The much-hyped Chinese New Year that I have been hearing about since we got here back in December is quickly approaching. The new year falls on February 10 this year, but one eve and one day isn’t enough to ring it in. A week-long party will be had by all in the Middle Kingdom and everyone is getting ready for it. The grocery stores have stocked up on all kinds of goodies and special treats for their customers like more nuts and dried seafood (I guess the Chinese snack on little dried shrimps the way we snack on Chex Mix at parties), specialty boxed wine and beer, not to mention, chotskies like bright red paper lanterns. The streets of Haiyang are full of vendors selling posters with red and gold Chinese characters emblazoned on them and pretty much any type of firework you could want. The Chinese ring in the new year the way we ring in the Fourth of July.
Chinese New Year just so happens to be the worst time of year to travel within China. All the expats we know are getting out of dodge and going back to the States or are going to warmer places like Thailand or Vietnam. We waited too long to make plans for ourselves (which meant airfares to exotic locales were out of the question), so we opted to at least get out of Haiyang. Actually, we pretty much were warned to leave this little town behind during the new year as shops and restaurants are closed and taxis are few and far between. So, where are we going you ask? Answer: Shanghai.
My husband already treated me to one trip to the NYC of China back in December. We had a whirlwind weekend there and I got to see some of the city that my husband called home during his teenage years (talk about exciting childhood!). We treated ourselves to the usual expat decadences of being in Shanghai — good coffee, a nice fancy dinner, a trip to IKEA, cheap DVD shopping, and, my favorite, massages. Before you get too jealous, dear readers, let me just tell you that a Chinese massage is more like a full contact sport in comparison to the soothing, relaxing experience of a deep tissue Swedish massage.
Of course, we also took in a few of the famous sights of the city while there. We endured a cold, brisk walk along The Bund late at night. We encountered old ladies doing Tai Chi on various sidewalks on a Sunday morning. We mosied along random streets and alleys and came across a neighborhood market…the real Shanghai, perhaps? We strolled around Yuyuan Garden, took some photos of the shops and the Pudong skyline, and got xiaolongbao from the famous Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant’s take out window. Let me tell you — a few warm dumplings can make walking around Shanghai in the pouring rain a pretty memorable experience.
But it was a quick, quick trip. I think we spent about 30 hours total in Shanghai. So this time we’re going back and we have some more things on our list to check out. I for one want to spend as much time walking around the city, exploring the various neighborhoods like the French Concession. If we get a nice, fairly smog-free day, I’m hoping to take in a decent view of the city from the Oriental Pearl Tower and maybe check out the Jade Buddha Temple. I hear both are tourist traps, but I’m just fine with that. I’ve got a whole list of restaurants that we will definitely hit up and I’m excited to try some of the street foods of Shanghai like roast sweet potatoes, which are cooked in 44 gallon drums on the street corners. Yes, please! A day trip to Suzhou, which is known for its canals, classical gardens, and silk manufacturing is also in the works. Are we missing anything? Let me know! Any and all suggestions are welcome.