It is currently 5:00 am and I am sitting in the bathroom of my hostel room while Mimi sleeps in the other room. You see, Shanghai has a 12 hour difference from New York, which means that 5 PM has become 5 AM. Everything is upside, time-wise. So I'm trying my hardest to adjust to the jet lag, but tonight hasn't been too easy.
It ended up taking us 26 hours to get from New York City to our hostel in Shanghai. The food on the airplane was exceptionally bad (ever eaten rice that's been sitting in your fridge for three days?) but I was able to watch three movies on the flight, including the movie Adventureland, which was very cute.
Mimi had been warning me that China has a lot of crazy smells. I thought, "Yeah, well I live in New York, I know what a big city smells like." Boy was I wrong. The instant we entered the airport I began catching whiffs of various inexplicable smells. Just think of two completely random smells and combine then, and you'll get the idea. For example, chicken soup and battery acid. Or stinky diapers and freshly cut grass. After immigration, we took the bus into downtown Shanghai to find our hostel. Mimi's Mandarin was a little bit rusty but she was able to communicate our destination to the driver and away we went.
Entering the city from the outskirts (where the airport is) was really interesting. I knew that Shanghai had a lot of skyscrapers, but I didn't realize how ostentatious and bountiful they were. More on the architecture in a bit. We eventually arrived at our hostel, which is really clean and comfortable and has a friendly staff. Mimi called her dad, who agreed to meet us for dinner in our neighborhood. We ended up eating at a "hotpot" restaurant around the corner from we are staying. The food was fresh and delicious and it was nice to meet Mimi's father, Yuheng. After dinner we went back and quickly crashed for the night, exhausted from our travels.
The next morning we got up arouind 7:00 AM and explored our neighborhood. We were excited to find that on our very street was a string of great breakfast food street stalls. They were frying up all types of different stuff, include some Chinese style doughnuts. One was kind of like a scallion pancake. We also had fresh hot soy milk, which tastes very, very different from American soy milk. I think a better name would be bean juice. Today we're going to go back to these stalls and get this crazy crepe-esque thing that we saw being made yesterday morning.
We spent the rest of the morning walking across the city all the way to Mimi's father's office. It was then that I really began to get a taste of Shanghai. I realized that its not tremendously different than any other large, modern city. Shanghai is China's model modern city, and it shows. Despite the smell of sewage bubbling up to the surface throughout the city, the streets are clean, organized and filled with many fancy boutiques and restaurants. What really makes Shanghai stand out, though, are the skyscrapers. As Mimi pointed out, in the United States, innovative architecture is usually displayed at the bottom of buildings through things like entrances and atriums. In China the flare is all at the top of the buildings. Some of them are really cool and some of them make zero aesthetic sense (to me at least). Hopefully I'll be able to upload some pictures soon to show you what I mean.
We finally made it over to Yuheng's office (who, by coincidence, is an architect who hates the flashiness of modern Shanghai). We walked over to the vegetarian restaurant inside of the Jade Buddha Temple. This food was amazing. The highlight was some veggie meatballs that I found in the mushroom soup. Mock meats are pretty much the main reason I came to China, so this was a delight for me. We then walked around the Jade Buddha Temple and watched people feed the Koi fish in a little pond.
We spent the rest of the day wandering the streets and eventually made it back to our hostel. For dinner, we went to another veggie restaurant that was actually a pretty big disappointment. We tried our hardest to stay up but fell asleep at about 9:00 PM. Stupid jet lag.