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Trip Report A week exploring Hong Kong & Shanghai

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If you ever have the opportunity to fly trans Pacific for the price of a transcontinental ticket, take it.

It was a deal for tickets from LAX to Hong Kong, nonstop, for under $600 that put me on the path to take this trip, with my mother, a couple of years ago (please forgive the tardiness of my trip report).

Knowing that my mother had always wanted to go to China, we quickly booked a Spring trip to Hong Kong with a return from Shanghai for $608, nonstop (about 12-13 hours) each way. There was a downside; these flights were on United’s old 747s which don’t have seat back video. But for that price, it was worth it.

The last time I’d been to Hong Hong was early 1999 so I was ready for another trip. We decided on four days in Hong Kong and four in Shanghai. We had to get from Hong Kong to Shanghai on our own but there are plenty of flights and an overnight train between the two cities. We opted for the train, which was a fun experience (more on this later).

The trip was really enjoyable; we ate well, explored Hong Kong's Central District, Lantau Island (Tian Tan Buddha and the Tai O Fishing Village) and markets, and took the Star Ferry to and fro. In Shanghai, we walked the Bund and Nanjing Road, ate TONs of dumplings, visited museums and the marriage market in People's Park, and went out to one of the water villages.

Ok, on to it...

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    We left Los Angeles on a Friday for our flight to Hong Kong. The plane was packed and the seats were narrower than ever I’ve ever experienced. This was indeed the very old 747 we’d been warned about with no seat back video which made the westbound flight of almost 13.5 hours feel interminable. However, United does have a wifi entertainment system, so if you have a personal device like a tablet and you download their free app, this works ok for movies and the movies and TV shows offered are free.

    Also, if you are skilled like my mom, you can bring your own cocktail ingredients (bitters, syrups) and turn a mini bottle of Jim Beam into a craft cocktail at 30,000 feet (photo in link below).

    Once we landed in Hong Kong, we bought Airport Express train tickets which are direct from the airport to the city. We got off at the Kowloon stop and our tickets included a ride on the K2 shuttle bus which let us off a half block from our hotel, the YMCA. There are racks near the doors on which you can store your luggage.

    Salisbury YMCA
    Here’s the deal, the Salisbury YMCA has a million dollar address and is one of the best values in town. The hotel has been there since 1901, and while it might seem expensive for a “budget hotel”, keep in mind, rooms at next door at the Peninsula start at $800 a night for the same view.

    This is no hostel with dorm rooms, it’s a full-service hotel. We booked a full harbor-view room and I think it was worth it. Our room was on the top floor, the 16th, and had a full view of the harbor and the nightly light show. I am a person who is willing to pay more for “a room with a view”. If you aren’t, yes, cheaper rooms can be had in this hotel and others in the area. But this was the best value full harbor room in the area for the price.

    Our room had two twin beds, but a room with one double bed might feel larger. There was a long desk/cabinet opposite the beds which held the TV, drawers and a mini fridge.

    The beds are very firm. We had to ask for an extra pillow (so we could each have two) and a luggage rack, both of which were brought in minutes. There is a safe in the closet. There were no robes in the closet and no bar in the hotel, but there is a barber, bible study, and a self-service laundry, none of which we used. For us, it was all about the spectacular view, and at night we got the full light spectacular show right from our window.

    By the time we got checked in it was late, but we were hungry so we set out in search of won ton noodles. We ended up at a place near the hotel called Chee Kee (G/F No.37 Lock Road Tsim Sha Tsui) for noodles with beef brisket and noodles with shrimp won ton, both served with a bowl of shrimp flavored broth. The beef was tender and the won tons were good, but the noodles were like straw in taste and texture (57 HK$ for my meal).

    Next, all we wanted was a cocktail and bed and that’s when we discovered that the YMCA does not have a bar. Lucky for us, the Kowloon hotel next door does. The bar was quite cold, and the cocktail, a bourbon smash with raspberries and lemon, was tasty but pricey at 100 HK$ compared to the cost of dinner.

    Here's a link to my blog post with photos for this section:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2016/09/25/hong-kong-and-the-salisbury-ymca/

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    On our first full day in Hong Kong, unsurprisingly, I woke up at 3am. Thank you jet lag.

