China and Cambodia: Part 2

The following morning, we were up super early because of the jet lag. But that was okay. We walked around some more in our neighborhood. There was a bakery where we got little baked balls of red bean and egg that was quite delicious. I am obsessed with red bean and have been since high school. I endeavoured to have as much of it as possible on this trip. And rank it!

After our morning tea and coffee, we decided to take a long walk to the Shanghai Museum. It’s one of the top museums in Shanghai; it has a very impressive collection of artifacts including bronzes, ceramics, and more. It’s free but they limit the number of visitors each day to 8000 (I think). So go early if possible to avoid disappointment. Shanghai in July is hot and sticky as we found out. But the walk was nice. We took a detour along the Bund, an area next to the riverfront called the Wall Street of Shanghai. I think it was part of the English and American concessions when Shanghai was colonized. We watched the boats in the harbor, saw the crazy buildings on the skyline.

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The Skyline

We stopped by for a cold drink at one of the many Family Marts we saw in China. The labels on the drinks were amazing and surreal. My favorite was the one with a bird living in a teacup.

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Me in label form

The Shanghai Museum is shaped like a Chinese cooking vessel called a ding. I really love that fact especially since they have several dings inside the museum! We got there when it opened but there was already a line. Thankfully it moved quickly and we were in the air conditioned embrace of the museum. We started from the top floor down. The first area we went to was the Exhibit of Ethnic Minorities in China. Yes, that’s what it is called. While we can talk a lot about the politics of such a place and some inclusions, there were some really amazing outfits and masks.

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My favorite area of the museum remains the ceramics. I came to love ceramics later in life. As a kid I found them moderately interesting. Now, I find them endlessly fascinating. My favorite era of Chinese pottery is Tang. The sculptures are so full of character and life. I love the color scheme, full of greens, yellows and oranges. One sculpture was a woman seated on a horse.

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Tang Dynasty – Female rider

We also had a fun moment with a guard. I happened to notice an interaction with a guard and another museum patron. This guy was holding a series of empty wicker baskets. Apparently, you can bring almost anything into the museum. He had just thrown them down on the floor to look at something and the guard, rightly so, yelled at him. Moments later as I was looking at something else, my friend grabbed me and said, “The guard impishly pointed a bowl. You should check it out.” I saw the bowl at hand and if you peeked into it, there were painted butterflies. Same guard. I love it.

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The Impish Guard Butterfly Bowl

We also made a turn around the Bronzes and the Sculptures, which were also wonderful. It’s a really nice collection. And yes, I saw the many dings! There’s a tea room in the museum so we had a little pit stop with tea and macarons, including a sesame one. Pretty good!

Then we decided to walk to Yuyuan Gardens. Of course, it was the hottest time of the day. The area around Yuyuan Gardens is a bit hectic, a bit unpleasant. But the gardens are a wonder. It’s like a labyrinth, little narrow walls lead you to unexpected pools and trees. It’s fun to get lost here.  We spent some time gazing out on the pond filled with koi amongst some beautiful buildings.  There’s a zig zagged bridge in the middle; there’s a belief that ghosts can only walk in straight lines so they can’t walk on a zig zagged bridge.

When we left the peaceful confines of the garden, we eventually found ourselves back in the hubbub around the gardens. We decided to get a snack at a dumpling place nearby. I ordered a variety of dumplings including a Hello Kitty inspired dumpling. Inside was custard. I also had a dumpling that was kinda like baklava, nutty and sweet. The red bean dumpling was okay. Alas!

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Hello Kitty Dumplings

We ended up meeting family for dinner near the hotel at a mega mall at a stir fry place. It’s a bit like Benihana where the chef cooks it all at the table. I had this crystal pork that was delicious (but dangerous). Dessert was a warm pancake filled with red bean paste. It was really wonderful. Can’t decide which red bean thing I liked better: the red bean egg ball in the morning or the stir fry pancake in the evening. Decisions!

