One of my college roommates moved to China after we graduated. For most of the past eight years she’s lived there. Sadly, I haven’t been to visit yet. She used to joke that “you should never move to a country Megan has already visited, because she might not come see you” (which is only partly true). When a last minute work trip to Beijing came up, I was thrilled to be able to fly in early to spend a long weekend with her in Shanghai…especially given that the timing corresponded with Swiss National Day – a public holiday for me.
After a 12 hour flight (yikes!), I landed in Shanghai with an email containing directions in Chinese to get from the airport to the apartment. I was hoping it would be enough for my taxi driver to get me where I needed to go. Thankfully, it was! I arrived at the apartment, which is located in the Old French Concession. She lives in the top of one of the old three-story buildings. Her apartment has tons of character, and you can get a feel of the neighborhood by looking out the window.
Over the past eight years, we’ve done a good job of seeing each other. Usually at least once per year. But, it’s been a year and a half since our last rendezvous, so there was LOTS to catch up on. (This is the friend who is newly engaged. Remember I met her fiancé in Zurich back in April?) We spent the morning chatting before heading out for a delicious western style lunch at a place called Sproutworks. Then, we went to a couple of shops to try on wedding dresses, which was so fun (even if my jetlag was almost making me fall asleep while walking down the street)! I took a 20 minute power nap before we went out again for a 90-minute massage. The best part about this massage? It was only $22 USD!! I told her I would probably get one every other day, if I lived there. What a treat! (And yes, I’m sure I slept through a lot of it.)
We met her fiancé and another one of her friends for dinner. I ate so well the entire trip. People ordered good food for me to try at every meal. In China, it’s typical to order multiple dishes for the table, and everyone shares. You use your chopsticks to pick out what you want and eat it in your own small bowl or plate. And it’s rare to see rice. So different from the US version of Chinese food where we pile half the plate full of rice.
That night, I had my first ever scooter ride. All three of us piled on for the ride home.
The next morning, we had omelets at home before heading out on a scooter tour of the city. I’m so glad I got to have time doing life with these friends…watching them interact with each other, hearing about their daily lives, and listening to them make plans for the future. After brunch, we were off on our adventure…girls on the scooter, fiancé on the bike.
We rode through an antique market, but our first official stop was the Fish, Bird, and Flower Market. It was a first for all three of us. I know I can’t adequately explain what all was there, but there were TONS of small stalls and tables selling all kinds of creatures…neon colored frogs, fish of all kinds, squirrels, chipmunks, cats, dogs, birds, crickets, etc. Oh, the crickets. They were SO LOUD! I took a couple of pictures to try to capture some of the unusual items:
Those gold containers were hanging EVERYWHERE, and each of them has a cricket inside!
Next we went to Yu Garden. I always love the juxtaposition of old buildings alongside modern skyscrapers.
When it started to rain, we decided it was time to head home. Of course, not without stopping for a bubble tea at Super Daddy!
When I realized how inexpensive spa treatments were in comparison to Switzerland, I asked if it was possible to get a pedicure, too. It was! (This is only my second pedicure in 10 months. Withdrawal isn’t a strong enough word to express how much I’m missing them.) I was a VERY happy girl getting my toes pretty while reading some US pop culture magazines. Of course, they were all 4-5 months old, and I never really know what to believe. One magazine said Jennifer Aniston was pregnant; one interviewed her and made no mention of a baby.
We shopped for a little bit before heading home for a rest before dinner. Dinner was delicious. The food was from a Western province of China. Super spicy! After dinner we took a cab to the Bund. It was a gorgeous night, and there were SO many people out enjoying it! I loved the skyline!
We went up to a place called Glamour Bar for some dessert overlooking the skyline. Such a great way to end a really fun day!
The next morning, we headed to church. I may have said this before, but I always love going to church with friends in other countries. I think it’s a beautiful glimpse of what heaven will be like to worship with believers from another part of the world. I wish I could capture the sound of the congregation singing. There were maybe 100 people present, and they were belting out the lyrics to the songs. You could really feel their passion. It was amazing!
After church, we went out to lunch with some really fun friends. They were doing the ordering. I told them the only thing I don’t like is cucumber…not realizing I probably need to clarify a few other stipulations when in China. I said ‘no’ to frog legs and some kind of bladder, but I decided to be brave and to try chicken feet and fish head. When in China…
We wrapped up the visit by going to the 89th floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel. It was cool to see all of the ships on the Bund. They are building a new skyscraper next to the tower we were in. We were on the 89th floor, and the new building was still TOWERING over us. I think it has to be at least 120 or 130 floors!
I flew to Beijing on Sunday evening so grateful for the time with a sweet friend and her fiancé. I can’t wait to celebrate their marriage in the UK in May 2015!
From Monday – Thursday, I was working in Beijing. Our days in the office were full, and we had dinners in the evening. I didn’t take any pictures, but we did drive by the Nest and the Water Cube from the 2008 Olympics. I ate a lot of really great food and met some wonderfully sweet people. I love that good people are a consistent theme in my work travels.