    The first stop of the day was to buy Hong Kong transportation cards called Octopus Cards; at the time the cost was 150 HK$ for me, and 70 HK$ for mom (senior rate). Built into those costs is a 50 HK$ deposit which we got back (minus $9 fee for having card less than 90 days) on our last day. Every time you take a bus or subway, it pulls money off the card. I used all of my 100 HK$ and my mother used most of her 20. Her trips cost less than mine because most were discounted at a senior rate and some were free.
    The MTR is easy to use; tap the card to the machine and it opens the gate. It also shows your balance when you go through. When you leave the MTR at your destination, tap the card again at the exit gate and you’ll see the balance. Many stations are HUGE with multiple exits. Look for signs which indicate which exit for your intended destination.

    One of the nice things about staying where we did at the YMCA was that it’s close to the Star Ferry terminal on the Kowloon side. We walked over to the dock and up to the top level for the trip over to Central. The fare was $3.40 HK$ for me and free for mom. Later I discovered that top level is 1 HK$ more expensive than the bottom, but if you’re sightseeing it’s worth it for the views.

    When we arrived at the Central station, we decided to follow part of a walking route outlined in my guidebook, but basically ended up wandering all over and eventually getting a little lost.

    First thing off the ferry is elevated walkways leading deeper into Central.

    Because it was Sunday the area was starting to fill up with domestic helpers setting up for their day off. Mostly these are women from Philippines and Indonesia and they were setting out cardboard to sit on, preparing to spend the day there with friends. They bring food, magazines, clothes to trade, nail polish, and some were singing hymns. Some build walls made of cardboard around their space. At the end of the day, the cardboard must be packed off and hauled away somewhere into storage because we saw men bringing it out on wheeled carts in the morning. This has been going on for a very long time and it's something I witnessed almost 2 decades ago when we were last here.

    It was still early and we went in search of milk tea in a Dai Pai Dong which turned out not to be open. Instead, we found a market street which I think may have been around Gage and Peel Streets.

    We stopped in at Lin Heung Tea House for Dim Sum (162 Wellington St, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong). This place has been there a long time and is clearly popular.

    According to Wikipedia, we clearly did not know how to drink the tea there. They say, “The server provides two teacups for each diner: the bigger one for tea making, and the smaller one for drinking. Patrons need to steep tea in the larger cup and pour it into to the smaller one.” Wish I’d known as I’m sure we looked a little foolish. ��

    It’s small and crowded inside. I noticed that people got up and went to carts instead of waiting for them, so I did too. Bring your tally card with you so it can be stamped. We had shu mai, bao with pork and rice noodle with what turned out to be chopped up liver inside (not bad, but too rich to finish). I would have liked to have some of the duck hanging in the windows downstairs but I had no idea how to get it to our table.

    We walked down Wellington Road and then all the way to where the Peak Tram begins and discovered a minimum of a one hour wait. No thanks, not today.

    For a late lunch, we went to Guangdong BBQ on Ashley Road and for 68 HK$ had noodle soup with sliced duck and greens on top with cold milk coffee. On our last day, we went back here for duck and pork for our train ride to Shanghai, both with rice, 85 HKG for both. This was an excellent decision.

    After a rest, we find ourselves going back across the harbor on the Star Ferry, then taking the MTR to Sam Kee Bookstore to see rescue kitties. I’d read about this place online and it was difficult to find. It’s downstairs in the building, a very small bookstore, filled lots of cats, all rescues available for adoption.

    Here's a link to my blog post with photos for this section:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2016/10/09/hong-kongs-central-district-star-ferry-dim-sum-and-markets/

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    Thanks for the report! Love your mother's cocktail kit - so cool. But 13+ hours in a tiny economy seat? Not sure I could do that these days.

    Yes, cheap(er) hotels are cheap(er) because they don't have bars and restaurants and concierges and bell boys and swimming pools and other things I personally don't use/want to pay for.

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    thursdaysd- right? I'd rather have that view any day over other hotel amenities. We were perfectly happy with the YMCA.

