Shanghai food-stravaganza – Saturday, December 1, 2018

I had a luxuriously lazy morning after a late night arrival, and with no agenda for the day in Shanghai but to walk, eat, and find a massage (foot and/or body), I wasn’t in any big hurry to get out the door.

By the time I did, it was closer to lunch than breakfast time, and wow, what a difference between a Tuesday and a weekend day on Nanjing street (and surrounding areas). Tons of people out and about, and amazing street food options. And I ate as much of it as would fit in my expanding belly. Some sort of savory crepe with egg, scallions, cilantro, some mysterious sauces, seaweed, bean sprouts, and other veggies. Amazing. Some scallion pancakes (I even found the place I’d frequented on my visit 5 years ago – it was indeed where I’d remembered, but apparently only had the pancakes on weekends). Various steamed buns and baked goods. Some kind of handheld pastry that tasted a lot like scallion pancakes…but somehow even better? Some noodles with braised beef. Some milk tea.

While I was enjoying some of my street food and milk tea on Nanjing street around noon, I saw a couple of guys making their own choices for lunch: fresh strawberries and cans of Budweiser. This city has something for everyone!

My hotel WiFi is really poor, but I found that a cheap foot massage place had great WiFi (that’s where I was when I uploaded my last post & pictures). I later found a nice/clean and conveniently located massage place on the 4th floor for a full body massage. I also walked a lot. And when I got tired of the crowds, I’d head up to my city view oasis for some quiet. My kind of perfect day in Shanghai.

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Zhangjiajie hiking day 3 – Friday, November 30, 2018

So much for the forecast of sunny days throughout my visit in Zhangjiajie! I woke up to see hazy skies. Packed up my things and left the heavy stuff at the hotel and headed out for another day in the mountains.

But first: Back to the awesome breakfast place (this time I tried more kinds of steamed buns, and also got some hot soy milk, like what I’d had for breakfast in Taiwan).

On the bus, I chatted a bit with a guy from Chile & another from South Korea. They’d gotten on the wrong bus (they were trying to go to the forest park base) but after looking at options, I suggested they walk along the stream path as it’d probably be faster than taking multiple buses, at that point. And the path would be scenic (and there were lots of monkeys)! I walked with them for a little while, until we got to where I turned off to climb up the mountain, and they continued along the valley. The Chinese tourists had the good sense to keep their distance from the monkeys (and if one grabbed their bag from their hand to go digging for food, they just let the monkeys have it without any fight).

More stairs today! And I got to see how they construct the very nice railings along the trail. Custom built with wire and cement and then sculpted and painted to look like wood.

More amazing views, too. Made perhaps even more dramatic by the mist in the air. I saw very few people on the hike up, but towards the top, I met some other hikers – one guy from the UK and one from Australia. We wound up hiking for the rest of the day together. The Avatar filming/inspiration point and the natural bridge were indeed impressive. We did our best to avoid the larger tour groups and enjoyed the vistas in relative quiet, mode of the time.

We all were ready to call it a day by mid afternoon, so we took a circuitous bus to the top of the elevator, took that down, and got some coffee (or, in my case, an orchid latte because: adventure!)

Then, I went back to my hotel to collect my things, and off to catch the bus back into Zhangjiajie City. Best dinner yet at a random place near the bus & train station (note to self: when using the “can you recommend?” card withOUT the pretending to be a vegetarian card…it’s not ALL tricky to eat chicken parts and fish with tons of bones to avoid. You can also wind up getting super tasty pork belly type dishes. Yum!

I had hoped to find a good foot massage around there, but no luck. I went into one spa place on the 3rd floor of a big building, but their lobby stank horribly of cigarette smoke AND their prices were high. No thank you!

On my flight back to Shanghai, I got an exit row seat. Woohoo, legroom! My special instructions were NOT anything about reviewing a card in the seatback pocket and being willing and able to assist the crew in the event of an emergency. Instead, my instructions from the flight attendant (before takeoff and repeated again before landing) were simply, “please do not touch the red handle.” Now where’s the adventure in that?? But okay, FINE.

Since I got back to Shanghai after the Maglev & subway had stopped for the night, I had to take a taxi to my swanky hotel. I’d splurged for a king bed in an upscale chain for my last 2 nights, but when I checked in, they told me they didn’t have any king rooms available. When I was not amenable to a twin room (or a twin room for one night and then moving to a different room), they eventually…upgraded me to a suite with a view of the bund! Woohoo!

Night shots of the skyline didn’t turn out, so here’s a view from the morning:

Zhangjiajie hiking day 2 – November 29

The day started off with my best breakfast yet – a steamed bun and a bowl of noodles from a place just down the street, which seemed to be full of locals darting in to slurp a quick bowl of noodles or soy milk, or picking up some buns to go.

Belly full and warm, I dozed off on the crowded bus from the WulongZhai station, while enroute to the base of the elevator (see red line on the map from my previous post). I woke up when we stopped and a bunch of people were getting off. Glanced out the window and saw the bus stop sign mentioning the elevator, so I scrambled to get off, past the people crowding to get on. Once off, I realized I had gotten off too early. The sign was for where to wait for the bus going TO the elevator. Oops. Well, there was another trail that I could take, from where I’d gotten off. So, I decided to do that! I walked along beside a little sightseeing monorail, and then started walking up up up many flights of steps to get to the top of mount Tianzi. More killer views. Fewer trail friends this day. Did chat briefly with a Swiss couple who were also hiking up. They had a drone that I imagine got some truly incredible photos, soaring around among the karsts. Those viewpoints really made me wish I could fly, too.

Sometimes it seemed like I was the only person on a trail. And then I’d turn a corner and encounter a guy sweeping leaves off the steps, in the middle of nowhere. The whole park was remarkably well-kept.

At one point, I walked through a particularly quiet section of forest, when I thought I heard…purring? Nope. The flittering of many wings of some kind of small birds in the area. They chirped a little, but mostly just flew around in the bushes.

I took hundreds of photos.

When I got tired, I took some shuttle buses back to a gondola down to the base, followed by another bus back into town.

After some snacks, cleaning up (shower, laundry), and blog photo uploading (slow going on the hotel WiFi), I walked into a different part of town for a late dinner in a random restaurant where they spoke no English. I pulled out my “can you recommend…?” card. There weren’t many pictures on their menu. I played charades to indicate that I just wanted something small. The waitress pointed at a menu item with a relatively low price, and then made her hands into ears on her head with and said “okay?” A guy who had come over to help made horns and a bull charging motion. We all giggled. I looked up “beef” in my dictionary and confirmed that that would be okay. Also used the “normal spicy” text I’d gotten from my hotel host (since some of my first meals in town were bland, and since Hunan is known for spice, I wanted to try it the “right” way!) Anyway, wound up with a plate of something like a spicy Mongolian beef.

I wanted a foot massage, but by that point wanted sleep, even more. Zzz!