Sunday, April 14, 2013

Asia trip part 2 - Sea days and Shanghai

Note: This post is long! Also, all pictures and videos embiggen nicely. 

This was the longest vacation I've taken as an adult. But actually I don't think it ended up being the most expensive. That title goes to our Mediterranean trip of 2008, which was 4 days shorter than this trip. The first two days after getting on the boat were "at sea" days which means you are trapped on the boat. You can keep yourself busy or not, but it seemed like Serge and I were always up to something.

And that something was usually alcoholic. The ship was happy to oblige and we discovered tricks to save money on the booze intake. Actually, buying a bottle of hard alcohol from room service cost LESS (even with tip) than what we can pay where we live. So that was nice.

The first formal night was fun. By the time we got to the third formal night, we were a little tired of the dress up. But since the average age of passenger seemed to be about 70, pretty much everyone participated in formal attire wearing. Serge, the little rebel, refused to wear a tie.

The menu is a little more formal too and they haul out the china to serve the meals on. I actually didn't notice that until reviewing photos. Above was a yummy seafood cocktail. 

In the mornings of the sea days, Serge and I went to the great gym on board. I worked out on the machines and Serge did mostly cardio. I need to get him a treadmill so we can work out together at home. Anyway, I had to take a before shot, as in before I gain ten pounds with all this awesome food.

We played many games of Uno together. That game is so mean and we just love to be meanies. Yes, we are drinking in the daytime. What? We were trapped on the boat, it's what we do.

Every night at happy hour, we took advantage of the buy one, get the second one for a dollar deal. And they served little hors d'oeuvres that varied each evening. Seemed like all we did was eat and drink on this cruise.

After dinner each night we hung out in the Ocean bar where a wonderful jazz trio played. There were a lot of people ballroom dancing on the dance floor. We decided we should take lessons so we could partake on the next cruise. We do like Dancing with the Stars and it would be a fun couply activity.

The sea got more and more choppy as the day wore on. After dinner we noticed these all over the place. Barf bags just magically appeared everywhere. This was when we realized we had forgotten to bring the Gravol (Dramamine) even though we have a ton of it! Oh well, we didn't get sick anyway. We were too excited about arriving to our first port the following day.

Shanghai! And the cruise ship docks right in the heart of the city. When we woke up and looked out our porthole, that is the view we had. It looked like we had landed on a different planet. That pink tower is the TV tower.

We ran up to the top of the ship to see the sunrise and ogle the immense city all around us. Quite the change from gray and drizzly ocean for the last two days. We were excited to get going and we had an all day tour booked called something like The Best of Shanghai.

First stop, Shanghai Museum of Art. They gave us an hour to do it. We finished in about 25 minutes. The Chinese' idea of a museum of art and our sense of what it is are very different. There were a lot of drawings but they all seemed to be in the same exact style - Chinese. In fact I kept saying that in China, it looks like it was all designed and decorated by the same person. Anyway, there were no paintings as you would expect in an ART museum, but there were a lot of coins and sculpture exhibits.

They seemed just as nationalistic as we are. The Chinese flag flew everywhere. I like the simplicity of it. On our tours, all the guides seemed to do was gush about their culture and customs and how advanced they have become. Indeed, their economy will surpass the US's in 2016. You could see that in the bazillion skyscrapers being built everywhere.

Then we went on to the Jade Budhha Temple where we were not actually allowed to take a picture of the Jade Buddha. Luckily a little search with Google and you can see it. Here I'll go get it.

It wasn't all that impressive and you couldn't get very close to it. Asia was rife with the Buddha, but frankly after a while we got pretty bored of it. I suppose the same could be said of the ubiquitous crosses on churchtops throughout our land.

Then it was lunchtime, included on the tour. We had a bunch of plates and often did not know what we were eating. There was one meat none of us could figure out. Probably best not to know. One lady had a really hard time getting iced tea. They were so confused, especially when she wanted sugar.

I was able to get a shot of our ship from outside the restaurant. The bigger cruise ships can't get into Shanghai and we only had 4 feet of clearance ourselves to go under a bridge spanning the river. But I like the smaller ships. You get to see more of the same people that way and it just seems less chaotic. Our ship wasn't full which made breakfast time less crowded. That was nice. Anyway.