    Onward...

    Hong Kong’s Lantau Island; The Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery:

    Early on a Monday morning, we found ourselves on the MTR Pink line to the Orange line out to end out to Lantau Island.
    Outside the MTR station is a French inspired pastry shop called Saint Honore. GO THERE. Two pastries, fresh and hot from the oven, one with peaches, one with sweetened cheese for all of 17 HK$. I immediately ate both of them. There is also a Starbucks nearby if you need a coffee before getting on the bus or the cable car.

    We decided we did not want to do the cable car. Twenty-five minutes dangling in the air in a small glassed-in box is a claustrophobic nightmare for me. The bus station is across from MTR in the direction of the cable cars. Bus #23 goes up to Tian Tan Big Buddha and monastery and takes about 45 min. The bus driver was a bit crazy; driving fast like he was late for dinner, but the scenery from the bus was quite enjoyable.

    Once we arrived at the bus stop for the Big Buddha, there was no escaping which direction we needed to head. The big guy is visible from just about anywhere.

    The monastery opens at 8 am, but the Buddha does not open until 10 am. We arrived around 10:20 am and there were people there, but not the hoards we saw coming in on our way back down.

    Climbing to the top is free, but to visit the museum under the Buddha’s seat and to climb up inside was 35 HK$ and included a vegetarian snack at the monastery (or ice cream). I bought the extra admission even though no photos were allowed inside the museum, my mom did not. She really didn’t want to even climb up, but I convinced her.

    After walking up down and around, we go over to the monastery. There are temple dogs everywhere but no cats.

    Before catching another bus to the Tai O fishing village, we walked into Ngong Ping “village”. This was the Chinese faux version of a “village” and while it was hyper commercial, it did have a nice clean bathroom. There are also clean restrooms at the entrance to the monastery to the right of the big arch entrance as you walk in. The bus terminal is on another side of the “village”.

    Photos for this post can be found here:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2016/10/28/hong-kongs-lantau-island-the-tian-tan-buddha-and-po-lin-monastery/

    Next up...the Tai O Fishing Village

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    Kathie- I did think of Gpanda when I wrote that. :-) I know the penalty would have been stiff.

    Hong Kong’s Lantau Island Tai O Fishing Village

    From the Tian Tan Buddha and the monastery, we took bus #21 to Tai O fishing village for about 6 HK$. The ride took about 40 minutes. We explored the narrow alleyways for about an hour or so. Unlike the monastery, there were a lot of cats here. And a lot of dried fish. Perhaps those two things go hand in hand?

    We didn’t have much of a map, so we just wandered and checked out the everyday life going on. The village is very picturesque and we spent our time wandering up and down side streets, some of them over water.

    At the end of our walk, we returned to the village bus stop where we took bus #11 back to the MTR station and then the subway back into the city.

    In this case, my words do not do justice to what we saw, so please check out the photos.

    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2016/11/14/hong-kongs-lantau-island-tai-o-fishing-village/

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    A Goodbye to Hong Kong with French Toast, Noodles, and Dim Sum

    We didn’t eat in the Tai O fishing village, but instead returned to Kowloon and had a late lunch at the Sweetheart Cafe on Ashley road. This was my first experience with the culinary delight known as “Hong Kong French Toast” which is not for the faint of heart or stomach. It’s two slices of bread with peanut butter, battered and fried with butter and syrup. This was oh-so-good, but also so very heavy, all for 44 HK$ with iced milk coffee. Mom had udon soup with pork cutlet. Tip: Look for restaurants offering “Tea” time specials from 2-5pm.

    Before dinner, we went to a nearby night market but didn't really find anything to buy.

    Still full from “tea”, we had a light dinner at Ah Say Fast Food on Lock Street. We shared an order of stir fried Udon noodles with pork garnished with sliced chilies, garlic shoots, and lots of black pepper, and some Chinese cabbage with lots of garlic. With a glass of milk tea, it was 88 HK$ total. It was surprisingly good for “fast food”.
    Tip: Order at the counter, pay, and they give you poker chips with numbers on them for the food. Go pick up food when the number (in Chinese) is called. They called our numbers in English for us.

