabbie awhile to find the unlit hotel. Golden Island Hotel. No receptionist, but after five minutes of the sleepy security officer yelling to the back, a nice, older Chinese lady appeared.

The lobby of the unlit Golden Island was probably what you would expect from a $35 a night room.

The only Chinese I understood from her was “mei you” which means “do not have” when I tried to show her our reservation info. After 15 minutes, paying her for the week plus a deposit, giving her our passports, and some teary eyed tired blonde girl being completely overwhelmed, we got one key and headed down the hall to find an elevator and our room.

The room is huge! And clean! And two bathrooms!?! Granted – figuring out how a remote to a heater worked when all the buttons are in Chinese, took awhile and some more tears. All I wanted was a bed, and I finally had one. Sleep was slightly more elusive.

In the morning, John woke up and knowing that his phone was still on Seoul time told me that it was 9am. So I woke up as well. An hour later, I realized it was only 8am. Confused, John and I realized he had thought we were an hour ahead of Seoul time, when in reality we were an hour behind. Ah timezones!

While John showered, I went to ask the front desk about getting hot water. We had two ceramic cups and tea bags but nothing to heat water. Because the only thing worse than extreme jet lag and little sleep, is extreme jet lag, little sleep and no caffeine. A couple boxes of Starbucks Via in my suitcase were my emergency plan! Also, I wanted to inquire about wi-fi (which I thought was available). No wi-fi, only in the lobby.

When I tried to explain that I want something to heat water, my receptionist friend from the night before seemed to think I was saying, we did not have hot water in the room – like for a shower. She sent a maintenance man upstairs with me, and I managed to get him to get me an electric kettle to heat water. When I realized there was no hair dryer – I decided such luxuries just weren’t worth the fuss.

After he left, John informed me – we have no hot water. At this time, I began to realize that maybe my friend downstairs understood what I did not. There is no hot water. She had typed into her computer something in Chinese and it read, “Opens later.” It came to me that the word for turning on – as in to turn on water – is the same as open in Chinese. Perhaps you need to wait until after 9am to shower in a Chinese hotel?

Nope – I waited until 10am today and enjoyed a freezing shower.

Oh, China!

A Brief Return -Finally!

Three years! Wow.

Part of me says, has it really been three years? The other half of me says, it seems like a lifetime ago. But in reality, it has been just 2 weeks shy of three years since I packed my bags and returned to the US from China.

In those three years, a lot has happened – good and bad – but ultimately, I couldn’t be happier with where I have ended up. Yet, in those three years, I quit blogging (obviously) and have not once left the country. Well folks, it is time for a change…

Gotta pack my bags because I’m getting out of these United States! This time, with my new found partner in life and adventure, my fiance, John. We will be traveling to Shanghai for a very, very short 5 day visit. I want to show John the place I called home for 14 months, and also catch up with some dear friends!

A recent photo of my new travel partner and me!

Then we will be heading to Malaysia (a new destination for us both) where we will soak up the warm weather while exploring Kuala Lumpur, Sandakan, Sabah, Langkawi and more!

I am worse than a child the night before Christmas, 4 days out from the trip I was already unable to fall asleep at night because I was anxiously and excitedly going over logistics in my head. I find it humorous that I’m not even stressing about Malaysia – I know NOTHING about getting around Malaysia! I have never even been there. Yet, I’m stressing about China, where I lived!

It is going to be a vacation of a lifetime and that is why I am putting this blog post out there. This is me announcing to the world, that I will not let the trip of a lifetime come and go without documenting our adventures. I love writing and I miss it. It irks me that I have completely given up on writing. I cannot let that happen in the next month. I want to have something to look back on (other than just photos) to relive the stories and memories of our trip.

Now, I am not just holding myself accountable. The word is out – don’t let me slack! I am using this blog as a platform as a) it already exists and has an audience, or did at one time b) it is really the only available platform I have and c) I’m revisiting China – and my Life in China – so the posts should be at least remotely relevant.

Shanghai Aquarium

I'll miss you, May!

I don’t really get to spend much time with my good friend May anymore; however, I wanted the chance to hang out before going back to the States.  On Thursday, May was sweet enough to take a day of work so we could hang out.  We talked about doing a day trip somewhere, but decided instead to stay in Shanghai and check out the Shanghai Aquarium.  (This ended up being the perfect plan, because sandwiched between a blue sky, beautiful Wednesday and a warm & dry Friday, we had a rainy miserable Thursday – being inside was a good thing.)

