Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy

Greetings from Shanghai! Unlike Australia and New Zealand, where you need to dig for cultural nuances, this is NOT at all America, meaning this is where my trip starts to become really interesting!

Traveled on China Southern, and enjoyed flipping through an in-flight magazine almost entirely in Chinese characters. Some hotel advertisements were partially translated. "The Castle by the River That Has Stood Many Great Powers of Civilizations" and "Sanya Bay Premium Ocean View Leading the Trend of Fortune" looked particularly interesting!

I had the courage to route my travels from Melbourne with a connection through the southern China city of Guangzhou. After arriving on a redeye at 6AM, I needed to clear Chinese customs, figure out my new departure gate in this massive airport, and figure out how my checked bag was going to follow me to Shanghai. Given the considerable language barrier and the conflicting advice I had received regarding whether or not I needed to collect the bag in Guangzhou and recheck to Shanghai, I consider it a minor miracle that my backpack actually made it here! The Chinese who were transfering appeared similarly confused -- seems fine.

I'm staying in Shanghai with my gracious relatives Lisa and Palle, expats now living in the French Concession area of the city. This is a common area for foreigners to settle in Shanghai, though is still dominated by native Chinese. Historically it was where the French staked out their colonial settlement in the city, though their exist few traces in a city which is constantly overhauling the old and replacing with the new. We do happen to be across the street from the American consulate here, heavily guarded by the Chinese and ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOS allowed! Thankfully Lisa saved me as my instinct to pull out my camera almost got me into big trouble here.

Lisa met me at Shanghai's airport midday Friday and her driver took us into the city. We first stopped at the ''Western'' supermarket in the suburbs, catering to those who desire distinctly non-Chinese foods such as bread and cheese. It was full of the 13 dollar boxes and other ''Western delicacies'' that foreigners crave! After being dropped off at Lisa's condominium we walked to a delicious Thai restaurant and ate a feast. Following a necessary nap after 14 hours of travel, Lisa and I took a walk down Wulumuqi Lu (pronounced 'Ool-oo-moo-chee'), packed with shops selling Eastern herbal remedies and foods such as live frogs!

We returned to Lisa's for a delicious meal of mushroom-pork steam dumplings, and I've started to consult my hosts' extensive array of travel guides to plan my next 5 days here.

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