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China: Day 6

February 28, 2011

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The first thing we saw exiting the train station in Shanghai was the World Expo mascot who was literally everywhere and looked like a blue Gumby with a cowlick.

We managed, after some exploring on foot and another long cab ride to make it to our new hotel and drop off our stuff.  We crossed our fingers, turned on the air conditioning, discovered you had to leave a room key in the slot to keep the air conditioning on (an eco friendly option I applaud theoretically and think should be implemented in hotels in the US, but at the time was hot and exhausted enough that I wasn’t happy), and left for the Shanghai Zoo.  My mother really, really wanted to see pandas in their home country.  The Shanghai aquarium is supposed to be world class, but Chinese pandas in a Chinese zoo trumps international aquatic life any day.

Before entering the zoo, we stopped at a place called Lucky Fried Dumplings.  There were a few tables downstairs, squeezed between red walls, a hostess stand, and a small viewing kitchen dominated by an enormous wok filled with dumplings.  If I remember correctly, the cook was using a long, long handled wooden stick or spatula of some sort to maneuver the dumplings (memory will have to suffice, as I didn’t take a picture.  Sorry!)  Upstairs was empty, so we grabbed a table up there.

This was the kind of place where you want to get what they’re cooking at the moment, which for us meant pork dumplings with soup.  We got round dumplings, pleated and browned on one side, sprinkled with sesame seeds and chives on the other.  My brother instructed us to nibble a hole in the dumpling skin, slurp out the soup, then dip the dumpling in the dark rice vinegar that was in little bottles on the table.  The vinegar, not unlike malt vinegar on fish & chips, is intended to cut the greasy sensation.  Since they were fresh out of the wok, they were incredibly, burn-your-tongue-instantly hot, but we had cold, mini (glass!) bottles of sprite to wash them down.

From there, we headed across the street to the zoo.

Lots of monkeys,

tigers,

albino reindeer,

ostrich and emu,

elephants,

red pandas,

and of course black and white Chinese pandas awaited.

There were also a number of neat garden, topiary, and architectural details.

We took a walk through a traditional feeling park with bridges over a large pond, pagodas, and lots of birds,

then capped off the visit with an elephant show.  Vendors were going through the stands selling veggies to give to the elephants, so most of the show looked like this:

But it was a pretty cool show.

After the zoo, we headed to downtown Shanghai.  In a shopping area, we found a restaurant up some stairs where we ordered clay pot dinners.  I got chicken and mushrooms with baby bok choy and sauce to pour over top that sizzled when it hit the hot clay pot and the rice.  In fact, the pot was so hot that there was a crispy layer of browned rice in the bottom.  We also ordered a beef clay pot and a BBQ pork clay pot.

From there, we headed to a hotel concierge recommended tourist trap – I mean, traditional Chinese acrobatic show.  My notes here consist of the single word “amazing,” but I recall acrobats, bicyclers, unicyclers, contortionists, jugglers, motorcycle riders in a metal sphere, acrobats on a foot powered ferris wheel, dancing, singing, and more all packed into a stadium/arena forum with a crowd full of international tourists.  My family made a game of trying to identify all the languages we could hear from our seats before the show started.  Unfortunately, there was a restriction on photography, so I cannot share images of the amazingness with you.  You’ll just have to take my word for it!

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