Woo-hoo, I'm in Shanghai again! I've been here once before, but for only two days... was part of a tour group then, staying in the southwest near the French Concession... I ditched the tour group and walked Old Town, the Bund, western Nanjing Lu. This time I'm in Jingan, the old British Concession past the old horserace tracks (now Peoples Square).
Beijing is laid out on a grid, but Shanghai follows the natural curvature of the land, lots of twisty streets. It's similar to the difference between Kyoto and Tokyo, with Kyoto and Beijing both squarely encircling the seat of power, while Tokyo and Shanghai are more freeform, diverse influences, no single center.
Walking out of the Ruitan Jingan Hotel, I immediately hit a very Tokyo-like food street, curving along a backroad just south of Nanjing Lu. People buying roast food on sticks to eat while standing in lengthier line at more popular stalls. I think I smelled "Stinky Tofu", a grilled tofu which had been marinated in fermented vegetables. I would have grabbed something immediately, but I'm a little spaced after travelling all day, no coffee, little real food. Also had only a little change, and the rest in large bills, and didn't want to order enough under pressure to justify forcing a small stall making change. Kept walking.
I stopped at a corner to relight a pipe and eyeball some landmarks to get back. Was accosted by a four-year-old boy with dirty hands, begging while his mother sat nearby with a baby. Didn't do it... I've spent too much time on Haight St., Market St. These people deserve more respect the SF crackheads or suburbanites, though.
Next corner an older man approached me, "hasheesh? hasheesh?" Uhm, no thanks man, I'm too young to end up in a PRC reeducation camp, even if it wasn't horse dung.
Next block had... Trader Vic's. Yup, tiki bar statues and all. Three-course meal for $20 US, but I think they would have gotten me on the beer. Logged it, but kept walking.
Finally found a sitdown Szechuan restaurant, which turned out be three flights up. Worth the climb, though... nice chewy chao mein, not as oily as what I found in Beijing... an *excellent* Fish-Flavored Pork, more in a red oil sauce than the brown versions we usually see in Frisco. Sliced bamboo shoots and tree fungus in there, lots of chopped garlic and finely-shredded chives. A big bottle of Tsing Tao draft (and yes, I'm aware of the irony). Waitress waved me off some additional dumplings and other xiao chr... guess she didn't believe that I was really in the mood to pig out. Cost 58 RMB: less than eight bucks total.
(I'm hearing the serving girls saying "shao shao dian now" in the background and laughing shyly when I turn around and smile... they like this strange little computer without wires to the keyboard.)
Traffic is a little different so far. Still the same non-committal drifting on the freeways (topic of subsequent post). Horn use is a little more muted. But the intersections are people-sized rather than army-sized, sidewalks usually run the entire block without obstruction or disruption, and the crosswalks have countdown lights! I must be in heaven or something....
Another plus: 24-hour convenience stores nearby. This also reminds me of Tokyo. (Later: rice balls *and* cans of coffee!)
Plan is to stock the hotel's mini-fridge with OJ & beer, grab some snacks & banana, set up the internet connection, and finish some notes. Sleep hard, explore the neighborhood tomorrow.