This entry was from when I probably overstayed my welcome with a friend in Shanghai while waiting to fly to Taiyuan, Shanxi where I had a new teaching position. I thought it timely to include as I prepare for my upcoming trip back – again solely as a visitor. I have edited the post in an attempt to keep it more of a travel entry. Still no photos, this was so long ago that I do not have anything on my iPad.
You Can’t go Home Again (or: Tides of Change)
I decided to walk from my friend’s at one end of Huaihai Lu to Ruijin Lu to seek out the new old town she had told me about. Along the way I could take photos, watch people, enjoy the lovely weather. Some of the changes I have really taken notice of are pregnant bellies and newborns. It is no longer just Chinese women who are showing off their pregnancies and proudly carrying their newborn. Now foreign women are doing the same. I saw two heavily pregnant women, two others with very young babies, plus another perhaps 6-7 months along with a child also. That was in the space of 4 hours!
I was also amazed at how many foreigners are riding fairly heavy duty motorcycles, as well as motor scooters. Three bikes with sidecars – three people on each. One group, yes a group, consisted of two touring bikes, the woman on one with flowing blonde hair streaming behind her; and the driver also seemed to have long hair – male though.
The biggest change though – for me, was to visit a small street I would frequent with my daughters for cong yong bing, sweet potato chips, (that is sweet potatoes, not sugared chips) and little trinkets. Back then we found some hidden gems of stores and even places for the girls to take kung fu lessons. I had not put the name of the place I should visit to the place we used to visit. Our little street, with its few hidden alleys has been discovered.
All the quirky shops are gone – one whole side of the street was turned into a vast shopping centre, which means all the little shops on that side have vanished, along with where people lived above their shops. Now there is Tai Kang Lu: the old town. Fine, it was quite a discovery and excellent investment to open this area up for those living there to make money. It certainly draws the tourists. But the charm is gone unless you can get away from the crowds and look up – at the old brickwork, the old wood latticework, old doors and little balconies. Otherwise it is just another Yu Yuan, except nicer with more expensive stuff; or Xintiandi, but less expensive. So, I don’t know if this is progress or not. When I realized that the entrance to this maze of little alleys that twist in and around and out again was our special place I had to cover my mouth to hold back my shock. It would not have done to have this middle aged foreign lady crying at the entrance of a tourist attraction – the most likely thought would have been that I was robbed.
Which I was in a way – another memory stripped away. Perhaps why remaining in Shanghai, as much as I loved it before, is not a good idea. You can go home, but it will never be the same.
Next day I braved Yu Yuan – just as crazy as ever. Crowds dreadful, forgot this was a Saturday. I did not stay long after doing a quick check for silver bells. Headed for the foreign haven of Xintiandi. Still expensive, still clean, still full of lots and lots of restaurants that should meet anyone’s tastes. Simply Thai is still there, looking as calming and relaxing as ever. I wonder if it is the atmosphere or just how we expect all things Thai to be.
I did not stay long there either. Thank goodness for all those new subway lines – took the number 10 each time. After two days of exploring and lots of walking I am utterly exhausted.
My best adventure was going shopping for some ingredients to make tomato sauce. I cheated a bit, bought tomato paste, canned black olives and feta cheese at the store friend goes to. But I did buy small tomatoes, bananas and oranges at one of the local markets nearby and two types of cong you bing. So, I feel as though I accomplished something. I even returned the adapter I do not need and got my money back!
Home cooking – not always easy in China.