Friday, April 6, 2007

Shanghai with the fam

At about 9.30am, Eric and I left from the pier in Shanghai (which incidentally was extremely close to downtown, we were most impressed) and although due to my sister’s phone-death we experienced problems in the taxi initially, we arrived at Le Royal Meridien Hotel, just off of the pedestrian street Nanjing Road, by 10.15.

We were ushered upstairs to the 44th floor, the concierge level via two different lifts/elevators (nice) to get our room keys over coffee and banana bread. My mum had met us at the reception to pay for our taxi(!) and Dad came to the concierge lobby for coffee. It was great to see them. We chatted, dumped our bags in the room (which was on the 45th floor, and STUNNING) and quickly checked out the pool and spa. There was a proper sprung-floor dance studio and I got to try and show off to my man by throwing a few of the old ballet shapes on the barre.

We set out with the fam to walk down
Nanjing Road and on towards the Peace Hotel, one of my favourite spots in Shanghai because it appears to have been the inspiration for the Tower of Terror in Walt Disney World, seriously everything in there is slightly creepy. Check out the coat-check man, exactly the same costume, er, uniform as in TOT! There’s an authentic (ie no AC) jazz bar downstairs where the musicians are older than all my family’s ages put together. We went for a drink on the top floor, where Eric found this bell amongst the faded glamour, and I had a Peace cocktail. I have no idea what was in thie martini glass it was served in, but it was strong.
We bumped in to my sister walking down the Nanjing Road, (she’s been given a job here, she’s the brand manager of a fashion label, Urban Shock, cool!) and we went to one of her favourite spots for lunch, an unnamed restaurant that served good Chinese food (except, they, uh, just call it food!)
Jo ordered, which I think relieved us all, and among the highlights of the meal (which, according to custom, we couldn’t finish. Our host must over-order and we must obligingly be satisfied and unable to eat all that was generously provided) included a sweet-and-sour fish served whole and a Shangalese speciality, a small dumpling served with a straw inside to suck the juices out. It burned my tongue, but it rocked.

After lunch, we headed to the underground, “fake” market. We navigated the underground and from Nanjing Rd East, got the line 2 about 4 stops to some station with Technology in the title. The market was all around us on disembarking the train. We started down one of the myriad of avenues and after minutes the dream team (Eric’s name for the combination of my mum aqnd I shopping together) had bought a ton of DVDs all for 8RMB (a US dollar) each. At one point, all vendors shut up shop due to an appearance by the police, which was exciting, but commerce soon resumed.
Eric and I both bought pairs of jeans, he bought black 501s, I got some cute Diesel rip-offs, and I also managed to buy a bunch of dresses. I think I may make a shopper out of Eric yet, he found an ArcTeryks thermal hiking jacket I think he has his eye on for next time.

Back at the hotel, we went for a swim before dinner, in the pool with a glass ceiling which gave us great views of the light-show running up the sides of the hotel tower. We practiced lifts too, with relative success (considering it was Eric’s first time!)

Dinner was a great all-you-can-eat-and-drink teppanyaki restaurant (meaning that you sit around a hotplate and a guy cooks your food in front of you) called Tairyo Teppanyaki. The steak in particular was amazing, and plum wine is sweet and drinkable I found. At just over $10 US, it was also pretty good value.

After dinner, Jo took us to a regular haunt, a jazz bar she frequents. The musicians were from either New Orleans, New York or Massachusets, and the piano/sax player was probably the best asset to the group. We left by 12.30, thoroughly tired.

The next day, after another swim, and breakfast on the 44th floor, we met up with our driver, Wong, from Jo’s boss’ company, and were taken to the Yuyuang Gardens and surrounding shopping area. After a Starbucks, the world seemed a better place!
The gardens are stunning, it was more crowded than I ever saw it, but I love these Koy Carp,
best seen from the so-called “Lover’s Stones” where in ancient China it was one of the few places, once the gardens were open to the public, it was acceptable for courtship, ie men talking with women, to take place. This is well demonstrated by my father. It’s amazing to think it was once a private garden, it’s so flooded now with tourism. On the way back, we found a calligraphy/stationary shop. AWESOME. For roughly $20, I kitted myself out with paper, brushes, inkstone, block, red ink and two chops for some serious Chinese art sessions later on.

We met Jo for lunch in the Portman Hotel, where there is a cool, young fresh-juicey lunchey spot called Fresh Events. I had hummus and veggies, and curbed my mild hangover with a bloody mary. Okay, two bloody marys.

We left Wong and the car, and walked back down Fangbang road and onto Jo’s flagship store, where I maxed out my credit card and somehow became a VIP member of Urban Shock. I was given a free umbrella. Unfortunately Eric had to head back to the ship before the buying commenced, so we walked back, via a pitstop and cocktail stop in the Four Seasons before heading back. My Dad bought me some US magazines to read, Cosmo and OK, which rocked.

Back at the hotel (now only one room, my folk’s room, Eric and I had checked out) I tried on some of our purchases and decided to wear one to dinner at New Heights on the bund. Richard, my sister’s boss took us out, I think partially due to solidarity as two women left the company that day, and although I didn’t have time for my main course, I had to get back to the ship by 8.30pm (why?! Why one and a half hours before sail-away?) it was a lovely evening.

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