After dinner, we decided to try a foot massage at a place near the hotel. I had never had a foot massage in China before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I love massages as a rule so I was very curious. I sadly was not a fan. It hurt a lot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but my feet still hurt the following day. I feel that suggests that the foot massage was not for me. Oh well. It was worth a try!
That’s all for now!

China and Cambodia: Part 1

Hello Readers! It has been a few weeks since I’ve last written. I have just returned from most wondrous adventures in China and Cambodia that I will relate to you in the upcoming weeks! We spent a week in Shanghai and six days in Cambodia.

Our trip began in Shanghai where I had family. We flew Eastern China Airlines, which actually was pretty good. I always appreciate it when airlines have personal TVs with lots of movie options. Our fifteen hour flight, however, got a little tricky. There were storms in Shanghai so we couldn’t land at the airport. Then we were going to land at a different airport in Shanghai but the storms were impacting flights there too. So we ended up in Nanjing, about 45 minutes away. However, we learned that Nanjing didn’t have customs so they couldn’t process us. Fortunately, the storm ended in an hour and we eventually landed in Shanghai.

We got into our hotel around midnight. Before we went to sleep, we decided to walk a little bit outside and checked out the 24 hour Family Mart next door. It was great. We picked up a bunch of tasty looking things and ate them in the room. I got these marshmallow things that I had hoped had red bean paste inside of them. Instead it was chocolate. It was pretty good. I also had this bun that had phyllo dough and cream (like Twinkie cream) inside of it. It was a pretty awesome way to say hello to Shanghai.

The following morning, we took a stroll around our hotel. It was on a side street that had recently touched up cobblestones and statues of famous Shanghai citizens. There were little shops and a church claiming to be the only church in a Chinese style in the city. We had coffee and tea at the Koala Garden House, which was pretty good. There were lots of little hole in the wall places all around the hotel that made me super happy. So much street food!

Our first stop of the day was the Jade Buddha. I had been there previously in 2014 but it’s a classic place. It’s a wonderful place. There are beautiful statues in various temples all over the complex. I loved all the flags in the temples. Some statues seemed relatively old while others looked very recent. The Jade Buddha itself is housed in the second floor of one of the buildings in a serene room with an elaborate ceiling of about 500+ Buddhas. The complex seems bigger this time since there were additional rooms behind it including a dining hall.

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Flags and pagodas

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Statues at one pagoda

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Newer statue in another pagoda

After our wanderings through the Jade Buddha, we had some lunch at a random place nearby. The king of all the meals was a bean curd and bean dish that was out of this world.

Our next stop was M50, a former factory area turned into art gallery complex. There had to be at least 50 galleries that had set up shop. It’s like a contemporary art museum. So many different styles to see. Our favorite was island6 that had a lot of light and sculpture installations. One piece had three guys sleeping in chairs at a conference table and a phone number. Naturally, I called the number, causing the painting to start ringing. The three men wake up and start picking up their phones. Sadly, the recorded person on the line spoke in Chinese so I have no idea what was being said. Another painting showed a ship and if you triggered the sensor, you’d see and hear explosions. There was a stuffed parrot that would yell insults at you and a box of Chinese take out that said really naughty things. The gallery was lots of fun.

As we left M50, we found a series of walls covered in graffiti that made me very happy. I love how art spaces seem to go hand in hand with street art. The same is true in Paris too. There were even artists out adding to the wall! We found a coffee shop where we had some tea and cake. It was a perfect place to relax after our wanderings. There was a mural of Lhasa and another map of China…and a series of license plates from the US. A neat little space.

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Street art near M50

Our next stop was Tianzifang in the French Concession. It’s like a warren of little shops, some touristy but many are boutiques. It was fun wandering around. I had a soup dumpling that I drank with a straw and then ate the dumpling with my hands. So much fun! Dinner was at an Indian restaurant with juice drinks. It was a good way to handle our first day in Shanghai.
That’s all for now!