Happy Chinese New Year!
It was beginning to feel a lot like… well for me Christmas… but in general the big festive season! Our compound and work place has decorated everything nicely with fairy lights outside and red Chinese decorations on the walls and windows. (I swear, I smelled mulled wine on the streets of our compound!)
After thinking about it for weeks and weeks, we had decided to stay in Shanghai over Chinese New Year for three reasons:
- The flight tickets were about 3x higher
- For train tickets that were still available, we were told that we would have to fight our way through the train station with millions of other people
- People told us that Shanghai will be really quiet hence more enjoyable
- The air pollution level will be really low as they will switch off factories
Apart from the flight ticket prices, none of the advise was particularly true. (This is why you should never listen too much to other people’s advice, and make your own experiences!)
Yes, we heard that the day before Chinese New Year’s Eve (26th of January), everyone was on the streets to travel home and yes, we saw the high levels of air pollution and traffic jams on the roads. However, the day when we would have actually gone somewhere, the next day, even Pudong Airport (the big airport here) was completely empty!
For New Years Eve, we have booked a hotel room at the Hotel Indigo at the Bund with fantastic views and a bottle of bubbly in my handbag. What we didn’t know when we arrived at the reception, ready for check-in: that the hotel needs to see and register your bloody passport to allow you to stay there! Sorry that we didn’t know – I can’t recall having ever had to show my passport in other countries’ hotels and it’s not like we carry it around with us everywhere we go in Shanghai. But the tone of the receptionist was exceptionally rude and had we not booked with a non-flexible rate, we would have been out of this hotel within minutes. It was very kind of him to go back to our flat, get the passports and come back by taxi, but the rude receptionist didn’t even let me check into our hotel room within these 1.5 hours! Not only that, but also was the room that we got much smaller than on the photos on Booking.com – we might as well have booked a much cheaper and smaller room type. What a disappointment after spending so much money as we booked it as our special New Years treat. When we wanted to take a stroll on the Bund the next morning we aborted our mission after it got really crowded. The highlight of that stay at the Bund was our dinner at Goodfellas, where we dined in a cosy atmosphere with excellent service and enjoyed amazing food and red wine. Unlucky for us, the government has just decided that from this year, there will be no more fireworks allowed in Shanghai. (Could we be any more unlucky?)
In our residential area we struggled to find any restaurant that was open so we just spent every day in the French Concession (and even there some Western restaurants were closed) to wine and dine in nice restaurants with friends. We discovered the restaurant/bar/café Green & Safe which, opposed to its strange name, we really liked with its rustic and casual feel and especially the steak and beer variety upstairs. Another highlight at the end of that holiday season was a comedy night with friends at the Kung Fu Komedy Club below Kartel, where I laughed tears when the last comedian described very accurate misunderstandings between men and women.
Overall, the annoyances of staying in Shanghai over Chinese New Year were that it was actually more polluted on most days, the touristy areas were even more crowded than on the weekend, most other areas have completely closed down their shops and restaurants and most of all: our Ayi was off for the week 😦