China and Cambodia: Part 6

And then it was our very last full day in Shanghai. So we decided to do what had worked so well for us before: art and food.

We started off our day at the Minsheng Art Museum in the west side of Shanghai. It’s an an interesting area with lots of galleries/exhibition places. It was like an even more exclusive version of M50. There were public art pieces everywhere.

The museum, funded by a bank, shows contemporary artists. They had two shows on. One of them was one of the best shows I’ve seen all year. Puppets and video installation! The work was by Zhou Xiaohu. He built these life size puppets from found items (pre-made masks) and had them act out Buddhist fables. We spent 20 minutes watching the video installation of these creatures dancing and talking about these fables. It was surreal and poignant. This was a show that resonated with the crazy in my head. We also saw the actual puppets themselves. He also had these amazing pieces where he used objects like feathers, bones, and tools, that he arranged in such a way that the shadows reflected onto a wall made it look like handwritten calligraphy. Incredible.

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After our visit to the museum was done, we took a break at a cafe nearby. It was nice to people watch at this arts area. We also found a copy of TimeOut Shanghai that had amazing illustrations.

Then it was time to head to the Shanghai History Museum. It’s located in the base of the famous Oriental Pearl building in Pudong, the land of the crazy skyscrapers. I had never actually set foot in the area; I’d only seen it from across the river at the Bund. So it was kinda exciting being amongst the skyscrapers (and yes, I grew up in Chicago. Shh). At the train station, we went to a bakery and I got a Portuguese egg tart and a mango custard danish. Holy cow the mango custard was amazing.

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When we got to the Oriental Pearl, we were amazed to find this huge line stretching around and around, all to go up the tower. It was interesting how the ticket sellers and guards were surprised when we said that we had no interest in the tower, just the museum.

The museum was a fine collage of different exhibits. It starts off with a history of transportation. We started with sedan chairs, carriages to cars and buses. As we walked up through the museum, there were lots of dioramas, showcasing life in Shanghai at various points in history. Some dioramas were life sized recreations while others were tiny tabletop models. It was neat walking through their recreation of 19th century Shanghai with all the model shops, etc. There wasn’t the most clear narrative of the history but we enjoyed spending time there.

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for one last meal with family. We had a little time to kill before our appointed time so we hung out in a public park near the train. Part of it was hilly and labyrinthine, which was cool. There was a flute player amidst the trees which was a nice touch. We found a little bamboo forest too. As we walked to meet my family, we also found a street with some nice street art. Aside from the day at M50, I hadn’t really seen much.

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We ended up a hot pot place. It was a bit challenging meal. We had split the pot in two: one side was mild while the other was spicy. Very spicy. I didn’t want to dunk the meat in the mild side since my companion was a vegetarian. (She was fine with it but I was committed!) So any meat got cooked in the spicy side. HOly cow, was it spicy! I eventually had to stop and drink my juice to calm the war on my tongue. Alas!

After dinner, we had a little misadventure. When we had the reservation made at the hotel for us, we received a receipt that was mostly in Chinese with only the date legible. I saw that it was a date earlier than we needed but I asked and was told it was fine. However, when we checked in around midnight, we had to explain that no we were staying 7 nights, not 6. Unfortunately, the lady who checked us in did not have great English so it was a bit difficult. But we got to a place that made sense. She showed us a price that made sense to add to the price we were paying. We made sure that we understood what was going on. We weren’t go to just agree.

So when we got back to our room on the 6th day, we found that our key cards didn’t work. We went downstairs, knowing what had happened. Then the fun began. It was the same woman but the story changed. She said we had to pay more for the extra night. We tried to explain that we had already paid and had a receipt to show for it. We ended up with a friend on the phone who was a native speaker. The lady kept changing her story. First it was only 400 RMB for the extra night (about $60) and then it changed to 500 Rmb (about $75). It wasn’t a lot of money but it was the principle of the thing. We didn’t know if our bags were still in the room. It was incredibly frustrating. I wanted to leave but my rational side prevailed. If we got our stuff and left, we would still pay more at another hotel. It was Friday night after 9pm. Eventually we paid the 500 RMB and found that the room was exactly as we left it. Thank goodness.

As soon as we verified that nothing had been taken or even moved, we got in a cab and went to the Bund. We were going to have a fancy drink in the fanciest part of town. We wandered a bit trying to find a place with a view. We ended up in the Peace Hotel, which had a beautiful art deco feel. But no room with a view. Eventually, we ended up in the Waldorf Astoria. It was beautiful. No view but it felt right. We got a table in this wood paneled gem. I ordered $30 glass of champagne. I enjoyed every single drop. There was a singer, beautiful and tiny, with a pink shirt and black pants. She wore amazing tassel earrings. It was what was needed after our frustrations at the hotel.

That glass of champagne was worth it.

That’s all for now!

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