    To end our last night in Hong Kong we walked over to the fancy hotel and retail center called 1881 Heritage House. There we found a cafe outside in the “mall” area of the hotel that served cocktails. There I had a delicious drink called the Jasmine Dream made with gin, Advocat jasmine liqueur, lemon juice and bitters. Expensive at 100 HK$, but a nice end to the evening.

    In the morning we went shopping for food for the train; chips, wine, pastries. We also returned our Octopus cards for a 50 HK$ refund minus a 9 HK$ fee.

    At lunch time we walked across the street from the YMCA toward a walkway along the harbor to meet Ray (rkkwan here on Fodor's!) for lunch at the lovely Dim Sum restaurant called Serenade. The view can’t be beaten and the food was delicious. We had pork belly, glutinous rice, shui mai, dumplings, egg tarts, rice sheet rolls with shrimp.
    Ray lives in Hong Kong, though we first met at a Fodor's GTG many years ago when he still lived in LA. He was kind enough to offer to buy our overnight sleeper train tickets to Shanghai for us months before we arrived. This saved us a huge amount of worry because I could not figure out how to do it online in advance and we didn’t want to risk having them sold out when we got to Hong Kong. His advice on all things HK was invaluable and he even went with us to Guangdong BBQ on Ashley Road to help us order some BBQ pork and duck with rice to take on the train with us (88HK$ for both). Thanks again for all your help Ray!

    In the mid afternoon, we checked out of the YMCA and took a taxi to the Hung Hom train station for our overnight train to Shanghai.

    For the photos for this post:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2016/11/21/a-goodbye-to-hong-kong-with-french-toast-noodles-and-dim-sum/

    Next up, overnight on the train!

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    Thanks for posting. Definitely better late than never ! I love the tip about having an personalised cocktail kit for long haul economy and am looking forward to the Shanghai section.

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    Overnight on a Chinese Train, Hong Kong to Shanghai

    After our morning in Hong Kong, we got a 2 PM check-out from the hotel and took a taxi (42 HK$) to Hong Ham station for our 3:15 PM departure.
    At the station, we exchanged our remaining Hong Kong dollars for Chinese Yuan as that is all that can be used on the train (no credit cards either). The waiting area was a study in chaos and once the gate opened there was a bit of a mad rush to get to the train.

    Our tickets were for a 2 berth “deluxe soft sleeper” and cost us 935 HK$ each (about $120 US). The train had 12 train cars with #12 being the dining car and #11 the deluxe soft sleeper. After that, there were 2 cars with 4 berth soft sleepers. The rest had some 6 berth carriages and then I think there may have been a few with seats only but I did not see them.

    Unlike what I’ve seen in some European trains, there are no jump seats in the hallway leading to the compartments. There’s no smoking allowed on the train, but people smoke in between the carriages and so it smells like cigarettes almost everywhere anyway.

    Our compartment was a study in beige and lace. It felt surprisingly spacious with a large picture window and a comfortable chair and table with polyester tablecloth opposite the bunks. It had its own private bathroom with toilet and sink, no shower.

    The beds come with a bottom sheet, duvet with cover, and one pillow and they are ROCK HARD. The top bunk is about 4″ narrower than bottom bunk. In order to get to the top bunk, one has to step on the bottom bunk, step on a small ledge coming out from the wall and then hoist yourself up. It’s a bit awkward. I took the top bunk.

    Under the table is one electrical outlet with Chinese and HK outlets, so you can charge electronics if you need to. Small TV’s overlooked every bed, but either they don’t work or we could not figure them out. The space above the door is ample for storage but we were able to fit our bags under the lower bunk. The room also included a trash can, hot water thermos, and a safe built into the wall cabinet behind the chair.

    TIP:
    Bring cups for drinking (for the wine you bring for example, ahem), for mixing up oatmeal, instant coffee, etc. Bring food, snacks, water and other drinks. The only drinks available in the dining car are Coke, Budweiser, and water. There was no Chinese beer, what is that about? I’d like to know how much Budweiser paid and whose pockets they lined for that concession.

