Month: May 2018

A bike tour around Shanghai

A bike tour around Shanghai

On Friday, we said good bye to our first visitors. After a 2-week group tour around China, Thorben’s parents stayed with us for a week. Besides celebrating my birthday we also did some other fun  activities, one of them was a bike tour through Shanghai at night.

Our guide had to cancel the day before but we still wanted to go, so they sent one of their technicians. Our new guide didn’t speak English but he knew the route and played recordings at some of the stops for some background info. We started at Hengshan Road and biked through the French Concession, passing big villas, embassies and Fuxing park. In Xintiandi, we went into one of the alleyways and learned about community life there. Our next stop was the Yuyuan Garden/Old Street area which is the old center of Shanghai. Now it’s really touristy with lots of shops but lit up nicely at night. We have yet to visit Yuyuan Garden, I think Thorben’s parents have seen more of Shanghai’s sights then us 🙂

After biking through some small dark alleys in the old town, we went to the bund. It was really visible again that Shanghai is a city of huge contrasts: Some people share tiny, old lane house apartments with their extended family, have communal kitchens and bathrooms and sit outside around plastic tables with their neighbors playing Mahjong. A few meters away there are fancy hotels, glitzy, modern high-rise buildings and the Pudong skyline.

On our way back we passed Nanjing East Road, Shanghai’s major shopping street and People’s Square. You can really see a lot of Shanghai in 3 hours on bikes 🙂

Birthday celebrations

Birthday celebrations

Saturday was the most important day of the year – my birthday – and it was the first one we celebrated in Shanghai. The day was mostly about food, surprise, surprise 😉

Presents and Brunch

My family sent a huge box of goodies for my birthday, including 4.5 kilos of chocolate – or that’s what the customs note said. Somehow Thorben managed to hide it from me for 2 weeks so it was quite the surprise. I also got 2 awesome paintings, which I’d been admiring at a gallery on our street. After presents we had brunch at Bull & Claw, my favorite brunch place. Or one of my favorites, it’s hard to pick in Shanghai. We brunched so much I had to take a nap after we got back 🙂

A Shanghainese Dinner

In the evening, we had a little dinner party with Shane, Morgane, Leyfa and Thorben’s parents, who arrived on Friday. Thorben hired a Chinese Chef through the app “好厨师” (good chef). He came to our house with all the ingredients and didn’t stop cooking for over 4 hours. Most of the food was Shanghainese, so it was good Shane was there to explain them to us. It was quite a feast, I think we had 16 different dishes, I didn’t manage to take pictures of each one. But no matter how much you eat, at the end there’s always room for a slice of cake. Or two 🙂

Thanks for all the birthday messages, calls, presents and of course thank you to my party guests for celebrating with me! Turning 28 wasn’t so bad I guess 🙂

Nanjing or why not to travel in China during National Holidays

Nanjing or why not to travel in China during National Holidays

Today is Labor Day in China. As May 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, the office was closed Monday which meant that Saturday was an official working day. I have to say I’m not a fan of the 6 day work week … but definitely a fan of the 3 day weekend 🙂

To take advantage of the extra day we’d planned to spend 2 days in Nanjing and then relax at home (read: do laundry) on the holiday. The fastest train was sold out but we managed to get there in less than 1 1/2 hours. Gotta love train travel in China.

We didn’t do as much as I had wanted to because it was a little too hot, too crowded and the air was quite polluted. This is what we managed:

Nanjing Massacre Museum

Sunday morning we headed to the Nanjing Massacre Museum, or the “Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders” as it is officially called. Just walking inside and seeing the sculptures is really depressing but I’d still recommend going. The exhibition inside is very well done, with lots of pictures, artifacts, information and videos.

Fuzimiao or Confucius Temple area

Next, we headed to Fuzimiao, the pretty area around the Confucius Temple. There are lots of shops, mostly tourist traps, and because of the holiday it was really busy. From the pictures I saw it looks beautiful at night all lit up but we didn’t manage to go back when it was dark.

1912

For dinner we headed to 1912, a little walking district with lots and lots of bars and restaurants. There are many western places but we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and tried a local specialty: Nanjing Salted Duck.

Purple Mountains

Trying to avoid the crowds a little we got up early on Monday and went straight to the Purple Mountains. Looks like everyone else had the same idea and when we got to the Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum a little after 9 it was already very very busy.

Thorben said that when he went to the Purple Mountains during a business trip a few years ago it was a really nice peaceful place. To get some room to breathe and escape the picture taking (not many foreigners in Nanjing), we decided to skip the main sights and exlore the smaller walking trails. This worked pretty well and we didn’t see too many people after that.

After a quick shower at the hotel we decided not to head back into town for the afternoon but take an earlier train home. The heat and bad air quality combined with the huge crowds and long queues everywhere kind of killed our sightseeing mood. And our air conditioned and air filtered apartment just sounded way better 🙂

Overall, Nanjing is a nice place with lots of great things to see – but like many people said, it’s best to avoid public holidays. From now on I’ll just keep doing what we did before – leave China when there’s a public holiday (or hide at home).