My Shanghai Surprise

Posted: September 12, 2013 in Travels
Sad to leave Shanghai, on my way to Hongqiao Airport

Sad to leave Shanghai, on my way to Hongqiao Airport

Am I making smarter destination choices these days, or is it just that as my wings continue to spread, I find myself in more exotic places?  The world is getting increasingly smaller for this little Santa Barbara girl.  China wow’ed me.  And of course, especially being an American, China is a bit of an unknown.  Correction: was an unknown.  Shanghai is an absolute delight (and very green) and I am actually a bit sad to have just left!  What an amazing city… not that I got to see much of it.  At some point over this last week I just had to come to terms with the fact that I did what I came to do and let the rest go… knowing full well that I will be back, and soon.  Multiple-entry visa is good for one year!  And the Four Seasons General Manager is quite possibly the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen.  Ralph Fiennes has got nothing on you, boy!  😉

As daunting as it may sound, I do tend to enjoy these flip time zones.  Sure, I’m up until at least 3:00am, and then again early in my morning to wrap anything I missed with clients in America before the luxury of my ‘free days’ ensue.  As the business grows, my clientele is definitely global but I’m fully comfortable and quite happy with where it’s at and my path forward is more clear… of what I need to do next.  Seems to me like everyone in my world is in the same turnip truck and my worldwide friendships just keep expanding as well.

My week was fabulous although I failed miserably at truly seeing anything Shanghaian, except the hotels!  Gone are the days of 11 hotel sites in one day, but somehow my days still dissipate quickly.  Priorities are straight: clients, exercise, sites and logistics… all of which I executed beautifully.  My attempts to see the copious amount of fabulous things to do in Shanghai suffered.  I was too busy to research much in advance and relied heavily on my mates in industry for advice.  I learned quickly there is enough to do in Shanghai – as there is in New York City, if not more.  All the vastly different neighborhoods, each with its own unique panache, would have been lovely to explore.  Instead I was educated several times while sitting across the table from a hotelier with a map and tea in between us.  Pudong, The Bund, Xintiandi, Jingan, there’s so much!!!  And how amazing would it have been to see Sozhou And Hangzhou!!?  Sigh.

I strategically arranged my sites geographically so that Tuesday I could explore Xintiandi in the afternoon and the French Concession on Wednesday afternoon.  Oh and People’s Park!  I’m so disappointed not to have seen the parents in the marriage market holding signs with their children’s ‘stats’, trying to marry them off.  Next time!  I repeat: “I did what I came to do”… and then some.  What a fabulous city.  Really!  Clearly, Shanghai is begging for me to come back, as the intense thunder and lightening prohibited my attempts at exploration.  But I self-spun, ran hard and swam daily… plus visited clients.  “I did what I came to do”.

Language is definitely a bit of an issue though the Chinese have it worked out quite well, in my opinion.  When leaving the hotels, the amazing service-oriented staff would write on a ‘taxi card’ your destinations in Chinese characters, on handouts pre-printed with all the hotel information on it as well.  Of course I found myself in the mercy of a few kind souls, to help me along the way.

Last night for example, I was a bit frustrated that I’d not been outside a hotel much (although day one I did venture out to find my Chinese red bull!)… and I was deep in Puxi.  Oh, and a fun-for-the-farm fact is that Pu means ‘river’, Xi means ‘left’ and Dong means ‘right’, hence you have Puxi and Pudong on either side of the Huangpu River!  It really is fun being a blonde Southern California un-educated American.  🙂  Somehow it all works out, I’m aware and grateful for that.  Anyway, back to last night, I was at the PuLi Hotel & Spa doing my site which was cut short (damn you Christian Dior) and decided I needed to eat or see something authentically Shanghainese!  And I was in the perfect neighborhood to do just that.  The rain and lightening had different intentions but I persevered and went to a highly touted ‘local’ Sichuan restaurant.  PuLi gave me an umbrella and I just went for it.  I’m so pleased that I did.  I’m sure there was plenty of Chinese snickering at my idiocy.  However, I did it!  Even with three menus, one 30 or so pages long.  I started to get nervous as I flipped through that bullfrog and tripe might be the only offerings.  Awww, then came the Cantonese section and my sweet waiter, James.  He kept apologizing for his poor English as we sorted through my grey gooses, Sichuan pork slices, Kung Pao prawns and a bonus Szechuan wonton soup!  I should have been the one apologizing, and I was kind and open about that.  He told me that my hair is the most beautiful he’s ever seen.  🙂

Getting a taxi from Jingan wasn’t the easiest and again, I had to rely on the kindness of the restaurant host/cashier for help. I knew well enough by then that I would need someone to explain in Chinese. I wonder what all they say in those situations, the conversations are quite long and seem so involved.  Even though there’s a map on the taxi card!

But I made it.  And I miss it already as I descended upon Hong Kong.  My Hong Kong plans are entirely NOT what they started out to be earlier in the week.  But so perfect.  I love it when fate and karma unknowingly take over and guide me.  Everything just works itself out, in so many different aspects.  Am in the back seat of another Rolls Royce (because that happens every day – ha ha) en route to Tsim Sha Tsui.  So crazy.  Next trip I will pack lighter and take the 430 km/hour maglev train.  🙂

Off to discover what kind of crazy awaits me in Hong Kong!  The drive so far is ridiculously interesting and beautiful.

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