Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for China, duh.

I'm too tired to come up with a witty something or other for my post title. China works, right? I've started weeding thru my photos, which may possibly exceed 1000 in number, and if I'm going to wrap this up in 26 days I best get to talking.

C is for China, more specifically, Shanghai.

That's amazing in Chinese.

Not really. I don't speak Chinese. But the people in Shanghai do. We hear quite often that no matter where in this world you go everybody speaks English but no, they don't. America is an enormous country which makes it easy to forget that the whole world doesn't see us as the center of their universe. I think it's good to step off the continent every once in a while and view things from another perspective.

If Mandarin isn't your native tongue and you've somehow mastered it along the way then you deserve a gold star. I know non-English speakers will say English is the most difficult language to learn but I have to think Mandarin is right up there.

I'm rambling. The trip was just so much everything. Sights, sounds, smells...how do I capture the smells in words? I want to remember all of it~the overpowering aroma of the lily and the powerful scent of dried fish that waft under your nose in equal measure on the Shanghai breeze. Okay, maybe not in equal measure because that dried fish is whoa!

Your head buzzes with the raucous sounds of city life and market mayhem and relaxes in the serene quiet of afternoon tea sipped in the hotel lobby. Your eyes take in bolt upon bolt of brightly colored fabric in the soft materials mart and the smoky sooty air that hangs heavy over the largest city in China. Every one of your senses are alternately assaulted and inspired. You don't always know which way to look. There is big grand magnificent architecture combined with delicate detail at every turn.

I loved Shanghai. It may have been my favorite part of the trip. For starters we stayed in the JW Marriott there and I love the JW's. The lobby and breakfast area were on the 38th floor and our room was on the 54th. The views in this city are incredible. A chronic haze hangs over Shanghai, a combination of humidity and pollution but it gives the skyline a dreamy quality.

fyi-I'm going to need a thesaurus for these Asia posts because I'm pretty sure there's a limit as to how many times you're allowed to use the words incredible and amazing in a series of posts.

Since we're all about the letter C today and I'm struggling to figure out how to break down the trip I'm going to tell you about one of the first things we did upon landing...we went to see the tailor. Priorities people! I had two coats made while we were in town. Essentially we landed in Shanghai, got checked into our hotel, and then met up with a local co-worker of the hubs who escorted us to the soft spinning materials market someplace in the city. Incidentally I spent most of the two weeks away having no idea where I was. Some things are universal-ha! Thank goodness for skyscrapers that served as landmarks.

I did learn my first Mandarin word(s) straightaway. Thank you. It's xie xie but is pronounced shay-shay. More or less. Its fun to say and it came in handy as I needed lots of help navigating my way around Shanghai.

Back to the market...you step inside a building that is several stories high and each floor contains at least 100 vendor stalls, and each one of these little stalls is chock-a-block full of fabric and dress forms and people trying to sell you a suit-coat-jacket-scarf-tie-or belt. They recognize the Westerners of course and shout, 'Hey lady, you wanna buy a coat?'

Well, now that you mention it, yes I think I do.
Two please.

We were headed to a particular stall although how this one was selected out of the hundred+ others I haven't a clue. All I know is we needed to see Mary. She's a whiz with a needle and thread and we stepped into her closet sized stall and scanned the options. Before you could say Bob's your uncle (or the Chinese equivalent of that expression) I was being measured for a custom made coat and rain jacket. This was on a Monday afternoon and she said they'd be ready on Friday. Five days. It seemed ludicrous, but still we negotiated the price because that's just what you do in Shanghai. Another co-worker from the states was traveling with us and she also had a raincoat made plus a suit for work. Making three coats and a suit in five days was just another day at the office for Mary and we were not her only customers.

I'm not certain I can do justice to all the shopping in Asia. At one point in the week we ventured into a building five stories high containing over 1000 stalls, and every single stall sold only eyeglasses. Five stories packed full of nothing but eyeglasses. How in the world do you decide which vendor to use? Evidently word of mouth is key because again, when we went into this building with a local co-worker he took us to a shop in the middle of the building that he's dealt with before. Need a cell phone? There's an 11-story building full of nothing but. Same goes for shoes, bags, watches, and electronics. It absolutely boggles the mind.

By the way...the shopping?

Well let's just say it ain't all market stalls.
Not by a long shot.

My head was spinning a lot a little following the coat purchase because you can only look at so much fabric without everything starting to look the same so we placed our order and headed to dinner.

The food.

Now that's a whole 'nother post for sure.


  1. Wow!

    I shall need a thesaurus also probably by the time you are finised with your posts from afar! :)

  2. I don't think I can stand this story being spread out over the whole month! Sigh. I'll try to be patient.

  3. C is for Coat, Chock-a-block full, and Candy for the eyes kind of shopping! Is the coat that the tangerine orange color you were telling about a few weeks ago in HP? Looks great on you.

  4. What an amazing experience! I enjoyed your photos. Those dresses in a row are beautiful! I look forward to hearing about the food.

  5. Just reading this boggles my mind. But it sounds like fun. Can't wait to read more.

  6. A fellow AtoZ'er here. I love this night shot of Shanghai. Really captured the essence of the Chinese skyline.
    Excellent work.
    I hope you can pop along to my blog if you get time. Many thanks
    Valleys ShutterBug

  7. sorry but I'm repeating what was said above, what an amazing trip, thankyou for sharing, I have never been more than 100 miles from my home, so I'm a travel virgin, I have never had the urge, I love travel shows and read read read, I enjoy through your eyes this trip.I sustained a brain injury that prohibits me from flying, that cools my heals a bit but I don't feel I haven't seen the world, its just through others eyes.

  8. Oh, wow! cannot even imagine being somewhere such as this. Oh, you must post pics of the coats! I bet you got all kinds of wonderful finds. Great post and I look forward to the rest.

  9. I loved reading this....Shanghai is a place that has always fascinated me. I may get there one of these day but in the meantime reading about your trip is the next best thing.

  10. Your life is just too exciting! Can't wait for the rest.

  11. I think you did well. C is for China AND coat! I want to see a picture of the final product though.

  12. Wow... I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

  13. I have never been to China so I will live vicariously through your trip!

    I don't know what changed but blog.spot has decided that it will allow me to comment, yipee!

  14. Love the photos.
    Interesting that English and Mandarin are considered to be two of the most complicated languages to learn by a non-native speaker, and are also two of the most common languages on the planet. We humans love a challenge :)

    Jamie Gibbs
    Fellow A-Z Buddy
    Mithril Wisdom

  15. Love it.....sounds so exciting! I can't wait to see the coats!

  16. WOW! sounds exciting.. for some reason when I read the title of your post i read "C is for Chihuahua". Don't ask me why... my best guess is the chi that china and chihuahua have in common. Anyway, Happy A to Z. :D

  17. What a great experience, and I am so glad I get to go along at least through your blog. 11 stories of cell phones...wow. Looking forward to reading more! Loving the pictures!
    until next time... nel

  18. Sounds absolutely fabulous. You are the best person to write posts on travel. You don't miss a thing!