A few weekends ago Joel and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a few days here in Shanghai with one of my dad's best friends from growing up, Gary. He was in town for work so we decided that we should meet up for brunch. We met him at his hotel, The Waldorf Astoria on the bund. For those of you who don't know Shanghai very well, the Bund is a famous part of town right on the river with beautiful old architecture, five star hotels and fancy restaurants. It is a great place to stroll at night after a big meal and to take in the sights and sounds of the city. The buildings here are left from when the British settled here, and haven't changed on the outside. The building codes are different here so you don't see many high-rises. Its really a beautiful part of town.
We went with Gary to a restaurant called M on the Bund. It was a beautiful day out so we were able to sit on the terrace overlooking the river with views of the financial district of Shanghai on the other side. Our delicious brunch turned into shopping on Nanjing road, a famous pedestrian mall here. We spent most of our time shopping at a 7 story toy store so the "boys" could find some fun things to play with. They both ended up buying toy helicopters (Gary's for his "son"), which I had to hear about non-stop for the next couple of days. Actually Joel still hasn't stopped talking about his, even buying another one to take with us to NYC to fly in Central Park, which he got stuck in a tree and spent an hour throwing things at it to get it down just to find out it was broken. Anyway, I digress. After shopping, we had planned a dinner with some American friends we have made here so we talked Gary into coming with us.
Before dinner we had a little bit of time to stop by and see Gary's hotel, which like all of Shanghai's five-star hotels was totally over the top fancy. We had a drink at the famous Long Bar in his hotel. The bar, while being very long and totally deserving of its name, is not just famous for being long but also because back in the day when people came to the bar they would sit in ranking from one end to the other. From wealthy and powerful to not wealthy and powerful I guess. It is more interesting when you see just how long it is. I wonder how the people in the middle decided where to sit....
After knocking back a few drinks we went to meet Emily and Jason in Xintiandi, an outdoor pedestrian restaurant and shopping center. The center itself has very interesting architecture. It is located in repurposed shikuman houses or stone gate houses, which are built on small alleyways. We went to a restaurant called Din Tai Fung which was really good. They have xiao long bao, which are soup filled steamed dumplings. Delicious. Not sure how the soup stays in there but it does, and it is wonderful. Joel and I have had these dumplings a lot since being here and I would rank this restaurant as the second best we have had, but I will come back to that later.
After a wonderful dinner of great food and conversation we said goodbye to Emily and Jason and took Gary to a good old fashion house party. Joel's cousin Anna lives here, have I mentioned that before? They met for the first time here, which is weird right?, and we have really enjoyed her. She invited us to meet some of her friends, so we went over for some wine and beer, and even got to see some amazing dance moves (show me how to Dougie anyone?). I think Gary had a great time; maybe he can comment and let us know? We finally got Gary back to his hotel around 1am and headed home to prepare for another full day of activities in the morning.
The next day we met Gary at 10:30 to do some more shopping. He brought with him an interpreter because we were heading to brave the fake market. There are many fake markets here in Shanghai and I think all over China and they are exactly what you would think. Giant markets selling fake goods. Not just handbags though, things I still don't know why you would copy like OPI nail polish and computer cords and stuff. Strange. Joel and I did buy the full set of How I Met Your Mother complete with Chinese subtitles. They also sell art work and beautiful scarves here which I bought a ton of. Gary decided that he wanted some new glasses, and found a pair he liked but didn't have his prescription with him but for the Chinese that was no big deal. Why not get a full eye exam in the middle of the fake market, from a machine that looked older than me? So that is exactly what he did. And you know what? He said they turned out great! The nice guy who sold them even delivered them to the hotel that same day. What great service.
Gary getting his eyes checked
After the market we took Gary to our #1 favorite xiao long bao place ( I told you I would come back to it), called Nanxiang Steamed Dumplings in the Yuyuan Gardens. The Yuyuan Garden is another great place to see ancient Chinese architecture. See my pics, but it is exactly how I would picture old Chinese buildings. The dumplings in this restaurant are famous, with a full time line always out front. There are three different levels to the restaurant with the dumplings getting more expensive the further you go up. The bottom is just a pickup window, the second a cafeteria like setting and the top a real restaurant. We went to the top (there isn't that big of a price difference) and had the set meal for three so we could try everything. It was so good, maybe I will talk Joel into going there for dinner tonight...
After dinner we headed back to the Long Bar for a few more drinks and some Cuban cigars. They are legal here so don't panic. Plus I didn't have one but I did try it and it was gross. Although I felt cool trying it with Joel's glass of scotch (also gross). Then we said our goodbyes to Mr. Gary. Oh, I forgot to explain that all the Chinese people Gary works with here call him Mr. Gary so it's not actually weird. Hopefully Mr Gary will grace us with his presence again during our stay here in Shanghai so we can get into some more shenanigans.
Stayed tuned, still more to come from Shanghai!