Suzhou

For our last day in China, we took a day trip to Suzhou, famous for its numerous gardens and its historical status as a center of the Chinese silk industry. Kenny’s co-worker Yun kindly agreed to come along and serve as translator, in exchange for us serving as tour guides (armed with our TimeOut Shanghai guide).

We visited the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Suzhou Museum (designed by I. M. Pei), with a stop for lunch at a delicious Hunan restaurant in between. Suzhou is small and quite touristy, but it made a nice peaceful day trip away from bustling Shanghai.

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Translator and tour guide posing for a shot in the Humble Administrator’s Garden

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I. M. Pei’s beautiful museum is a modern building, but it pays homage to the simple lines and structures of the Chinese gardens that surround it.

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Little Vid does China

As some of you already know, Kenny and I have a travel companion who lives in our camera bag – Little Vid, a stand-in for our dear friend Vidya (who unfortunately chose not to take a year off from her job to join us on sabbatical). Here are a couple of photos we took of Little Vid in Shanghai. There will be many more to come as we continue our journey.

You can follow all of her adventures on our Flickr page via the Little Vid tag.

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The real Vid loves karaoke. Here’s Little Vid enjoying a duet with Kenny in Shanghai.

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The real Vid doesn’t like beer, but Little Vid enjoys an Asian lager from time to time.

KTV

For my last night in Shanghai, a bunch of my co-workers took us to Party World for karaoke. Karaoke in China is a much different experience than the states. You rent a karaoke room, which has couches and your own personal KTV with Chinese and English songs to choose from. Finding your room is an experience in and of itself, as there are many different sections spiraling out from a central hub that includes an all-you-can-eat  buffet as well as specialty food and drink stations.

It was a blast. The MS-Shanghai crew have amazing voices, and everyone got into the action.

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I’m looking forward to another KTV night the next time I’m in Shanghai!

Cash Recycling Machine

Seen on East Nanjing Road, Shanghai:

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We theorized that a cash recycling machine is likely an ATM that accepts deposits.

Also on East Nanjing Road, we saw a “Reverse Vending Machine”: a machine that accepts empty cans and bottles, and dispenses cash. If you think about it, this translation actually makes perfect sense. Unfortunately we didn’t get a photo of this one.

Shanghai

Ni hao from rainy Shanghai.

We arrived around 11pm on Sunday night and crashed immediately. Kenny has an extremely full work schedule this week, with virtually every hour planned out. I have just the opposite – five completely free days to explore the city.

We are staying in a fancy international hotel in the French Concession that Kenny’s co-workers recommended, complete with ridiculous breakfast buffet, fabulous gym facility, tennis courts, and a bowling alley.

Given the wet, gloomy conditions I decided that my first day would be a museum day. Our hotel is only a few Metro stops from People’s Square, so I intended to check out the Shanghai Museum. For some reason the Time Out Shanghai guide  warns that the Shanghai Metro can be difficult to navigate and that foreigners should stick to taxis. I’m not quite sure what they’re talking about – from my experience yesterday, it works just like any other Metro system, and the English signage is abundant. And my few experiences with Shanghai traffic have taught me to avoid taxis if at all possible.

I made my way over to the museum, and before entering started talking with two young women from Hangzhou who stopped me to ask for a photograph. I ended up joining them for tea at a tea room nearby before the museum. They taught me some basic Mandarin and gave me some in-depth explanations about Chinese tea culture and etiquette.

The museum itself was massive, containing extensive collections of Chinese crafts dating back to 6000 BC, including bronze ware, coins, paintings, jade sculpture, and ceramics. I spent a few hours exploring, and took some photos for Kenny, since he’ll be in the office all week and needs to see the city vicariously through me. Here are a few, there are more in my Shanghai set:

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Jade face used on funeral cloth, placed over a corpse's face Inside the museum

After Kenny got home from work, we enjoyed a delicious Cantonese dinner at the Heng Shan Cafe, just a block from our hotel. Kenny will write a review, of course.

Everything left on my sightseeing agenda for Shanghai involves walking around outside, so I’m taking it easy indoors today to wait out the rain: doing some research on yoga/meditation retreats in Nepal, finishing a few things for work that didn’t get done last week, catching up on my photo backlog. In theory the weather will get better starting tomorrow, and I plan to do a few self-guided walking tours in the Old City, along the Bund, and around the French Concession.

Thoughts from 35,000 ft

We are currently about 3 hours away from our layover in Seoul, above the Sea of Okhotsk according to the little TV screen on the back of the seat in front of me. Kenny is asleep (of course), but I’m not so good at sleeping on planes. So instead, some random observations from me:

  • Asiana is definitely a no-frills airline, but the flight has been fine so far, and the staff are friendly.
  • The guy next to me sounds like he is going to hack up a lung. I am terrified that I’m going to catch whatever he has and then get quarantined for suspected swine flu when we arrive in Shanghai.
  • Our new laptop rocks. I’ve been using it for about 3 hours so far on this flight, and the battery still has over 6 hours remaining.
  • For some reason I get super impatient on short flights (e.g. SEA->LAX) but can mentally prepare myself to sit still for longer hauls, even if I don’t sleep at all. Ten hours from Seattle to Seoul? No problem.