19 February 2009

Day 02 Shanghai

After a breakfast of instant coffee and pastries bought from Paul the night before, we headed out with the intention of visiting People's Square in the morning. From a previous taxi ride I had noted an area full of book and stationary stores that was on the way to the square. I couldn't resist taking this detour, which turned into a morning browsing the shelves. Turner found a set of small notebooks that he has been looking for for almost a year now. They are the perfect size and have perforated pages--he loves them; it's cute. We also went to the Foreign Language Bookstore and bought a couple books on China and some leisure reads. I was amazed at the selection, all for about what you would pay in US dollars. I think most of the books were authentic, not black market copies. They have a lot of classics, for obvious copyright reasons. Anyone can make an edition of Pride and Prejudice or The Odyssey.

Laden with books, we decided to return to the hotel, deposit our purchases, and then head over to the riverside for a boat tour of the Huangpu River. On the way back, we stopped for lunch at a fast food chain that serves Chinese food and each got a set lunch that arrived cafeteria-style. The food wasn't outstanding, but it was honest and very cheap. After a heavy, expensive steak dinner, it fit the bill.

That afternoon, we bought tickets for a 3-hour river cruise that left the Bund at 2pm and advertised that it went to the confluence of the Yangtze and Huangpu rivers where they meet the China Sea. The small cruise boat had about twenty other passengers, mostly foreigners. I think the cheaper, one-hour tours are more popular with Chinese tourists.

The first half hour of the cruise was interesting, seeing both sides of Shanghai amid all the sampans, ocean liners, and fishing boats on the river. After a while though, the scenery became monotonous, one gray factory or shipyard after another. Three hours was going to be an awfully long trip. I don't know why I expected to see any nature, false hopes I guess. The most interesting part came when the boat reached the sea. The temperature dropped 10 degre
es. The wind picked up. The waves got bigger. The coastline was lost in the fog/smog. We could have gone all the way to Taiwan, but the boat turned around and headed back upstream to Shanghai.

On the way we passed a large boat and saw a man walking along the edge holding a precious bundle wrapped in red. Behind him a woman poked her head out of a cabin holding similar cargo. Both had broad smiles on their faces as the lucky parents of twins (even luckier if they were boys). The dreariness of their surroundings couldn't stifle the joy of these new parents.

The boat ride left us cold and shivery, so we took a taxi back to the hotel for a nap and shower before heading out for dinner. We decided to try the Thai restaurant we had shunned the night before in favor of steak. The restaurant, Simply Thai, all dark and modern, appeared on the surface to know what it was doing, but the ensuing dinner fell short of the mark. We ordered cocktails, a mojito for Turner and Down Under Fizz for me (vodka, sprite, orange juice, grenadine), and flipped through the large menu. Our waitress cursorily took our orders for pad thai, green curry, and spring rolls, which arrived shortly, all at once. To them, we head just ordered appetizers instead of any main courses which seemed overpriced. This might indicate why the service was lacking and we felt sidelined. Turner's curry was very good, and very spicy like he ordered, but the pad thai tasted like it came out of a box and the noodles were undercooked. The spring rolls were nothing special either. This was our most disappointing dinner of the trip. I think Simply Thai should go back to the simple part of Thai cuisine instead trying too hard to be upscale.

We hightailed it out of there and headed straight for Paul, again. This time we ordered two croissants for breakfast and a tarte au citron to split for dessert. Sometimes all it takes is a little pastry to make an evening perfect.

1 comment:

  1. hannah said she saw someone fishing for walleyes on the opposite side of the boat!!!!!!