    The scenery was interesting but mostly city after city, big buildings after big buildings as we rolled out of Hong Kong and until it got dark. It never really felt like we were ever out of a city.

    The train stopped several times throughout the night for various reasons and took on water at least twice, but I don’t think they allow you to get off.

    The view from the train is mixed; lots of urban buildings, apartment blocks, factories and some farmland (but not as much as expected). There seemed to be a lot of concrete rubble everywhere, to the point where they looked like “rubble farms” spouting out of the earth. This remains a mystery to me. Why tear things down and then just leave it there?

    In the morning we went to the dining car for breakfast. The car is small, with 10 tables of 4, and 2 of the tables seemed to be reserved for crew.
    There were three breakfast choices; seafood noodle soup, congee, and “western breakfast” which was two slices of soft bread with fried eggs made into a sandwich and a paper cup of sweetened instant coffee for 20 CNY or $3.25. I probably should have had the congee but I opted for the Western breakfast and it was lackluster, to say the least. Perhaps the dinner options are better?

    Pretty soon we were pulling into Shanghai, about 20 hours after we had departed. It was a fun and affordable way to make the journey and I’d definitely do it again.

    For photos of the train experience, go here:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2016/12/04/overnight-on-a-chinese-train-hong-kong-to-shanghai/

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    When I traveled in hard sleeper back in 2001 there were jump seats, but I never saw them in soft sleeper. I didn't find soft sleeper too hard, but hard sleeper was like concrete.

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    Le Royal Meridien Shanghai

    After our overnight train from Hong Kong, we arrived at the Shanghai main train station and took the metro the closest stop to our hotel, the Le Meridien Shanghai. We were to spend four nights in this hotel, with mother and I spending SPG points to each cover two nights.

    The first impression was good; the location of the hotel is fantastic, the rooms are pretty, and the views from the high floors spectacular. However, there were some issues which happened during our stay that led to an overall disappointing aftertaste, most of it service related.

    We both have SPG Gold status. On check in we were offered no upgrades and when we asked about getting a club room we were told we could pay about $80 a day to upgrade or use 5250 points per night (on a 10,000 point per night room). I don’t expect an upgrade, but I always ask because I’ve had good luck in the past with some sort of status acknowledgement and that’s always very much appreciated. No welcome amenity was offered (even though this was supposed to happen). I’ve since learned this hotel is particularly stingy with upgrades of any kind.

    The first room was on the 41st floor and had a stunning view but had several issues which I could only characterize as design flaws. In the bathroom there is a 4″ gap between the back of the sink counter and the mirror and toiletries easily fall off the back. There’s nowhere other than the counter to put toiletries, nowhere to plug in a hair dryer in the bathroom, and nowhere in the room where there is both a mirror and a plug. The room was small and awkwardly shaped and even finding space to put our luggage (small bags too) was difficult. Don’t even get me started about the lack of privacy glass in the toilet area.

    The biggest problem was with the bed. My mattress was not only soft, but was broken down in the middle and listing to the right so bad I thought I might accidentally roll out of bed on the first night!

    Our view was over the People’s park. When we asked about a Bund view room, we were told those were ONLY King bed rooms (we had a twin). Why?

    After the first night we asked to have the bed fixed or move rooms. We were offered a room on a lower floor or to wait and take a room later that day on the 42nd floor. We opted to wait. When we returned, we asked to see the room and were told that they had already “changed out the beds” in the new room, replacing them with “hard” beds. This is not what we asked for. When we checked, the new beds were rock hard with no padding at all. They felt like box springs. While I wanted a bed that did not sag in the middle, I also didn’t want to sleep on a board.

    In the end they replaced those with their regular soft mattresses and while it wasn’t broken it was way too soft. It’s as if there are only two options extra soft or extra hard. But the biggest issue here is that they did not listen, did not investigate the problem, they just made an assumption.

    (Aside; I realize full well I'm sounding like the Princess and the Pea or Goldilocks here. All I wanted was a comfortable bed!)

    One afternoon there was a room service tray left out the hallway in the room next to ours. It was still there well into the next day. With the amount of housekeeping staff present and the supposed high level of this hotel, how is that acceptable or even possible?

