November 25, 2006

Hairy Crabs in Shanghai

To view all 49 photos of Shanghai, press HERE for a slideshow.

Gallery Glass
and Porcelain
Along the Huangpu
Zhou Slept Here
Another Chinese Monopoly
Ducks in a Row
By the Tea House

Wednesday, 22 November:
It was raining when we arrived in the afternoon. The traffic was terrible and it seemed like it took forever to traverse the few kilometers to the Astor. Since they offered no discounts, we could not afford the $80 day-rate. But we found a clean and suitable hotel, just around the corner for $32 a night. We booked in for three days. We settled in and hoped the rain would stop. In the evening we went for a walk along the Hangpu River, the Bund and a ways down Nanjing Road. The city is all lit up at night. The view across the river blew me away. Nanjing Road was lit up like Times Square. We stopped for bowls of noodles, then walked back to our hotel.

Thanksgiving Day - 2006:
Despite the rain, we were out all day. We tried to stay dry, by walking short distances and drying off. It seemed to work pretty well. We did not see a lot more that we had the night before. We could clearly see the buildings of the Bund. They were all built 80 to 100 years ago and designed by international architects. We had walked into the Peace Hotel the day before, and we visited the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank building. It was wonderful. The rotunda was stunning and the art nouveau fixtures jumped out at you. We stopped by the youth hostel and found it too expensive to move to. But we picked up some info about the city and a couple of newspapers in English. We stopped to by a headset for my MP3 player, and looked at all the cheap electronics that one must buy with great caution. We stopped at a couple of elegant hotels, including the Radisson. We love the ambience of their comfortable sitting rooms. Near the end of the day, we bought a couple of DVD's. With little to no English TV in China, DVD's are a must. We had spotted an ad for a gallery opening earlier in the day. The Contrasts gallery had a wonderful show of avant-garde porcelain, glass and furniture. Shanghai is a town full of artists that are trying to be on the cutting edge. Except for the fashion, I like most of it. We especially liked the pieces at this showing. By the time we got back to our hotel, we were thoroughly soaked. The big disappointment for the day was our inability to find a Thanksgiving Day meal that we did not have to travel far for or cost a reasonable amount.

Old and New China
in the Same Breath


Friday, 24 November:
The weather was not glorious, but it felt awfully good. You got it, no rain. We started by walking and taking the Metro to the old French concession area. We stopped by a couple of elegant old hotels. Then we visited the residence of General Zhou Enlai. After the war, his standing as a general allowed him to live in Shanghai. The Chinese Communist Party used his house to establish the party's presence in Shanghai. They were able to use it until the civil war started. The buildings and courtyards were charming old homes. The area had many like it. We continued our hike through the city. Before long we were in a large area of antique shops. I love these sorts of places. I like to look at stamps and coins. I found lots of old coins. I was very interested in the silver US dollars. Of course they looked authentic, but every one was a fake. Yes they looked good, but the weight and ring we all off. From here we entered the Chinese old city. The area is not so large. We entered on the west side. It was hard to imagine that just a half mile north was Nanjing Road with its ultra modern look and elegant shops, because this part of the old city was like so many poor hutongs that we have walked through with their myriad of run down shops. We continued and found ourselves in what felt like an old-world Chinese theme park with dozens of building of old Chinese architecture. The area around the tea house was beyond belief. And literally thousands of tourist, mostly Chinese, crowded into this area of shops and restaurants. We were now just a few blocks south of the Bund. We walked along the river. The park was crowded with travelers.
Hair Crab is a local specialty that comes only in the fall. I wanted to try it and I did that evening. They call them hairy, because of the moss-like growth on their claws. They are medium sized crabs with the bodies about four inches across. I have eaten Alaskan King crab and liked it. These were OK but nothing that I would order again. There was far too little meat and they were way too much work. They do not dip the crab in melted butter, no - they use vinegar, albeit a very mild rice vinegar. So, you can see that I am just not the hairy crab that you thought I was.

Today, Saturday, 25 November:
We have been in China exactly one month. This is a take it easy day. I spent a good part of the day writing this entry. I wanted to visit a wifi hotspot. We expected to find them all over Shanghai. It is the only city in China where many are listed on the net. Every KFC should have them and so we headed for a nearby KFC. I discovered that there is a mobile telephone company that sponsors the KFC hotspots. To use it you must find a vendor, pay $13 and then login at some outrageous rate per minute. We thought, well lets find a McDonalds - they are wifi hotspots. As we continued are walk down Sichuan Beilu, I encountered a westerner and asked what he knew about wifi hotspots. He mentioned that he had passed a Starbucks. We continued our walk and by now we had been walking a hour. Finally, we found the Starbucks. To our amazement they do not provide a free wifi connection as in Beijing. Only the telephone company wifi network was available. The IT infrastructure seems to be sorely lacking here.
Pissed yes, tired yes, but we found a wonderful restaurant just down the block. I had the other local delicacy, a pork knuckle that I had so wanted to try. That along with the short ribs was really excellent. We both rated it as one of the best restaurants we had visited. We returned to our rooms and watched an old James Dean movie, East of Eden. We had not seen it before and we marveled at what a great film it was and what a fine actor James Dean was.
Tomorrow we are off to Hangzhou.

Posted by bill at November 25, 2006 11:09 PM

Crabs and pork not duck ? What lucky you are doing this journey! SUERTUDOS !

Posted by: susana at December 3, 2006 08:42 AM