Dark, cloudy and rainy!

The Shanghai Aquarium is right next to the Oriental Pearl Tower in Pudong. As we were walking by the tower, I realized in my time in Shanghai, I have only been over to the area near the tower about four times.  Every time, it happened to be wet, cloudy and miserable.  So this is how the tower has always looked to me when ever I have seen it up close and personal.  (I have yet to actually bother going inside.)

We arrived at the aquarium, bought our tickets (160 rmb/adult) and noticed that we were just in time for the shark feeding on the feeding schedule! Yippee!  We asked where the shark tank was and learned about the one downfall of the aquarium – one way traffic.  You start out on the third floor of the aquarium and work your way down and through the three levels of exhibits – once you pass through you can’t go back.  The shark tank, of course, was at the end.  So we weren’t able to watch them feed the sharks but it was still a great trip to the aquarium.

This is a sea apple.

There was a special exhibit of dangerous sea animals, lots of funky looking poisonous fish, electric eels, sea urchins and little shell fish that you would never imagine had venom in them capable of killing hundreds of humans.

No offense, but you are sort of ugly....

Funny lookin' poisonous fish

There was an alligator (or crocodile, I don’t really know the difference) that was laying there SO still, I swore he was dead.  He had obviously been laying there for awhile because someone had thrown a coin on him and it was laying on his back.  May said he was definitely alive… I had my doubts.

Can you see the silver coin on his back?

One of my favorite parts was the jellyfish section, huge tanks full of beautiful jellyfish of all different sizes and colors.  They are such fascinating looking creatures, floating about, gliding effortlessly through the water.  One of the huge tanks of hundreds of clear/white colored jellyfish was illuminated by lights that changed colors, making the entire tank and jellyfish look like they were changing colors.

Gorgeous and colorful!

May gazing at the jellyfish.


In the SOS (save our sharks) exhibit, there were graphic images of the brutalities sharks face as they are hunted for shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asian countries.  There was also one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen, live fertilized, developing shark eggs.  Okay, so maybe eggs aren’t the most fascinating thing ever… but this certain type of shark actually develops and hatches from an egg.  The aquarium had eggs at their different developmental stages on display with light shining through them so you could actually SEE what was going on inside the egg.  In the first several stages, there was still a yolk inside the egg with the little teeny shark embryo.  The eggs from 41-50 days old were the best I thought, because you could see the yolk, and then around the yolk you could see a little teeny baby shark swimming around inside the egg.  I was fascinated!  In the later stages of development, you could see the little shark (and if definitely looked like the body of a little shark) just cramped up inside the egg ready to be freed into the world.  Awesome.

That is a shark swimming around a yolk in an egg. Fascinating.

My other favorite section was the “World Longest Underwater Viewing Tunnel at 155m” as the sign said.  The tunnel is broken up into sections and different sections feature different types of fish and sea life.  An area with huge schools of fish swimming super fast in circles around you, an area with a coral reef and lots of small colorful fish, and of course the best part, the huge sharks, giant sea turtles and graceful stingrays.  Have you ever been in a glass tunnel with a shark swimming above your head, so close you could touch it, or with a huge sea turtle (that probably weighed way more than me) swimming straight at you?  It is pretty amazing.  Unfortunately, with my fussy, broken camera and the fast swimming animals, my attempts to photograph the experience didn’t work so well.

Schools of fish swimming all around me!

So it isn't the best picture... but he is lookin' straight at me. If it weren't for the glass above my head, I may have been lunch!

I did spend a long time in that tunnel, just in awe of the beautiful, stunning, creatures of the sea.  I had heard good things about the Shanghai Aquarium and I am really glad I took the opportunity to check it out.  It is well laid out, everything is in English as well as Chinese, the displays and amount of animals you get to see are quite impressive.  I would absolutely recommend it if you are hanging out in Shanghai on a rainy day and need a good indoor activity.

What a cute little lizard!

After the aquarium, May and I headed to the Super Brand Mall where we feasted on delicious dim sum at Bi Feng Tang for lunch.

