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Shanghai’d!

February 24, 2013

In the middle of September we had a long weekend so I did what I normally do in that case, leave the country! For this trip I decided to go to Shanghai and as fortune would have it, my stepmom was visiting China at the time so we met up for the weekend. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first comes the fun process of getting a Chinese Visa.

They’ve got quite a skyline

They’ve got quite a skyline

Now as a US citizen you are able to get into most countries in the world just by showing up and getting a stamp at the airport. However there are some you still need to get a Visa for and China is one of those. To begin the Visa process I went to their website to fill out the forms. They were long, but not unexpected. I had a few questions though such as how much it would cost and what I would need to attach to the forms when I turned them in. As is natural, I went to the FAQs section to find these things out. The FAQs had nothing about the cost nor the required supporting attachments but it did have information such as “I want to shoot a commercial in China, what kind of Visa do I need?” and “I have a small acrobatic troupe that will be performing in China, what kind of Visa do I need?” I didn’t realize that most people visiting China were shooting commercials or in a small acrobatic troupe. I also wondered if you’d need a different Visa if you were in a medium or large sized acrobatic troupe. No worries though, I was able to eventually get my Visa (without joining an acrobatic troupe).

When I got to the Shanghai airport, my stepmom met me there as well as some of her relatives who were nice enough to drive us into the city. While we were in Shanghai, two other cousins of hers were nice enough to show us around everywhere. It was great having them there to bring us around (although I have yet to see the Chinatown part of Shanghai).

Our first stop was a famous rock garden with a famous zig-zagging bridge in front of it. Centuries ago, some of the better off people in China would construct large rock gardens around their homes as a place of business, entertaining guests, and even just quiet contemplation. Some of these have survived to today and are amazing to see. You feel like you’re stepping back in time being in a tranquil garden within this huge metropolitan city. To top it all off, we even got dumplings afterwards!

I'm smiling because that building has dumplings in it

I’m smiling because that building has dumplings in it

We also spent part of a day going out to a water town which is a village with canals running through it (think Venice without gondola singers). The town was very calm and peaceful even though it was a huge tourist destination. We took a ride on one of the boats to tour the canals. The drivers use one paddle and paddle through the water streets.

Didn't see any jet skis though

Didn’t see any jet skis though

We went through the whole town and eventually came to a boat with some large birds on it. Our guide asked if we wanted to see the fishing birds in action so we said “of course”. Out comes this guy from on land with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He jumped onto the boat with the birds on it and started kicking the floorboards (I think this released some small fish). The birds then jumped in the water and dove underneath. About 20-30 seconds later they’d pop up with a fish in their beaks then swallow it. It was kind of cool to see. My stepmom and I both then wondered “they can’t do this all day otherwise they’d be full” and then we noticed the string. Each bird had a string around its throat tying it to the boat as well as making it so the bird couldn’t fully swallow the fish. As we started paddling on, our friend with the cigarette started making the birds gag to cough up the fish. Sort of took the fun out of the show.

Later that day we visited another neat rock garden with ponds full of lotus blossoms. Afterwards it was about 4 o’clock and it was a several hour drive back to Shanghai. We decided to stop for an early dinner. We ended up picking a “traditional” Chinese restaurant. Thankfully I wasn’t that hungry. I ordered a beef and peppers dish which was just enough for me while everyone else ordered things such as eel soup, a fish egg dish, and a chicken soup that I thought had mushrooms in it but was really the congealed chicken blood. Appetizing!

Her name was Sally

Her name was Sally

Earlier my stepmom and I had been talking about what to do for breakfast. I told her that I really wanted to get some Shanghai style dumplings (which are different from other dumplings) as there is a place in Sunnyvale that makes killer good Shanghai style dumplings. You should have seen how happy my stepmom got. She knew exactly which place in Sunnyvale I was talking about, loves it also, and thought nobody else in the family liked it. So we went for Shanghai style dumplings one morning and they were killer good.

Half the reason to go to Shanghai

Half the reason to go to Shanghai

On our last night in Shanghai, we decided to go to the top of the Shanghai World Finance Center to check out the view and the bar. This building looks like a giant bottle opener and stands taller than anything else in the Shanghai skyline. We went to the bar and lounge on the 91st or so floor and took in a spectacular view of Shanghai. They also had delicious drinks and desserts. A fitting end to a great trip to Shanghai.

The next day I headed to the airport and got to take the high speed mag-lev train. This thing is fast. At one point it was going 300 km/h. It’s the fastest train in the world and took what was an hour plus car ride down to like ten minutes. Not too shabby. I really enjoyed my trip to Shanghai and just want to say thanks to my stepmom and her family for helping this white guy around the city.

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