PaperQueen in Shanghai - Blog #6 - March 14 - 21, 2016
Posted: Mar 22 2016
I can't believe I am leaving soon... This week we flew to Beijing for a few days while my husband was there on business. What an absolute shock to see the difference in pollution between Shanghai and Beijing. On a bad day in Shanghai the AQI (Air Quality Index) is 160. On our first day in Beijing it was 351. It said "hazardous" and recommended people to stay indoors. All I know is that after my day of touring the Forbidden City, the Buddha Temple and being taken on a tour of old Beijing by my Ricksha Shi, I felt physically ill. Nauseous, burning eyes and an overall "poisoned" feeling. It sounds totally wimpish but I am not kidding. The cause of it is mostly to do with coal burning industrial plants. Something has got to change. Just imagine what it'll be like in another ten years. We are so lucky to live in Vancouver!
(Shi and I, in front of the Forbidden City)
(Video taken from the Buddha Temple overlooking the Forbidden City)
The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming to the Qing dynasty. It has 980 buildings spanning over 180 acres. To call it massive is an understatement. It was fantastically overwhelming. I spent way too much time wandering courtyards, internal gardens and building after building. It's a no wonder I felt so wretched by the end of the day but it was totally worth it.
On Saturday morning we were picked up by our driver at 8am (we were warned of the crowds and heavy traffic getting there) and headed off to the Great Wall of China. We absolutely lucked out with the weather. The wind had picked up and lifted the smog, the AQI had dropped to 170 and Spring was in the air. When you arrive, you buy your tickets and are then bussed to the base of the mountain. You have three choices to get to the top (wall). You can take a chair lift, a gondola or if you're really adventurous you can do the heart attack climb all the way up which I hear takes about two hours. We took the chairlift. You also have several options of which part of the wall you want to visit which are all far apart from one another. We visited the Mutianyu section of the wall which had been highly recommended by several people. When we got to the top we were in awe of how statuesque the wall was. How clean, stately and important it looked. And how much narrower it was than what we had imagined. It took over 100 years to complete the build and rumour has it that many (thousands) of the men that lost their lives building it are buried within it.
To get off the mountain you have a fourth option; to take a luge slide all the way down. My friend Fiona (thank the good Lord for Fiona) had given us some very helpful tips on our visit, one of which was "luge strategy" and who NOT to go behind when embarking on our descending. Important note. If you are ever going down the TGW luge, do NOT get behind large, break wielding groups of people (who want to stop and take photos of each other). We cleverly avoided doing this but unfortunately were so speedy on our decent we caught up midway down to a woman toting a giant Michael Kors handbag on her slide (WT..? Who brings a honking huge handbag to the Great Wall of China?), who kept breaking (for fear that something might fall out of her handbag probably). So Bruce had to break, then I had to break and then these two guys from Chicago behind me were breaking, all because of purse lady. It then turned into a bit of high speed bumper cars to give her the hint (it was quite fun actually). The guards were yelling at her to hurry up, at me to stop videoing (there was no way in hell I was NOT videoing that ride) as Bruce continued to gently bump her to move her along. It was so much fun, we will never forget it.
(Screaming down the mountain on the luge)
(When in China...buy a selfie stick and take your photo on the TGW! We look a little stunned because we didn't know how to work it...)
Saturday Night - My (Beijing flight attendant) friend Anna recommended a fantastic restaurant called Black Sesame Kitchen. It is a cooking/private party, communal dining restaurant. Nestled off the beaten track (luckily they emailed great directions) we were dropped off at the top of a lane. A Ricksha driver offered to take us to the restaurant which was great as I was wearing heels. We arrived to a darling front door that led us into a charming courtyard. So darling and tranquil. The dinner table for 15 was set up and waiting for us, with the chefs prepping our 12 course dinner we were about to enjoy along with 12 other complete strangers. Two Irish men, a Canadian University recruiter, a New Zealand traveller, two American teachers from NY, three dot comers (that looked like they were out of the Facebook movie), three expats that lived in Beijing and one friend visiting them from the States. The conversation was interesting, the food was OUTSTANDING and the overall experience was such a highlight. If you're ever in Beijing you really must try it.
(Coco the owner - she was darling! and hosts this dinner twice a week. The other days and nights she does private events and cooking classes. We lucked out being in town on one of the two nights she offers this dinner experience.)
(The mouth watering menu)
Our hotel was situated around every possible Embassy you an imagine. Each one had uniformed guards standing at attention 24/7, dressed in their uniforms, guns, the whole bit. There were many soldiers marching all around the city with machine guns. Not what we are used to seeing. None of that here in Shanghai.
On Sunday we took a 1.45 minute flight and were happy to be back "home" in Shanghai for our last ten days together on this amazing, incredible, once in a lifetime experience we have both enjoyed so much.
Thanks for reading. Only one more Shanghai blog to come next week... Boo hoo.