45: Shanghai, Some Kind of New

It was so humid. I thought I was in a swamp but turns out just Shanghai in early July. We boarded the bus to take us to our hotel, making plans of how we were going to meet in the lobby 15 minutes after arrival (despite being fresh off a 12 hour flight) to venture out for light shopping, massages and food. On the way to the hotel we passed several neighborhoods of all classes. The houses looked like I’d always imagined them too: a combination of the different dynasty styles with a modern flare.

When we arrived at the hotel I briefly gawked at how amazing the room was, put on as little clothes as possible without being considered inappropriate, and left for our day adventure. Our crew was amazing, making sure us non-speakers never went anywhere without a speaker, showing us all around and making the trip the best possible experience. Though I could talk endlessly about Shanghai as a whole, I’ll try my best to focus on the highlights.

The Shopping
We entered the shopping area through same entrance as one would enter the subway; down an escalator that lead you underground. However unlike most subway stations I’ve seen, this was much like a labyrinth that included restaurants and endless boutique shops.

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Every store was labeled based on the aisle and the number, almost in a street address type system, and if you didn’t know where to meet the rest of your crew, you could very easily get lost. The stores, although all had a main product purpose, were usually one of many. Fortunately our veteran flight attendants and pilots let us know where the best deals were for the quality. This was every shoppers dream.

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You had everything from hand bags, to watches, from prescription glasses that were available within minutes, to go pros and scarves. It was phenomenal. It’s safe to say that I spent a comfortable amount of money for a carry on full of gifts and trinkets. As I said, it was very easy to get lost down here so they made sure we knew that if all else fails either remember the address to the hotel and have cab money or meet at the KFC. This worked on more occasions than one.

The Food
After a long flight and then a long day of being in the near too distant future to the States, we ate. But we didn’t just go to a restaurant and pick a meal as we conversed, no. We went with, again, two native speakers who asked only one question upon us sitting down: “Does anyone have any food allergies or dislikes?”. Being in another country on the other side of the world, no one objected and we let our makeshift tour guides order all the food for us to share as a table. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

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We had fish, clams, muscles, squid, rice, some weird sandwich thing, this fungus that had the texture of a cartilage (gross), chicken, beef, and then some. We shared wine and beer and Chinese sodas.

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We ate off each other’s sandwiches and forks as we passed plate after plate around the table until we simply couldn’t fit anymore into our faces. (Great, now I’m hungry). It was a phenomenal dinner as we shared cultural differences and conversations of our families well into being awake for nearly 40 hours.

The Massage
I know what your thinking, “Why does a massage need a special category?”. Well Aunt Carmen, special things deserve special categories, and this massage was special. The group dwindled with each new location leaving just the four of us to follow our Saint of a tour guide into this small, dimly lit building with long symmetrical hallways and the faint aroma of ginger.

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We were led to a room with a row of recliner plush chairs that resembled those of a very nice nail salon as they brought in sweet peanuts, tea, and watermelon at each of our side tables.

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Within ten minutes five massagers came into the room with buckets filled of hot water and asked us to sit on the ottoman our feet were originally resting on. As our feet soaked in the hot water they massaged our backs, necks, shoulders, and arms for about thirty mins and afterwards switched us back into our chairs as they went to work on our feet.

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They stretched us out, cracked our backs, wiggled our toes and massaged our entire leg so well that I (and nearly everyone else I may add) fell asleep. I awake to our legs being wrapped in steamed towels as they left us to enjoy our tea and conversations. When they returned they used two long sticks to beat (yes beat) our legs into same in a rhythmic motion that had this not been their job I’d almost say they were doing this for fun.

Afterwards they let us relax for as long as we needed until we finally left at 1 in the morning for a late night walk back to our hotel.

After a day and a half of eating, shopping and falling asleep in random chairs on the other side of the country, it was unfortunately time to go home. This may have been my first international trip where the entire crew, pilots and all, hangout and have fun enjoying each other’s company over several meals and occasions while showing around those of us who are not fortunate to venture to China as often. The people I worked with were amazing as well as the many strangers I met who helped make Shanghai by far one of my most coveted work trip experiences.

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