Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring Break 2011

Ni Hao!  I hope this finds you doing well!  This last week has been full of exciting adventures and relaxing days.  I’ve had the opportunity to visit a town about 3 hours outside of Shanghai as well as explore the city a little more.

On Monday we took a 45 minute subway ride to a town on the outskirts of Shanghai called Nanxing.  The main reason we went here was for a type of food called xiaolongbao that supposedly originated there.  We also stopped by another garden/park area for a little while as well.  The really interesting part was when we went to a coffee shop across the street from where we had dinner.  The menu they gave us was completely in characters.  I wound up trying to tell the waitress that I wanted hot chocolate, but I had a feel my request didn’t really get across.  A little while later we got all our drinks and I wound up with a mountain of ice cream, wafers, cream and soda.  By far one of the best drinks I’ve had in China!

On Tuesday we left for our trip to Anji.  About 30 minutes away from the town is a bamboo forest that has become famous because it was where Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed.  While the forest itself was amazing to hike through, getting there was half the fun.  The trip there was uneventful, but Dan later informed me that we traveled down the wrong way on an interstate to take a left into the Anji bus station!  After arrival we walked around a little market by the bus station and got some lunch, we also ran into a stand that was selling bunnies for about $6.  If we had any idea what we'd do with a bunny, we would've gotten one.

After finding some food we went to get a few taxis to take us to the hotel we had reserved.  We had no idea where the hotel was, or how to say the name in Chinese.  I don’t know how, but the taxi drivers figured out where we wanted to go and started laughing at us and telling us to get into the taxis.  They proceeded to drive us a few hundred yards down the road to our hotel.  We could still see the bus stop.  This was the first of several times we overpay for transportation.  We got settled into the hotel and headed off for what we thought was the bamboo forest.  We walked back to the bus station because we knew there were a lot of taxis there.  We left without a hitch, but they took us to a bamboo museum we really didn’t want to go to.  There were a bunch of shops outside the “museum” and we started looking around.  I’ve gotta give props to Tori for making a friend there who offered to get us to the actual forest.  She told us that we would take a bus to get there and told us how much it would be.  It seemed a little high, but we really wanted to get to the forest.  It turned out that we paid her for her husband and his friend to drive us out there in their vans.  Combined, they had room for 10 people.  We had 11.  Dan wound up propping himself up between two bucket seats for what turned out to be a 30 minute ride.  He survived but his left leg was completely asleep.

The park itself was amazing.  We started hiking around and we really enjoyed all the scenery.  There was an observation tower at the top of the first hill we climbed that we spent some time at.  We continued to move through across the mountain enjoying the scenery.  It looked a lot like the Smokey Mountains, except this was a forest of bamboo.  Not a ton happened the next day or so as we hiked around the forest and went down the roller coaster that had been built into the side of the mountain.  We had bought some PB&J and had a little picnic in the forest and they were amazing (more props to Tori).

Since then we’ve been to the Shanghai Museum, as well as the Yuyuan Gardens and the World Financial Tower of Shanghai.  The Museum had a lot of cool stuff from China’s history.  A lot of pottery (this exhibit never ended), calligraphy, coinage, paintings, and some other stuff.  It was all pretty interesting.  The Yuyuan Gardens were just really cool, it looks very Chinese and it was very relaxing to walk through.  The 101th floor of the Financial Tower was really cool too.  We stayed up there for the sun set and got to see all the buildings light up below us.  We met the Dyson’s for dinner that night and I really appreciate the generosity they extended to me and my friends.  I must also thank Mrs. Dyson for the amazing cookies she made us, it takes me back to all the D.I. meetings so many years ago.

On a quick side note, Dan has been trying to start a stereotype for Americans here in Shanghai.  For the last few weeks he has taken the stairs instead of the escalator at the subway.  I would say that it’s been picked up by a few members of our group whenever we’re around him, it’ll be interesting to see if it sticks.

That’s all for now!  I’ve got some more pictures posted below and a video or two.  Have a good week!