As I type this, we’re about 2 hours NW of Detroit, traveling at 622 MPH, at approximately 101 Deg. W and 51 Deg. N, steady at 39,000 feet. We’re all dragging a bit, but desperately looking forward to sleeping in our own beds (and Ryan in his new bed) for the first time in almost 3 weeks. As we were leaving Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, AR and I were talking and I joked that “the next thing you know it, we’ll be at baggage claim in Philadelphia again and the trip will be over”. We’re nearly to that point in our journey and again, I cannot comprehend how quickly the journey has flown by.
I want to write all about what we did yesterday on our last full day in Shanghai – and I will shortly…but for now, a few observations…
We’ve done these (adoption adventures) a few times and each time we always consciously try to swim in every detail of every moment. I don’t even need to remind myself anymore to look around me wherever we are and really SEE everything – every detail; to listen through the noise to hear every sound. Like the sounds of children talking and laughing and the clanging of the steel bowls in the lunchroom of Ryan’s orphanage; the way the giraffes nearly yanked us off our feet and we held tight to OUR ends to the branches that we fed them at the Safari Park; the blur of neon and halogen lights and signs at night on Nanjing Road; the musty smell of the ancient temples in the Forbidden City.
We try to do things, family things, that Ryan and our children will always remember as part of THIS trip…THIS experience. Things we’ll laugh about when we look at the photos and videos next month, next year, or whenever any of the kids like to dig out the photo albums and relive THEIR trips. If we try to build these memories to last, then they will remain vivid in the way that each of them “remembers” their trip. It’s really satisfying when, as part of our regular day-to-day conversations, we get to talking about our various adoption journeys, and the kids re-tell parts of our stories in a way that tells Lisa and me that we succeeded.
I’m not sure if Lisa covered our late night shopping excursion with AR, Kyle and me? Dylan was wiped out so he stayed back, but Kyle wanted to venture out. AR was looking for a LV (Louis Vuitton) Handbag/Purse. We’d seen a few “salesmen” along Nanjing Road when we made our way home to the rooms, so we searched them out again. The 3 of us made it to Nanjing Road and it didn’t take long, before we were found by a speed talking saleswoman showing us a well-worn folding laminated card with merchandise of ALL sorts – watches, wallets, pens, purses, suitcases, etc. She led us back to her store, with a storefront on the road just off Nanjing – about a 50 foot walk. AR looked at the selection but didn’t see what she wanted. So we politely excused ourselves to head back outside. On the way out we looked at sunglasses, but once it was clear that the “store” didn’t have it, the woman confirmed with AR exactly what she wanted – a Louis Vuitton Purse – only LV would do.
Before we could even make it back outside, the saleslady motioned for us to follow her. We did…out of the store, and down a side alley, which dead-ended into another smaller, less well lit, more trash-littered alley. Dodging puddles, we made a left turn and in 20 feet or so, the saleslady disappeared up a dark (as in no lights – really dark) creaky, old wooden stairway. AR stopped in her tracks; “We’re not going up there – you can bring the bag down.” There was a friendly-enough looking man seated on a 55 gallon drum (of what I’m not sure) – he gave us the “it’s OK, go ahead up” Mandarin wave. So we swallowed hard and headed up the stairs – on the way up Kyle counted the utility meters – like Robert showed us – and learned that there were at least 11 apartments/families living in the building.
The stairs seemed to get darker as we went higher; “Dad is this safe?”. We trudged up about a flight and a half, and made two other turns, before we saw the “light at the end of the tunnel”, so to speak. It was like something out of a second run horror flick – the only thing missing was the cheesy heart-pounding soundtrack. Anyway, the last turn led us to a 2-room shop that was as well oraganized, brightly lit, and inviting as any mainstream shop back downstairs on Nanjing Road. If you wanted it, it was there: Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Gucci, Prada, Coach – the selection upstairs was better than downstairs!
AR picked a bit, then found “the one” she was looking for. Once that was out of the way, the games began. Kyle didn’t know it, but just by being there, he’d just enrolled in the AR graduate level course in Price Negotiations! It was thoroughly entertaining for me to watch his reactions to the performance. We won’t share the tactics, but after the initial offer was laid on the table by the saleslady (2,400 Y), AR finally walked away, bag in hand, for 500 Y. Class Dismissed!