We made a quick stop at the tallest building in Shanghai going up. It was odd since I had checked out a library book on Shanghai from 2009. There were so many things (like subway lines) that didn't exist in 2009. The pictures of the skyline were WAY different. This tower is going to be 121 stories. It was jaw-dropping.

Then we went to a famous garden that I have forgotten the name of. Here, I'll go see if I can find it..ah yes, the Yu Garden. These were the only flowers there. Again, their idea of a garden and our idea of a garden is totally different. Their garden is all about rocks and water and little temple things.

See what I mean about the same designer? They all resemble each other.

After the garden our guide gave us some free time to peruse the open air market next door. So many foods I didn't recognize. It smelled like Chinatown in your city. The vendors of the knick knacks were extremely aggressive and always started with RIDICULOUS prices. Like $35 for a t-shirt. Um, they are selling them on the boat for $5. Anyway, as I've said, I would rather not spend money if I have to haggle about it.

Our final stop was on the Bund, a famous stretch of street where we finally got a picture of us together in front of the skyline.

Even though the tour was all day, we got back on the ship, had our drinks and dinner and then headed back out. We went to the top of the Hyatt and got this awesome night shot. OMG the Hyatt was hilarious, it cost $17 bucks to go up to the rooftop bar, but that included one drink. So we ordered a vodka on the rocks. When the bartender handed us two highball glasses of ice, I repeated my order. He said, yes, there is vodka in there. The ice did taste vodka-y but none of it actually made it to the bottom of the glass. LOL, cheapskates.

They had this very weird tramride thing to take you under the river to the other side. We wanted to go walk around the other side in the modern part of the city.  Anyway, it was a kind of show at the same time, but really cheesy. Here watch a little bit of it. Serge was quite into it. He took like 10 videos inside on the way AND on the way back. 

Then we walked around the modern part of the city. Lots of bright lights. Incidentally, we stayed up kinda late that night. After about 12 midnight the authorities shut almost all of the lights off. I'm sure it's to save money. But it looked eerie. The next day we stayed in Shanghai some more.

I had a couple of walking tours in my tourbook so we walked over to the nearest metro station, about 20 minutes from the ship and tried to figure it out. The 50 cent fare was nice and the subway stations were clean and modern. 

We loved walking around taking in the sights, smells and sounds of everything. I loved all the English errors or odd translations. That part reminded me of home. I always chuckle when we go to our favorite Vietnamese place here in Montreal and see the Appetizer section of the English menu titled "Entrances" since the word in French for entrance and appetizer is the same.

It was warm enough to sit outside for lunch. We found a little thai place that we heard a lady say, "Hey this is that place I was telling you about, great food." So we sat down and had lunch. I ordered something that was listed as spicy on the menu. I am from Socal, I can eat jalapenos by the handful, but my meal was the spiciest thing I've ever eaten. Every bite caused sweat to break out on my face and forehead. (It wasn't too pleasant the next day coming out either.) TMI? You must be new here.

We walked for hours and hours. You can see that we were lucky the first day with the fairly clear air. Not so the second day. Super murky. We love exploring cities on foot, it's the only way to really get the feel of a place.

One thing was treacherous though - crossing streets. If you observe, none of the vehicles respect the color of the traffic light. It only appeared to us that the buses respected the lights, otherwise it was a freeforall. So crossing the street while crossing our fingers is what we did most of the time. The look on Serge's face at the very end of the video is so funny because we almost got hit by a scooter.

Then we had to be back on the boat for departure. We made a point to get there in time for happy hour, of course. Hope you enjoyed this long post. Next up, more sea days and Beijing. Stay tuned.


Mel said...

Haven't I told you my trick for minimizing the "afterburn"? Liberal application of Vaseline or a similar water barrier goes a long way toward damping down The Ring of Fire.

Anonymous said...

Fire in the hole!

The traffic there is insane. Serge's look was priceless, but my fave Serge video is still the fucking Tidal Bore video! I could watch that a hundred times over!

I would love to do ballroom dancing.

CoffeeDog said...

I love the tram! And if it was TMI, then for sure that person is new here :-)

anne marie in philly said...

I have no doubt the chinese economy will surpass ours by 2016. thanks for the shanghai tour!

(raises a booze glass in your honor)

Blobby said...

Great images. It makes me rethink an Asia trip being farther down on our list.