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…