We stumbled back down the stairs and out the alleyways, until we were safely out again on Nanjing Road. We headed back to the hotel. Kyle asked how much the bag would have cost in a “regular” USA store. AR quoted $1000. +/- and she got her bag for a bit more than $80 US. We joked with Kyle that the bag had the LV logo on it just like the other bags in the USA stores, but AR’s back was actally a “Larry Vuitton” model. We further explained that Larry was Louis’s less well-known, but equally talented cousin, and was also a handbag designer! Then we made him swear that he wouldn’t tell Mom where we’d gone to get it – “Tell her we got it at one of the shops just off Nanjing Road.” The AR Nanjing Road Larry Vuitton Handbag story will now be a permanent part of K’s memories of Shanghai.
Lisa planned things so we’d have the last full day in Shanghai on our own. Lisa, Kyle and I stopped over in Shanghai for the first couple of days during Dylan’s adoption trip, so we had a good sense of how to get around. During that trip the Bund (Waterfront Promenade) was completely shut down for reconstruction – we saw NOTHING! We looked forward to actually seeing the finished product.
Just for the record, we are home now and I’m finishing this post from our kitchen table. I’d typed the section above on the plane, but now I’m typing on one computer while cursing at the other one which is taking way toooo looong to copy our photos to a portable hard drive for safekeeping… OK, so there are over 5,500 photos to plow through, but this is 2015 isn’t it? It should not take this long!
We hew headed out after another great breakfast, and walked Nanjing Road toward the Bund. It was about a 20 minute walk, and the early morning crowd volume was till surprising! After being redone, The Bund was really nice. It’s a pedestrian walkway along the waterfront, with tremendous views of the skyline on the other side of the Huangpu River. It’s the classic Shanghai skyline pictured on most postcards. There was easy access to the other side via the tremendously exciting Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. The trip is a slow speed excursion on an automatically rail guided enclosed gondola-type car through a hard-to-describe series of laser light, flashing LED, and video doohickeys…so hard to describe, that I will not attempt it. If you’ve ever ridden it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
After we recovered from the Tunnel ride, we emerged to street level at the base of the Pearl Tower…to merge with the thousands of other Saturday tourists at the tower – almost exclusively Chinese. We decided to wait until later to go up, so we made our way to the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. When we got our tickets, we mentioned that we had 2 children – Ash & Ryan – who qualified for half-price tickets. We communicated well with the ticket window girl, but not so well with the ticket taker woman. She wouldn’t let us all pass – and we didn’t know why. She tried desperately to tell us why – then she motioned for everyone to stay put on the other side (I was the last one to go through) and insisted that I follow her. It didn’t occur to me immediately what she was doing – and then it did. She saw K & D go through and she realized that they too should have been half-price. She shepherded me back to the ticket window, found the person in charge, stayed with me and made sure that our two full price tickets for K & D were replaced with half price tickets. Our advocate ticket taker was very professional with the ticket window folks, who wasted no time issuing the new tickets. WOW – That was cool. What a nice gesture – she could have easily just passed everyone through, but she went to bat for us to make things right (even though we didn’t know anything was amiss). I thanked her profusely and gently offered her a small tip, which she politely and humbly declined. I thanked her once again, and entered the Aquarium, with a restored sense of humanity. Granted, we have had no problem at all with any of our tourist interactions, but in general things are typically arms-length “buyer-beware” interchanges. This simple interaction had a strong affect on me and I am thankful I had the chance to experience it.
The Aquarium was a lot of fun, and the kids enjoyed all of the exhibits, and seeing some native fish and other creatures that they would never get to see back home. The crowds were starting to swell by the time we headed out, so we’re glad we got the chance to see it.
Since we’re parents of the year, we had ice cream for lunch! Then it was time to see the Oriental Pearl Tower. The last time we visited we had nightmarish memories of jamming Kyle in his stroller into a tiny over-crowded elevator – not this time. We had a relatively short wait (maybe 15-20 minutes, during which the Kids were really good!) before our ride to the Upper Sphere. The first stop was an inside observation floor with 360 degree views at about 270m (800 +/- Feet). As you walked around, each pane of glass was labeled with a directional arrow and the names of Cities/Provinces in that particular direction. We made sure to get photos of each of the kids posing with their Province directionals.
