Saturday, November 6, 2010

There's the Rub

We didn't let our exhausting day at the Expo prevent us from getting up early on our final day in Shanghai to see some of the other tourist sites. In the early morning, we toured the French Concession for a bit, but weren't really able to see why it's called the French Concession. The best reason I saw was a C & A clothing store, a popular chain in France. We walked around this park for a while, marveling at all the different types of exercise people do (don't worry, there'll be a whole post about this). Then we stumbled on this pedestrianized ex-pat zone, called Xintiadi, which boasted a Starbucks, a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a Lawry's, and even a Monty's Steak House!
French Concession, Xintiadi

Of course, at this point we were low on cash, so after an obligatory stop at the Coffee Bean for a coffee, we continued our tour, arriving at the Shanghai Museum.

Now I know Andrew is going to say how I'm always so negative in my posts, but I want to say that part of the reason I do this is so that you, the reader, know what's worth visiting, should your travels ever take you into this part of the world. That said, I wasn't impressed by the Shanghai Museum. The most impressive thing was that it was free to enter. They had some pretty beautiful individual pieces, but there wasn't one exhibit or hall that really wow-ed me. However, the museum was well-laid out, and showcased some interesting artifacts, such as jade pieces and some rather eccentric paintings.
Ninja turtle?
Flying baby head
More heads

After the museum, we again stopped for dumplings, our go-to meal while traveling (it's hard to make a bad dumpling). At this point, we had determined that the lining on my shoe had basically disintegrated, thus the cause of my aching feet, so I took a short rest. I popped into a massage parlor, and knowing zero Chinese managed to negotiate my way into a 30 minute foot massage for $5. Score! The massage itself was a little scary, as it was performed by a beefy woman who took real pleasure in slapping and punching the calves of her customers. Amazingly enough, when I arrived around midday, there were several people reclining in chairs, fast asleep, as the masseuse worked away at their poor limbs. How the slapping and hitting noises didn't awaken them, I'll never know. I myself was too terrified to sleep, but thankfully the massage was more relaxing than painful, and after the half-hour, I was ready to face the Expo again. On the way back to the hostel, we noticed a Hershey's store and had to go in. There, we were rewarded with Scharffen-Berger chocolate, made in Berkeley.

This time, getting into the park was easy, since we arrived around 5pm. We listened to the announcements detailing the wait times for the most popular pavilions ("China, U.S.A., France, Germany, and Japan: 6 hours") and decided to take their cryptic advice and "Make better visiting plans." We hit up some of the smaller pavilions, cruising through the smaller European countries like Liechtenstein, Cyprus, and Malta. The Pacific Islands and the Middle East also yielded lots of passport stamps, and many opportunities to learn more about the countries in question. I think we both enjoyed Nepal the best, though Syria and Belarus had very beautiful pavilions as well. Due to our chattiness, we enjoyed the perks of more free materials, sometimes just by default of being the only foreigners at the Expo. When we passed through Palestine, my greeting in Arabic produced an odd result: the Palestinian rushed out of the room without a word and returned with Palestinian pins and Yassar Arafat stickers, which were also handed to us wordlessly.
Vietnam Pavilion
Syria Pavilion (I was eating Syrian cookies, thus the weird face)

At the end of the night, we had acquired 70 stamps in our passport. Does this mean we can count those toward our total of countries visited?

The next morning we awoke early and took a taxi to the airport for the short journey back to Qinhuangdao. When we stepped off the plane, we nearly froze to death. It was about 40 degrees, and compared to the balmy 80 we had left behind in Shanghai, it felt like the Arctic. We quickly missed the warm weather, great coffee, and exciting sites we left behind in the south, and are looking forward to our next vacation in the winter, when we'll visit Harbin, in northern China, and brave the freezing cold to witness the amazing ice sculptures for which the city is famous.

1 comment:

  1. One of the coolest things about the Expo was that we were able to communicate in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Bambara. What a riot.