We were not surprised to learn that 2 million ex-patriots live in Shanghai, China’s largest city. Of course, it’s the commercial center of China – that accounts for many of ex-pats living here – but it’s also city that never fails to amaze us. It’s wonderfully vibrant, exciting and intriguing.
We planned two days of private excursions during our stay in Shanghai last Friday and Saturday. We began with a visit to the home of Tess Johnston, a Virginia native who has spent much of her life in Asia including the last two or three decades in Shanghai. Tess gave us a fascinating introduction to the city, describing the lovely neighborhoods known today as the French Concession (where she lives), the region once occupied by the British (with their Indian servants) and the highlights and lowlights of the city once known as the Paris of the Orient.
After lunch we continued our visit with a stop at the famed Shanghai Museum and the city’s Urban Planning Museum. In this second place, we saw an enormous model of the city showing the buildings, homes, apartments, parks etc. that will exist in 20 years. We have no doubt that these plans will materialize. We watched Chinese come in to see what will one day take the place of their homes and apartments.
During our second day, we drove out of the city to visit a charming (but crowded) ‘water town’. At one time this was a typical village on the grand canal that once connected Shanghai with Beijing. Though it’s become increasingly touristy, we enjoyed the occasion to witness a slice of China’s history. Next we stopped for a lunch featuring Shanghai’s iconic soup dumplings. We learned to dip each dumpling in a mix of vinegar, ginger and soy sauce, and then place it in a little bowl. Next we pierced the delicate dumpling with our chopsticks to release the soup into the bowl. Finally we ate the entire dumpling followed by the soup or broth left in the bowl. Outstanding! We could not get enough. We were comforted to know that our restaurant had an outpost in Bellevue, Washington.
After some time for shopping, we concluded our day with a little surprise, a traditional Chinese foot passage. We went to a salon where nearly a dozen masseuses were waiting to massage our shoulders, our calves and, finally, really work the bottoms of each foot. Soon we were all fans of this ancient treatment – so relaxing, so good.
Well those were the highlights of two days in Shanghai. I think it’s fair to say that each of us wished we had more time; more time to explore the neighborhoods, more time for the classic Chinese gardens, even more opportunity to dine on the city’s superb cuisine.
It was a memorable event – wish you were here.
Paul and Christine