Such is the lovely busy-ness of our lives at the moment that I have barely had time to catch up on my blogs when they are fresh in my mind. Hence Shanghai Part 2 being written about 3 weeks after the event. And just as I sit down on my first quiet evening in forever to catch up, Joshua decides he wants to blog for the first time in months! I don’t like to stop him if he suddenly feels inspired but it’s my turn now!
So, night 2 in Shanghai. Having spent a lovely relaxing afternoon chilling in the hotel, catching up on reading and some UK Christmas TV (perhaps not a typical way to spend an afternoon in Shanghai!), when Dan arrived ‘home’ from work we decided to head up to the bar on the 89th floor of our hotel, called Cloud 9. This bar is especially famous as it offers one of the highest vantage points of the Shanghai skyline, looking over to the Bund side of the city. Being particularly uncool, we arrived at 7pm so there were very few people even there yet! There were some, but at least it meant we could grab an excellent table right in the window. We enjoyed a lovely evening of cocktails (me), beer (Dan) and Asian tapas (both!). The view was breathtaking, if a little unsettling being that high. I handle these views better at night as you somehow feel less aware of your height in the dark! I was relieved to get back to our room on the lowly levels of the 59th floor – not before getting Dan to take a quick snap of the view inside the hotel looking all the way down to the lobby. I made sure he had the camera safely strapped to his wrist and made him step back pretty quickly afterwards!
Despite, the dramas of my first morning on my own, I ventured out again the next day on my own. This time I had my iPhone maps all switched on and written instructions, directions and print outs from the hotel concierge, I was well-equipped! My mission for the morning was to visit the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. I felt a pull to it given that my own maternal great-grandparents obtained refuge in Shanghai from Germany at the outbreak of World War II. They, and my grandpa, all wanted a passage to the UK but they could only get one ticket, to Glasgow, which my grandpa took whilst my great-grandparents had to go to Shanghai. From Glasgow, my grandpa made his way down to London to find his childhood friend and her family who had managed to settle there themselves from the same street in Germany as my grandpa and his parents. This friend was my Grandma. The rest is history as they say.
I arrived at the museum with no problem this time. It is a small but very well laid out museum, part of one of two synagogues in Shanghai. They have a database where you can search for names of Jewish refugees who came to Shanghai. Obviously I pounced on this in anticipation that I might actually find the names of my great-grandparents, or even some more information about them. To my utter dismay the database was “out of order at the moment, madam” – out of order????? Jeez, this was probably my once in a lifetime chance to look up these kind of details. Despite a few sarcastic comments from me, which were lost in translation anyway, there wasn’t much I could do about this so I journeyed on through the museum. One whole section was dedicated to the story of Auschwitz. I skipped through this part pretty quickly as they didn’t really tie it in to the history of Jews in Shanghai so I moved on to the exhibition room that held stories of Shanghai Jewish refugees with accompanying photos, as told by their families or even the refugees themselves in some cases. I always feel a pang when I see things like this as I know how easily I could have stumbled across the story of my great-grandparents. However, the German side of my family is intensely private and apart from the details we have managed to squeeze out of them over the years, they would never talk about their ‘story’ to this kind of extent so I knew I wasn’t going to find any surprises. I did feel a closeness though to the great-grandparents I never knew and reading the stories of others helped me form a picture in my mind of their plight.
I left the museum shortly after befriending and offering tourist advice to an American pair who were heading to Hong Kong a few days later – check me out, the Hong Kong tourist adviser!
My next stop was a mooch round the old French Concession. I’d driven through it a few times already in taxis and our dinner on the first night was in that area but I wanted to explore it a bit more as it looked really lovely and pretty. Sadly, the weather was just too damn cold for me to spend hours wandering the streets so after about 30 minutes I jumped into a taxi and back to the warm sanctury of the hotel where I spent a lovely few hours in the lobby at the foot of the 30 floor atrium enjoying a sandwich and my book and hoping that there were no clumsy tourists above me about to drop a camera on my head!
That evening we were meeting up with one of Dan’s colleagues and his wife. They are Chinese and live in Shanghai so we trusted them to choose the restaurant. We knew they’d chosen a typical Shanghai-ese restaurant so we were looking forward to the meal. The restaurant was really unusual, hidden down a dark alley in a massive colonial-style house on multiple levels with multiple dining rooms. Being a week night, only the ground floor was open for dining but we had an explore round after dinner and could see that when full, there would be an amazing atmosphere there. After the introductions were made we sat down and the food started coming straight away! Our companions said they’d taken the liberty to order for us. This was fine actually. They’d been here before, we hadn’t and probably never would again (!), there was no English version of the menu as it as a very ‘local’ restaurant so we trusted that they’d order what was good! Well, suffice to say that I hadn’t seen so much food in a long time! I couldn’t really tell which course was which as the food just kept on coming so I didn’t know how to pace myself! I am baffled as to how the majority of Chinese women stay so slim if these are the quantities of food they are faced with on regular occasions! The answer it would seem is to simply pick a tiny bit off each plate, put it on your plate and then not really eat much of that anyway! Why did they order so much then?! It was all delicious so we didn’t have trouble enjoying it, but if we’d all eaten like that, it would have been such a waste! So naturally I kept up with the men and we made a great dent in a great meal. I couldn’t bring myself to eat the flowery-tasting blancmangy dessert though. The Chinese really do not do desserts well, probably a blessing in disguise!
And then it was the last day. Dan suddenly had to stay an extra night so I found myself flying back to Hong Kong on my own. I tried to change my flight to an earlier one that day as I was keen to get back to the kids and my parents as I no longer needed to wait for Dan at the end of the working day which was the reason we had a late-ish flight booked. But I couldn’t change the flight so spent the morning mooching round a shopping mall, was tempted to spend £90 on a pair of Ugg ear muffs but knew in a few hours I would have no need for them! I should have seen them a few days earlier then I would probably have bought them, making my sightseeing potential a lot longer! Never mind!
And that was Shanghai. I’m sure there’s a lot more to see there than I saw in my few days, I know there is. Dan asked me if I’d go back with him one day on one of his trips. I’m not sure if this kind of situation that enabled me to do it this time will arise again and I don’t think I could go again during the Shanghai winter but maybe I’ll find myself exploring the streets there again one day in the future.