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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shanghai: Old Town & River cruise - 4.11.11

  • Yu Yuan 豫園
  • Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant 南翔饅頭店
  • Huangpu River Cruise黃埔河遊輪

We purchased the flight & hotel package from China Airlines.  The direct flight from Taipei to Shanghai was only an hour and a half. (Enough time for me to be interested in the in-flight movie and wishing the flight could last longer so I could watch the movie ending.) As soon as we got out of customs, the airline arranged pick-up was already waiting for us to take us to the hotel. 

On the highway to the hotel, I immediately got the sense of how massive and populated this city was.  There were rows after rows of tall apartment buildings everywhere.

Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the Renaissance Zhongzhan Park Hotel.  The hotel was situated over the Zhongzhan Park Metro station with lines 2, 3 and 4.  The metro station was connected to a huge shopping mall called "Cloud Nine".  Although the hotel was not very close to most tourist sights, the easy access to the metro definitely made up for it.

Between the jet lag and my sister's wedding related events in Taiwan, both H & I were so sleep deprived that once we checked into the hotel, we took a power nap before we headed out again.

Finally at 4:30 PM, we were ready to see what Shanghai was all about.  We headed down to the metro station. There was a screening machine that checked large bags in every metro station.  I had not seen such security measures in any other city before.  It was probably the after work rush hour, the station was crowded and people were aggressive even in comparison to New York standards.  A lot more men were wearing suits than I expected, and women were fashion conscious even though there was still a gap with the latest trend.

Our first stop was the old town.  It was pretty in a Disney Epcot Center sort of way: very touristy with lots of shops catering for tourists.  After walking around the old town for a while and taking enough pictures, we headed to Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant for one of H's favorite Chinese dishes: Xiaolongbao.  There was a long line on the first floor for take-out, so we headed to the restaurant upstairs. The waiters only came to take the order once and requested payment upfront.  We ordered a few different juicy dumplings.  They were good, but not spectacular.  I thought it was the fact that the restaurant was established in 1900 which made it famous, not necessarily the dumplings.

After the old town, we bought the ticket for the Huangpu River Cruise and headed to the piers. It has became my travel to do list whenever I visit a city that offers river cruises.  I love seeing the city from a different angle at night.

It was a chilly night in early April.  On one side of the Huangpu river at the Bund, there were the European style architectures built in the early 20th century. On the other side, all the modern skyscrapers in Pudong dressed up in dazzling lights with a pitch dark sky as the backdrop.  The view was spectacular and mesmerizing.  There was no denying that it was a clear statement of Shanghai being one of the most important metropolitan cities in the world.

On the way back to the hotel, we walked through a park and saw the most amusing things happening.  The park was like an outdoor multi-functional night club with groups of people gathering in different corners dancing to different music and even singing karaoke.  At one corner they played  70's disco music, even with disco ball lighting!   I wondered if people had to pay a fee to dance and was it the norm in many parks in Shanghai.   It was too funny!


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