    The hotel is in a converted office building and one must first access the “lobby” by going up in an elevator from the ground floor. To access the rooms you take a different elevator. This is so confusing there is a full time staff member in place to point people in the right direction. Unfortunately, that person cannot answer the most basic hotel direction questions for English speaking guests (of which there were plenty).

    Ultimately, the best thing about this hotel is the location. It’s very convenient to the metro and sightseeing. But there are lots of other options in Shanghai and next time I would consider staying elsewhere.

    Photos here:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2017/01/02/le-royal-meridien-shanghai/

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    I have two pet peeves about hotels. One is if they do not clear away room service trays from the corridors in a timely manner and the second is that I really dislike bathrooms with see through glass walls.

    Your description suggests that Le Meridien Shanghai failed on both counts. Crossed off my list of possible places to stay in Shanghai !

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    Yeah, it was odd. The hotel continues ton get good reviews. I guess we just had a bad stay. It happens.

    Shanghai Food

    We were in Shanghai for four days and we ate very, very well. From crazy cheap and delicious street food to fancy-dancy cocktails and food with a view. It was all good. This city knows how to get its grub on. Below is a selection of just some of what we consumed in our time there.

    Dumplings:
    As soon as we dropped our bags at our hotel we headed out in search of a late breakfast of soup dumplings (xiaolongbao, also known as XLB), for which Shanghai is famous. For the uninitiated, these little morsels of goodness are steamed dumplings filled with some sort of meat filling, the most common being pork, and a scalding hot flavorful broth. They are served with a ginger vinegar dipping sauce. The trick to eating them is to put them in a soup spoon, puncture the dumpling with your chopstick or teeth and then slurp up the broth. Next, eat the dumpling with some of the sauce. Beware, they are addicting.

    Jia Jia Tang Bao (90 Huanghe Lu Road, near People’s Square)
    I’d read about Jia Jia Tang Bao as the place to get XLB, about a 10 minute walk from where we were staying. They close when they run out, so go early. The location is quite small, about 10 small formica tables and there’s usually a line. You’ll likely have to share a table (we did, both times).
    We got in line and it moved pretty fast. The menu of what is available at that time is on the white board with the red plastic hanging tags behind the cashier. It is all in Chinese and if they can tell you don’t speak the language, they’ll pull out an English menu. Be prepared to order fast if there’s a line behind you.
    We ordered both the pork dumplings (12 RMB, under $2 for a dozen!) and the pork and crab dumplings (28 RMB). The vinegar dipping sauce with ginger is 1 RMB extra (get this). Take your receipt and grab a place to sit. Put the receipt on the table so they know where to bring your food. It took about 5 minutes to get food on the table and about another 5 minutes for us to inhale all of it.
    We returned several times.
    Tip: this neighborhood has a lot of great food, both restaurants and on the street. Spend some time exploring it. We ate in the area 4-5 times in 4 days.

    Yang’s Fried Dumplings (HuangHe Road)
    We ate here after trying Jia Jia Tang Bao across the street. Yes, a second breakfast. These dumplings are called shengjianbao and the dough has a little yeast in it so it’s a bit thicker and chewier than XLB. They are also fried on a griddle instead of steamed and cost about .50 cents for 4. We ordered two different kinds of dumplings and the beef curry soup. The dumplings were so similar to each other and we could not tell them apart.
    Tip: you must pick them up at the window, even if eating inside. The rest of your food is brought to your table. The beef curry soup was only “ok”. I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t something I’d want to order again. The dumplings were good, different from XLB, and if I had to choose one, I’d stick with Jia Jia Tang Bao.

    Dumpling soup-
    As opposed to soup dumplings, this is a big steaming bowl of broth filled with tiny hand made pork dumplings. Breakfast of champions for about $2. This hole-in-the-wall place is on the same street as the two places above, on the right as you walk from People’s Park. Unfortunately, there was no name in English.

