Shopping Shanghai, shooting shanghai, loving shanghai then leaving shanghai.

13 03 2008

I love shopping in Shanghai more than any other city I’ve ever visited as the city’s character extends into its retail culture. Haggling is of course better if you’re accompanied by a local as the stores will give you the “Chinese” price instead of the tourist price.

There is a sort of play to haggling here; after the storekeeper gives you her/his price you offer to pay only a third. If she/he doesn’t budge initially, turn around and walk away. Then count to five.

Sometimes you don’t even reach the number five without hearing the storekeeper yelling and running after you, displeased but nonetheless conceding to your offer.

Good shops abound in the Yuyuan Bazaar near the Old City God Temple and Yu Gardens in the Old Town, and the Shanghai Museum shop of course.

***

I am in love with this city and I think New York and Dumaguete have found a worthy rival with Shanghai. This city is definitely a photographer’s heaven and I don’t think I’ve ever visited any place gifted with this unique character and enriched with so much culture. Even my shopping finds have a quirkiness to them which make them very pretty to look at and photograph.

I’m not looking forward to going home this Friday. Melanie is going away to Japan and D is in the US so I don’t really have anything at the moment to anchor me to Melbourne. Plus the hustle and bustle of Shanghai and the warmth of its people remind me so much of Manila that I actually don’t feel like I’m thousand of miles away from the two places I’ve been calling home.

Work here has been so busy and sometimes I’m nearly burned out but it’s all good. It’s nothing I can’t handle and it’s a type of challenge that one should face once in a while to keep on improving… and to maybe reinforce to one’s self that patience is indeed a virtue. My workmates are brilliant, it’s just the language barrier that’s sometimes a tough thing to hurdle.

Oh well. Mum and my aunties are coming over on Easter Sunday so I have that to look forward to. So anyway, I really believe all good travelers should include Shanghai in their must-visit list, otherwise your travel life will never ever be complete. Lagot.

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Nanjing at Night

6 03 2008

I finally did it. I summoned enough courage to walk more than 10 meters away from my hotel. Of course it helped that my hotel towered over all the other buildings in the area so it still acted as my security blanket.

My first foray into Shanghai streets alone took me to East Nanjing Road. It is a pedestrian road so no vehicles are allowed except for the mini-trams going back and forth. I had several mini-feats last night, I crossed the big intersections by myself, I dodged several bicycles and cars and people in a rush and I was able to ward off a group of hustlers posing us Chinese students. I was forewarned by several websites that these people lure tourists into “artsy/cultural trips” which eventually end in a dinner with a bill higher than one is willing to pay. I guess their pronunciation of Nanjing gave them away.

It was a rich visual and sensory experience. Shanghai is a paradise for a photographer. There are so many images to capture and the place has a lot of character.

I am planning to explore more places and wander farther away from my hotel as days go by, even if it’s just a few meters of progress each day ;P





Ni Hao

5 03 2008

I’m on my 3rd night here and despite having no friends here nor acquaintance, I do not feel lonely.

My workmates have been very warm and welcoming. On my first day of work I was treated to my first real Chinese lunch by a couple of teammates and today another two guys invited us to a fancy Shanghainese lunch to celebrate the birth of their sons.

I was told that out here, baby showers and celebrations occur after the baby is born, not before the birth, like how Westerners do it.

A more interesting cultural fact I learned is that by tradition, a baby’s name isn’t given by the parents. It is in fact given by a future/fortune teller. When I asked what the basis is, they said it is based on the five elements; water, fire, gold, earth… I’m missing one more, I can’t remember what it was. I’ll get back to you on that one. So anyway, the baby’s name will have to signify a balance among the five elements. And mind you, you can’t just go to any fortune teller, parents consult with the famous ones and sometimes the wait list is so long that your kid has to wait 4 months before she gets called by a proper name.

Food here is orgasmic and is a social activity as it is shared by everyone on the table. My workmates keep worrying that I dislike Chinese food and I keep reassuring them that as long as I know what I’m about to put into my mouth then I’m a happy camper. This is definitely my kind of foodie heaven, without a doubt, especially since the cuisine differs per province, there’s Shanghainese food which I’m informed is sweeter, then Beijing which is spicier, and then there’s a region which is the greasiest oiliest of them all. Heaven indeed. So let me take back what I said about Minneapolis several months ago hehe. Just kidding. Maybe…

Anyway, before I came here I was told Shanghai was a mix of the old world and the new and progressive. I don’t quite get that impression.. Maybe because I’ve played witness to that kind of setting when I was in the Philippines or maybe because I don’t normally associate modernity and progress exclusively with a Western backdrop. But for others it could be the opposite, so when they see progress with an Oriental or Eastern flavor, they automatically say it’s a mismatch.

I’m still working up the courage to wander far from my hotel’s vicinity. I find it unnerving that I can’t read any of the signs around the city and that I can’t speak the language so it’s very easy to get lost. That’s all for now. I’ll check back again in a couple of days, if anyone cares…