I’m cheating a little bit here, because our story actually begins on the previous day. After returning to the hotel, but before going to sleep, we set to work arranging our transportation to and from the Great Wall for the following day.
This was far more stressful than we had expected.
Having already seen what we thought was Beijing’s big attraction (exclusive of the Great Wall, I suppose), we decided to spend a day relaxing at the Summer Palace. We assumed, from the name, that the Summer Palace would be smaller and less intense than the Forbidden City. After all, it’s only a part-time palace, right?
We were wrong. It was so intense. But let’s start at the beginning. As always, this means breakfast, because I love to tell you about what I eat. This morning we had our hotel’s breakfast buffet.
Today we took on the Forbidden City.
We slept in and decided to try out some of Beijing’s street food rather than try to catch the last few minutes of the hotel’s buffet. One of the vendors nearby was advertising “hamburgers”, so we tried out a local interpretation of a tried-and-true Western delight.
We began our day day as every day ought to be begun – with cakes. Amelia had bought a small cake for her birthday (as you may recall), and Iris had given Kat two mooncakes the previous evening. Not wanting to port these delicacies to Beijing on their backs, the ladies decided to carry them in their bellies.
Today we met with Kat’s cousin Iris, who has been in China for the last 11 months as part of her position in a hotel management training program. We had arranged to meet her at a metro stop, which proved to be challenging because we (a) slept in and (b) had not used the Shanghai metro before.
We arrived about 15 minutes late, but managed to find Iris despite our tardiness. She took us through a stroll in the park, where we saw a roller-coaster ride and an art museum celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pixar.
This morning we began with failure. We slept in and missed breakfast, and were thus quite hungry by the time we headed out to search for the public bus to Zhūjiājiǎo, an ancient canal town about an hour away.
We had some trouble finding the bus depot. Due to the language barrier, we had to rely on hand gestures when asking passers-by for directions to the station (we had its name in written Chinese). It turns out that hand gestures are also different here, which should not have been a surprise. For instance, the numbers 1 through 9 can all be signed with one hand (10 requires that you cross the index fingers of each hand). The sign for “left” consists of slapping your left arm while outstretched. And the sign for “go straight” is some bizarre action that looked more like a lethal attack than an attempt at providing directions.
Today was our first full day in Shanghai, and we made sure to hit the big sights.
We had a leisurely breakfast at the buffet downstairs (which, sadly, did not stock Ice Fruit is Treasure) before strolling over to Old Town. We took some well-frequented side-streets that were lined with tiny shops. These shops are everywhere – everywhere – in urban China, but it was Amelia’s first chance to peruse their many wonders, so peruse she did.