    Western Style Fine Dining:
    Shook Restaurant (23 Nanjing E Rd)
    We ended up here on our first night after going in search of a cocktail bar we never did find. Instead, we found this high-end restaurant, which happened to be in the middle of “restaurant week” where they were offering a 3 course dinner menu for about $35 per person. The stars must have been aligned for us, because they also had a table for two available with a magical view over the Bund and across the river. Sold!
    We started with a couple of cocktails to toast our luck and then moved on to the food.
    We both chose a starter of foie gras tortellini with spiced duck jus, truffle, and real gold flakes. It was a decadent as it sounded, beautifully presented and delicious. For my main course, I had a pan roasted red snapper with ginger and tamarind sauce while my mother had Australian Wagyu flat iron steak with truffled potatoes. For dessert we had coconut lime creme brulee and a chocolate orange bread pudding.

    Street Food:
    Jianbing is probably one of the most popular breakfast foods in China. It’s typically a street food eaten on the go. What is it? Think of a giant savory crepe with an egg cracked onto it, green onions, chopped garlic, chilies if you want, and a smear of hoisin sauce all folded up and ready to eat while walking. For more on jianbing, read this; http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/08/jianbing-chinese-savory-breakfast-crepe.html

    Fried Scallion Pancakes:
    These fried dough pancakes are studded with green onions. They’re a tad greasy, but that’s what makes them so good. At about 10 cents each, you can’t go wrong.

    Hot Pot:
    This experience was another we just stumbled upon. We had gone out in search of a specific restaurant and when we found it, we discovered that there was no way for us to order any food because we don’t speak or read Chinese. There was nothing in English in the restaurant, so we moved on and came across this lively place and decided to give it a try. Fortunately, they had a menu translated into English and even though we didn’t really have a clue as to what we were doing, we just decided to wing it and it was fun.

    Basically, you get a big pot of boiling water and into it you dip your whatever you’ve ordered off the menu; in our case meat (lamb), noodles, cabbage, and tofu skin rolls.

    As we were leaving, we walked down to the corner to see guys setting up the hot pots for another restaurant out on the sidewalk. They were filling the centers with burning hot coals and the water for the pots was coming from an outside hose. Yep. I had about 3 seconds of panic and then remembered that it was boiling pretty rapidly. And no worries, neither of us got sick.

    To Go Food:
    There's a place on Yunnan Road South with roasted ducks and pork hanging in the window. It's a walk up counter with a menu on the side wall with English options. We ordered duck with rice and roast pork with rice. Both were delicious.

    Shanghai First Food Hall
    Located on 720 Nanjing Rd, about half a block from our hotel. None of my photos were able to capture the scope and size of this multi-story food department store. It’s crazy huge with just about any kind of food you can imagine; meats, sausages, sweets, potions and elixirs, vegetables, it’s all here. Upstairs, there are several floors of sit down restaurants. And yes, that’s an entire pig’s face, pressed flat and wrapped in plastic hanging by a red ribbon in the photo on my blog.

    More food to come later from our day trip to Quibao and a visit to the French Concession neighborhood of Shanghai.

    Of course, TONS of food photos here:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2017/02/09/shanghai-food/

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    Qibao Water Town, Near Shanghai

    Question: What’s the Disney version of a Chinese water town?
    Answer: Qibao

    We’d wanted to do a day trip from Shanghai, either to one of the Duplitecture towns (towns created to look like Paris, or Venice, or Holland, down to the buildings, canals and faux Eiffel tower- see this: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/duplitecture/) or to one of the nearby “quaint water villages” (a historical village set alongside a river). In the end, we could not figure out how to get to one of the Duplitecture villages on our own and the other water villages seemed to require an overnight or a package tour. So Qibao was the answer, given that it was accessible by talking a Metro line about 45 minutes, almost to its end.

    We emerged from the underground metro stop in front of a large department store. It took a while to get our bearings and figure out which direction to head (tip, go south) and then where to go once we got there. “There” turned out to be a giant entrance to the old part of the town, but honestly it wasn’t obvious. We walked in toward the center and finally came to an information booth where we picked up a map.

    From there we just wandered a bit through crowded alleyways filled with food offerings and cheap souvenirs. There were several temples and a few old buildings requiring admission to enter. It was absolutely packed with Chinese tourists and we saw very few, if any, western faces.

