Shanghai Highs (2010)

Part of the thrill of traveling is discovering new places, food and meeting new people – along with getting lost, frustrated and annoyed. I can honestly say that Shanghai will never be one of my favorite cities to visit but it’s culture and heritage inspire me to want to explore other parts of China. Our visit to Shanghai will definitely be memorable because of the following:

1. Yun’s Paradise Waltz Boutique Hotel93 Caobao Road, Xuhui, Shanghai, China

We booked this hotel because of it’s proximity to the Shanghai Everbright Convention & Exhibition Center. We weren’t disappointed because it was located right in front of the Convention Center. For Chinese standards, this hotel was a bit expensive (around 104 usd/night) but it exceeded our expectations. Among all the hotel rooms we’ve stayed at, our top 2 favorites were Coal Harbor’s Westin (Vancouver, Canada) and Tagaytay Country Suites (Tagaytay, Philippines). Yun’s Paradise is now part of our top 3. The rooms were very clean (probably due to the fact that they only opened this year), the bed/comforter/pillows were cozy (king coil beds!) and the bathroom wasn’t cramped into one small space. It was the type of room where you can sleep in all day.

It’s location wasn’t as close as we wanted to the main areas of attraction but it was only a 10 minute walk (3 blocks) from the subway – Caobao Road Station. A bit of trivia: 3 years ago the Shanghai subway only had 3 lines and because of the world expo their subway now has 13 lines + 1 maglev line. By 2020 the Shanghai metro will surpass Japan’s railway system.

The only thing that I didn’t like about this hotel was their slow lifts. Since the hotel is very new, I expected them to be faster and more efficient. Also, like in most places in Shanghai the staff couldn’t understand english (only a few could). But all in all, this was a very good find.

2. Ichido

On our way to the metro from our hotel we found Ichido, a small pastry shop. They sold scrumptious breads and cakes that weren’t too expensive. One thing we noticed about Shanghai was they have well made pastries. It’s not everyday that you find a place where you can just get great pastries anywhere.

3. Lemon Yakult Drink

Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the place where I got this. But it was around the Tianzifang area. It may sound weird but it was really good! The sourness of the lemon mixed very well with the yakult flavor. I wonder if I can make one on my own?

4. Spicy WontonDin Tai Fung

I live for Xiao Long Bao. I really do. But for lunch we decided to also try Din Tai Fung’s spicy wonton. For those who live in Manila, you can find good spicy wonton at Miensan Noodle House (New Manila). But the ones from Din Tai Fung had the perfect mix of chili and the sweetness of their soy sauce. It was by far the best spicy wonton I’ve ever tasted.

5. Ice Cream from the World Expo site

They have excellent ice cream and variety at the World Expo – from popsicles, soft served ice cream to packed ice cream on cones and a lot more. There are stalls/carts all over the place but once they run out (they run out towards the end of the day), they have a store at the basement 1 level of the Expo Axis near the China pavillion. The most expensive ones only costs 4 rmb (around 28 pesos).

6. Xintiandi Area

A great place to get a bite to eat and shop! This is where Din Tai Fung is located and many more great restaurants. The area is composed of restored ‘stone gate” houses along narrow alleys (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xintiandi) and these houses have been converted into these shops.

7. Tianzifang AreaTaikang Road/Taikang Lu

As mentioned in my post before leaving for Shanghai, my friend described this area as “old houses transformed into an arts area with cafes and restaurants”. True enough this area was beautiful and so alive. The old houses were converted to restaurants and little boutiques that sell various items from souvenirs to paintings to clothes and jewelry, etc. Some stores were on the second floor but from the first floor you’ll be able to see that most of the houses on the 2nd level were still lived in. We went with our friend and had late lunch at Kommune (http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/cafes/has/kommune/). They are famous for their wraps. I had a veggie sandwich that was delicious and my husband had their lamb wrap which was one of their best sellers.  Their smoothies were pretty good but sort of warm. It was a pretty hot day when we went and a bit crowded so that was a bit disappointing. Other than that, I would really recommend that you visit Kommune and Tianzifang.

8. The Pearl Tower

I should have learned a long time ago that I shouldn’t judge places by what people say about them. When I went to Paris, I wasn’t too excited because people told me that it was overrated but as soon as I stepped foot in the city of love, I really fell deeply in love. Even though I didn’t fall for Shanghai, I fell in love with the Pearl Tower. The buildings around the financial/business area surrounding the Pearl Tower were beautiful and properly spaced out. So this structure pretty much stood out. It looked like a pretty cool spaceship to me. Now I know why Shanghai is know for that.

9. Shanghai World Financial Center

I will discuss the SWFC in another post since this was pretty spectacular yet a bit of an odd experience. It’s not everyday that you get to stand in the world’s highest observation deck 🙂

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Countdown to China (1 day to go!)

“A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” – George Moore

My husband and I are going to Shanghai for a couple of days. It’s funny how we travel a lot together but it took a while for me to appreciate traveling with just him. The last time we traveled with just the 2 of us was last February. The 4 trips we took since then were always with friends and family. Not that I don’t like traveling with other people it’s just that sometimes our travel styles are so much different from those we spent time with. I am a very impatient person and it’s hard not to get irritated when things don’t go according to plan (translation: when people don’t take into consideration time and schedules that have been set beforehand). So even though sometimes my husband and I still get into fights when we travel, at least we understand each other well enough to know which buttons we shouldn’t push.

Unfortunately, this country will not add up to my 30 countries before 30 list. But after this trip we’re thinking of a couple of new places to go to, so hopefully one or two new countries will be added before the year ends.

Anyway, we’re pretty excited to go to Shanghai since the last time we were in China we were only able to visit Beijing. Luckily we have a friend who works in Shanghai (http://caaarmel.tumblr.com/) so we were able to ask for Shanghai tips and recommendations. Based on the list that she gave us, we would probably go to the following:

1. World Expo – most people would probably go to Shanghai for this particular event and we’ve heard great things about it. Apparently the expo closes at 12 midnight and if you buy your tickets after 4 pm it’ll only cost you 90 rmb (the regular ticket rates are 160 rmb/ticket).  But my husband and I usually start our days early (when traveling only!) so I’m sure we’ll be able to visit some expo sites early on.

2. XingGuan Building – 7 heavenly floors of photography items. I cannot wait to see this!!!

3. Shanghai World Financial Center – the 3rd tallest building in the world. I’ve been to 3 of the top 10 tallest buildings; my husband has been to 4. We enjoy visiting skyscrapers for some weird reason. So I am looking forward to adding more to my list.

4. Huaihai Road – A shopping area similar to Singapore’s Orchard Road. There were a lot of shopping areas on her list but I’m not into shopping that much so I’ll be contended with just going around this one.

5. Xintiandi – She describes this as Shanghai’s “Greenbelt/Eastwood” Area (to be understood by people from Manila). I’m assuming it means that this area has shops and restaurants that are open till late night. I’m looking forward to this because we might eat at Din Tai Fung!

6. Tianzifang – her exact description is that “old houses are transformed into an arts area with cafes and restaurants”. Hopefully we’ll be able to take lots of pictures here.

7. Bund area – A walkway by the river. This is where we’ll be able to see the Pudong Skyline.

8. Pearl Tower – she says that this is an obligatory tourist spot (and across there is a Super Brands Mall).

9. Jingan Temple – it would be nice to see some of the temples in Shanghai.

There are a couple of more places on her list such as the Barbie concept store, Taobao Building / Hancity (to go shopping for fake goods) and Nanjing West Road. Hopefully we’ll have enough time to visit most of the sites but if not at least we’ll have a reason to come back.