Next stop was actually 1 floor DOWN to the OUTSIDE SEE-THROUGH observation deck floor. That was a bit unnerving… There was a 10 foot wide observation deck outside, with inside seating as well if you wanted. The first 4 foot section, nearest the tower, was wood planks (sealed and solid underfoot) – but the second section a bit farther out on the ledge, so to speak was clear glass. Nothing below but the rest of the world about 700 feet straight down. Again, a little unnerving. Everyone ventured out for a snapshot, even Mom who got as close as I’ve ever seen her to something like that. It was a unique experience – you can see for yourself in the photos…
After that excitement, we took the elevator down to the base of the tower and walked through a very well-done museum of Shanghai’s checkered native and colonial history. It was very enlightening and very well presented (gotta recommend it if you have some free time).
Outside of the Tower there is a huge circular elevated walkway surrounding a manicured garden center section of a roadway rotary. Adjoining the walkway was a the Pearl Tower, some shopping malls, and a Flagship Disney Store. The store was well secured with 4 police cars surrounding it at all times and was complete with a serpentine line to allow customers to queue up to enter. What’s a Disney attraction without a long serpentine line!!?? It was very popular with the Chinese, probably owing to the approaching opening of the Disney Shanghai Park in 2016. Outside the store and on the roof, there were mouse-ear shaped gardens, that were easily visible from the top of the Pearl Tower…pure Disney.
It was getting on in the afternoon, and we were considering dinner options. We found a mall with a bunch of restaurants – but nothing western enough for our tastes (at least in our price range). Nerves were fraying and attention spans shortening when AR came through in the clutch again by finding a few other restaurants on the Esplanade level – with limited options, we agreed on Hooters – for the Wings, of course. On our walk to Hooters, God smiled on us once again as a TGIFridays came into view across the street. Relief washed over us and we couldn’t get there fast enough!
As we walked in it was “Table for Seven, please”. The hostess seemed a bit challenged and asked if we had reservations. After the laughter subsided we simply said “No”. She bounced around a bit more, and suggested a high-top table – NOT the best option for Ryan! Then a manager happened by, got wind of the conversation and took charge. He motioned for us to hang back for a moment, while he cajoled a very nice family of four, who he had just seated moments ago, into moving down one table, to free up our seven seats. They were not overjoyed, but they did move for us. They were nice and we thanked them.
The meals were typical Fridays but just what the doctor ordered. We left refreshed and rejuvenated for a our long march back to the hotel. We spent a few moments on the elevated walkway, getting some evening photos of the Pearl Tower, before heading back to the tunnel ride. Back on the hotel side of the river, we walked up onto the Bund, with about 100,000 other Chinese and western tourists! It was way more crowded than the Wildwood Boardwalk on a warm Labor Day Weekend. Tiny hands were squeezed into big ones as we navigated the mob scene. We looked back down onto the street and the crowds kept coming. It was like an Eagles game just let out and people were streaming to their cars; but these folks were headed to the Bund to join US. It was NUTS – so many people.
We stayed only long enough to grab a few photos of the skyline, and some decorated dinner cruise boats meandering down the river. We had quite a walk yet ahead of us, so we got into formation and jammed our way through the masses. For a good part of the walk back to the protection of Nanjing Road (pedestrians only), we walked in the street – despite the objections by Kyle & Dylan, observing that walking in the street wasn’t very safe! We kept out heads down, went with the flow of the crowd and pretended not to hear them!
Actually, by this point, given the day we’d had, and the ground we’d covered, we half-expected the kids’ behavior to be off the reservation. But they were GREAT – all of them, Ryan included. No constant complaints, not too much whining, and no mutinies. As long as I closely monitored the equality of the time allocated to each of the 6-year-olds riding on my shoulders, all was well. This was our last nighttime walk on Nanjing Road, the “Times Square” of Shanghai, so we made sure to drink it in…who knows when we might be back?
We collapsed into our beds back at the Hotel.
One more morning in China…then we were taking Ryan HOME.
Thanks for following…more to come soon.
The Kids and their Favorite Kitty outside the Marriott
Sure, I know where we’re going…
Just before the Sightseeing Tunnel
The AMAZING Bund Sightseeing Tunnel – Hold On Tight!!
Oakie at the Oriental Pearl Tower
The Garden at the Rotary
The Oriental Pearl Tower
About to go into the Aquarium
There was also a Kitty Exhibit at the base of the Tower
Ice Cream Lunch
The Disney Store from 800 Feet – 2 sets of Ears. Note the HUGE Crowd waiting to get in!
Kyle – JiangXi
Ryan – Guangdong
Dylan – Liaoning
Ashley – Hubei
The Glass Observation Deck
On the Elevated Walkway
Thank God It’s FRIDAYS!
Our last view of the Skyline from the Bund, as we headed home.