    The oldest area was packed with people strolling and shopping among the (mostly) food stalls and shops.

    In all, there wasn’t a lot of “wow” there, but it was interesting to get out of the city center for a bit. If you do want to go, here are a couple of articles that can tell you more about Qibao and the water towns near Shanghai:

    http://travel.cnn.com/shanghai/eat/how-eat-your-way-through-qibao-old-street-299122/

    http://www.yilongwei.com/misc/water_towns.htm


    Lots of photos of Qibao and all the curious and varied food on offer here:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2017/04/01/qibao-water-town-near-shanghai/

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    Walking the French Concession in Shanghai

    During our days in Shanghai, we visited the neighborhood known as the French Concession twice. It’s a lovely neighborhood which has a few streets that still retain some of the “old Shanghai” charms which are rapidly being replaced with high rises and highways. Oddly enough, the area was never really populated by the French, but rather by local Chinese and Russian immigrants.

    One of our more interesting stops was the Shikumen Open House Museum which shows what life was like in the area in the 1920’s and 1930’s in a stone-gate house (Shikumen). These houses were built in rows with many people crammed into them. Entire neighborhoods filled with these houses have been demolished to make way for modern apartments. The rooms are filled with period furniture and accessories and really offer a window into the time.

    After visiting the house museum (and after walking all over Quibao) we needed to rest our feet and decided that a beer and a plate of French fries at a “Munich brew house” was just the answer. Yes, it’s a huge chain, but the beer was tasty and the fries were perfect.

    There’s no shortage of interesting street life in Shanghai and the French Concession neighborhood was no exception (see blog for photos of street scenes and interesting wet market).

    We also had a late lunch at the Citizen Bar and Cafe which has a nice selection of French inspired food. I would have loved to sit on that upstairs balcony but it was filled with people smoking and hanging out at their tables. We sat upstairs and had a nice salad, sandwich, and glass of wine nevertheless.

    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2017/06/19/walking-the-french-concession-in-shanghai/

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    People’s Square, the Marriage Market, and Museums in Shanghai

    Our hotel, the Le Royal Meridian Shanghai, overlooked the Shanghai People’s square, a large area containing several museums, a theater, a major metro hub and a huge park. We found ourselves walking through or around it several times a day.

    Every Saturday and Sunday the park hosts a Marriage Market. This is where parents come to advertise their eligible children using posters and hand made signs detailing their physical description, age, education, Chinese zodiac sign, and other attributes. The goal is to find a match for their child which in the era following the “one child policy” is a bit of a challenge given that now men outnumber women by 115 men for every 100 women.

    At one point we witnessed a heated conversation that led to much shouting. No idea what was said, but I can only imagine someone’s child was spurned.

    One of the more interesting museums in the park is the Shanghai MOCA (museum of contemporary art). It's quite small and didn't take more than an hour to check out.

    Finally, we spent a few hours wandering the Shanghai Museum which focuses on Chinese art and culture. The museum has some beautiful examples of Chinese ceramics, furniture, and textiles.

    Photos here:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2017/07/03/peoples-square-the-marriage-market-and-museums-in-shanghai/

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    Not sure if anyone is still with me, but we're nearing the end.

    Old City Shanghai:

    In among all the skyscrapers and apartment buildings, a tiny part of “Old Shanghai” remains. In it there are remnants of the old city wall dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1553) as well as pavilions, temples, and markets. On one of our days in Shanghai, we had the opportunity to explore a small part of it.

    Dajing Ge Pavilion is built right into the old city wall. Inside is a small temple and a museum about the old city of Shanghai.

    The Baiyun Guan Temple is right down the street from the Dajing Ge Pavilion. This is a Taoist temple also known as the “White Cloud Temple”. There are two floors with several small areas in each with statues of various deities.

    More photos than text here:
    http://www.wired2theworld.com/2017/07/15/old-city-shanghai/

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    SonjaK- I follow a blog called The Points Guy. He sends out alerts when his team spots good deals. I also follow View from the Wing and some airfare specials sites like FareCompare.

    tnnc2- Thanks!

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