Shanghai was the only city that I visited without a local friend to act as a guide, but the up side was that I was meeting my mom in Shanghai and we would be travel companions from here on! Yep, my mom arrived from Toronto just in time to meet me in Shanghai so that we would continue our trip together, all the way to the south.
In Shanghai, my mom and I met with a close cousin of mine whom I last saw 6 years ago. He’s worked in Shanghai for a while, but in my mind he is still not a true local, ha! Most of our time in the largest city in China was spent wandering on our own, but as I had been to Shanghai briefly in 2010, I had a slight idea of the most interesting places to go for a first-time visitor to Shanghai. So in a sense…I acted as my mom’s “guide”, though barely qualifying as one. No matter, we were off to have fun!
We start with the dazzling skyline of Shanghai at night, as seen from the Bund. If I were to be completely honest, as a typical large city, perhaps the only thing REALLY worth seeing in Shanghai was this, its impressive skyline by night. I had said in 2010, when I saw this skyline for the first time, that it was my favourite out of the skylines I’ve seen. It’s a tough choice between Shanghai and Hong Kong, but though shorter than that of Hong Kong, Shanghai’s skyline exhibits an extra sense of dimension and beauty, mainly with the presence of the Oriental Pearl Tower. In the centre slightly to the right, you see the Shanghai World Financial Center – AKA the world’s largest beer bottle opener 😛
Upon seeing the Bund, my mom said that she felt that all of the images of Shanghai that she’s seen on TV jumped out at her, as she never thought that the night scene would be THAT impressive in reality. It was my mom’s first time in Shanghai and we were the most stereotypical tourists that we could be. Obviously one does not go to the Bund without taking a selfie with it so…let’s rejoice at our reunion and just say cheese!
Even though I had been a city girl all my life, stepping into Shanghai (and Beijing too) made me feel like a country girl seeing the “outside world” for the first time. If you compare Shanghai to Glasgow, the contrast is clear – the third largest city in the UK, Glasgow, is almost like a small village! While wandering in the Lujiazui financial district, where all the tallest skyscrapers dwelt, we saw the full moon perched above the man-made structures and outshining all of the artificial lights so effortlessly, making me think once again of some Chinese lyrics that I loved: “The moon illuminates the dreams in the city.” Perhaps Shanghai, such a world-class, international metropolis, is a place that hides the dreams of many…
Aside from meeting my mom in Shanghai, I met briefly with one of the GU girls, RX, who now works in Shanghai. We chatted over coffee and a portion of stinky tofu (which became way too spicy because I underestimated the chili sauce…) and caught up on our lives and careers. We only had two hours to spend with each other but the brevity was treasured. Until next time, my dear friend!
I did mention my close cousin Tony earlier and after seeing RX, my mom and I went for dinner with Tony and his family, including my aunt and uncle and Tony’s wife Mindy (my cousin-in-law?) whom I was meeting for the first time. Tony and I were inseparable when we were children, but we grew quite distant ever since I moved to Canada. Still it was good to reconnect over some excellent food and some chat time. Obligatory group photo before we said goodbye!
The next day was spent exploring the Chenghuangmiao (City God Temple) area of Shanghai, which is really just a super commercialized area that caters to the interest of tourists. Still, we enjoyed just wandering around the streets and looking at all the interesting shops that lined them.
Local preparing food at their little shop, showing what everyday life is like for the people of this city. One part of travelling that I still enjoy very much is people-watching. Away from all the sightseeing and the hustle and bustle, ordinary life is happening without too much glamour and excitement.
McDonald’s was offering Super Mario figurines as toys for the Happy Meal and…I couldn’t resist. The first one I got was Toad (I got Boo and Yoshi after…) and he happily reminded me again how lovely Shanghai is at night.
As the final photo I present to you…food in Shanghai! On the left we have a Shanghainese specialty, glutinous rice balls cooked in sweet rice wine. The rice balls were so soft, and I loved the smell and taste of the rice wine – perfect combination! On the top right, we have “Grandma’s Beef Slices” from a chain called “Grandma’s House”, specializing in the cuisine of Shanghai and surrounding areas. This went so well with a bowl of rice – I couldn’t get enough of it! Finally on the bottom right we’ve got the stinky tofu that I had with RX, as I mentioned earlier. This was sold at a food cart outside my hotel, and I added loads of garlic, sweet sauce, and chili sauce…way too much chilli sauce that even my mom, who usually handles spicy food really well, thought it was overkill. Psh, piece of cake. The aroma of the tofu oozed out of its crispy exterior, and the taste and texture complemented each other so well. I love street food!
This concludes the Shanghai portion of the trip, although my mom and I did go on a day trip to Suzhou from Shanghai, which I will write about in a future post. For now, let’s anticipate the next stop: Huzhou in Zhejiang province 😀