In my window

Other than my bed, there is probably one place where I have spent more time than any other single place in the past 13 months.  My very favorite spot in Shanghai, my favorite spot in my apartment, is sitting on the wide window sill of my bedroom window.  Made comfortable with blankets and pillows from Ikea, the small desk with my laptop next to me, or sitting with my laptop on my lap.  On the 28th floor, looking at the Shanghai skyline, lit up in gorgeous colors on clear nights, looking down the river to Nanpu Bridge, or sometimes just looking at smog.  I could check to see when people were walking up towards my apartment if I gave them directions from the subway stop, I can look down and see if my fruit guy is selling fruit from the back of his van.

The apartment gate, my fruit guy and a man selling DVD's, my typical view

I watched lightening storms here, I spent hours on skype with family and friends here, I wrote almost all of my blogs sitting here, I watched fireworks on Chinese New Year here, I watched giant snowflakes floating through the air here, I watched the progress of the (soon to be) second tallest building in the world being built here. I cried here, I watched movies and TV on my laptop here, I read here, I drank my morning coffee and ate dinner here.  It is my little spot. I love my little spot.

Snowing in Shanghai, watching giant snowflakes from my window

Today, I sit in my little spot for the last time.  I look out over the Shanghai on a cloudy day for the last time.  I close my eyes and envision the lights for the last time.  I look down and see my fruit guy for the last time.  I see taxis, buses, cars, bikes, scooters and people on the main road just half a block away for the last time.  Today I’m leaving my apartment, my wonderful roommate, and my sweet kitten.

My last day view...

In 45 minutes, I have to be at work.  When I come home I’m grabbing my stuff and heading to a friends house.  I will be bouncing from house to house for the next 19 days until I leave China. I’m moving back to the States, my Life in China is, for now at least, coming to an end.

Cloudy and smoggy, but always pretty...

When I think back, I have many memories, may adventures, many stories.  But honestly, it is this spot right here, sitting in my window, looking out over the 26 million people in my city of Shanghai, where I spent so much of my time.  It is such a perfect spot.  I will miss it.

My spot

M&M Recap

Well, after two weeks of exhaustion and fun with my mom and Matt (M&M),  and a crazy, stressful weekend back at work, I have finally had the chance to sit down, breathe and get myself back together.  In the twelve days my mom and Matt were here, we saw many sights, drank good beer, slept a little, traveled a lot, ate all types of food and took thousands of pictures!  (I took over 700 myself, and I’m sure they took even more.)

There were many times over the couple weeks I thought, I could write a blog about this.  But I didn’t have time. Now, I’m in a relaxation and recovery state and I don’t have the creative/reflective juices flowing and I’m lacking the energy.  I will try to recap you though.

It was a non-stop adventure for all of us and exhausting! I’m sure dealing with jet-lag made it crazy for my guests, but I had to deal with keeping up with my normal life (I only took 4 days off work in the 12 days they were here), entertaining, hosting, sleeping on the couch and on a HARD bed in a hotel, and being on 100% of the time.  My brain, emotions and body were stretched to the limit.

Leifang Pagoda in Hangzhou

The last time I posted was Sunday, September 4th.  I worked all day and M&M arrived in the afternoon. That evening, we went to the train station where I learned we could only buy tickets to Beijing 6 days in advance, took a walk around to see a bit of the city,  went to dinner and got settled in my apartment.  The following morning, we met my friend and co-worker, Colin at 7am.  He had arranged for a driver to take us to the nearby city of Hangzhou for the day.  I have wanted to go to Hangzhou since arriving in China, and with mom here I finally got my chance!  We spent the first full day of M&M’s vacation touring around the famous and beautiful West Lake, eating a traditional Chinese meal at the famous Louwailou restaurant, visiting the Leifang Pagoda, Feilaifeng and a couple temples.  Which was followed by beers and french fries for an early dinner.  After making our way back to Shanghai, we had no energy left for a real meal.

Looking over West Lake with the city of Hangzhou in the background

On Tuesday, we started out by going to the Shanghai train station, again, where this time I learned I had miscounted and Wednesday was the first day to buy tickets for the following Monday, and then to a camera shop where we got mom’s camera fixed.  (Her camera had been pushed off the x-ray machine at the subway station on her way into Shanghai. The filter had completely broken and was crushed onto the lenses making it impossible to take off – luckily she had another lens for the day in Hangzhou, but still needed it fixed!).  We then went to the classic Yuyuan area, walked around classic Chinese building filled with touristy shops and down Fangbang Road.  I led us to Huaihai Road for a coffee break, then to the Bird and Flower Market where the older Chinese residence were busy gambling over cricket fights.  We continued walking through the antique markets near Laoximen but after a long morning, decided we needed a rest.

A cat chilling in front of a fish shop at the Bird and Flower market

I led us to Boxing Cat for a beer, but they weren’t opening until 5pm that day.  Tired and irritable, we managed to stumble upon a neat little place on Sinan Lu where we got some beers and refreshed our spirits.  We had dinner plans at 5:30pm, still had a couple hours to spare and weren’t sure what to do next.  Mom remembered she wanted to visit the ELS office and that it was somewhere in the French Concession.  I found the address by using the internet on my cell phone and with the help of the staff at the coffee shop where we were, I figured out the approximate location.  We decided our feet hadn’t had quite enough that day, and walked another 3 kilometers or so over to the ELS office. (When my mom worked in Ashland, Oregon, she worked for ELS for many years and was the director of their Ashland branch.)  The couple people my mom knew were not in the office, or were no longer working at that location, but we met the new director and he was willing to show the unexpected visitors around their beautiful Shanghai location.

After that, I realized we were right next to the Avocado lady, so we swung by but didn’t get anything from her, as it was about time for us to head towards Zhongshan park to meet a few of my Chinese coworkers for a delicious, spicy, Sichuan dinner.

I don't think Mom approved of me ordering the bullfrog for dinner, Matt ate it though!

When we got home we brought out the map of Shanghai to see just how far we had walked, Mom and Matt were impressed that I had in fact dragged them ALL over Shanghai, on foot.

Wednesday, was a more normal day for me.  But by no means relaxing.  My Chinese classes at Donghua University had started on Monday, and Wednesday, I decided, was the only day in the first 2 weeks of classes I could actually make it.  Mom and Matt got up and traveled over to the University with me, eating delicious street food for breakfast along the way.  While I spent 3 hours in Chinese class, they wandered around the area nearby.  After I was done in class we took the subway to the Shanghai South Railroad Station and finally, on our third try, got our high speed train tickets for Beijing.  We then made our way over to Tianzifang where we had a late lunch.  I left M&M with instructions to get back to my place, and I took off to go to work for the evening while they explored the area.

A painter at work in Tianzifang

Thursday morning, no time for rest!  We got up and went to Jing’an Temple.  Having been outside Jing’an Temple many times, but having never gone inside, I wasn’t sure where the tickets to enter the temple were purchased.  So when I saw swarms of people in lines wrapping halfway around the temple I got a bit nervous.  Why in the world were so many people lined up to get into the temple?  We would never get inside with hundreds of people in lines that seemingly weren’t even moving.  I knew there was a holiday coming up, but it was the following week, why was it so busy?

After a few moments of being puzzled trying to figure out what was going on, I decided to use a life-line and phoned a friend.  May also had no idea why everyone would be wanting to go to the temple that day.  So, as we were both confused, I did what anyone would do.  I walked to the beginning of the line and handed my phone over to a complete stranger – gesturing for her to talk.  May was on the line of course and was able to ask this nice, albeit confused, women what the deal was.  Turns out – none of them wanted to go into the temple!  They were all waiting in line for special mooncakes made at the temple!  Mooncakes are the traditional food eaten for the mid-autumn festival which was the holiday the following week.  All these people wanted the temple’s mooncakes!

One of two lines for Mooncakes! Can you see why I was concerned?

Oh… well, duh, Julia!  So we found the ticket window, with no line, and were able to explore inside Jing’an temple.  Afterwards, I took us on another hike through Shanghai as I figured exploring the city by foot allows you to see more than exploring the city by subway. We walked down West Nanjing, through People’s Square and all the way down East Nanjing until we got to the Bund.  It was a hazy day to walk along the Bund, and I don’t think I even got out my camera.  Haze or no haze, it is a must see for every visitor to Shanghai.  After walking for hours, we took a cab from the South end of the Bund back to my apartment!  A 20 minute catnap and I was off to work!

After what seemed to become a daily trip to Boxing Cat for M&M, Matt relaxed at the apartment that evening. However, once I was done working, my mom and I headed out to meet my friend May for massages!  A nice 100 minute foot and body massage was exactly the type of relaxing I needed!  One of the workers even offered to provide my mom’s treatment for free, in exchange for marrying her daughter.  Ha!  We did not accept the proposal.

M&M’s first four days in China were certainly packed full.  I’m exhausted just writing about it!  More to come…

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