On day 4 of our trip, we rose early to take a stroll down to one of the local fresh markets. A fresh market is like a farmer’s market on steroids; they had everything there from strange, exotic fruits and vegetables to whole sides of mutton hanging from the ceiling to fish so fresh it was still flopping around. There were small restaurants within the fresh market too, including a few bakeries with freshly made goodies nestled behind glass shelves. After walking through the market, we picked up a crepe like sandwich and John bought us some steamed pork dumplings. So far, those were the best dumplings I have ever put in my mouth. It was kind of funny because he was saying “be careful, it’s hot,” and we culinary people were handling them barehanded with no trouble. You had to be there, really.
Sadly after that we headed back to the Tiantan Hotel one last time to check out of our rooms and got back on the bus heading for the train station and Shanghai. As we drove through Beijing one last time, I was both miserable and happy to leave: I didn’t want to leave the beautiful city I had learned to love and now hope to live in someday, but I was equally as happy to move on to Shanghai for new experiences and to start a new chapter in our adventure. The train ride was very smooth, smoother than our flight to China as a matter of fact. There was a dining car, but John had prepared for us sack lunches spilling over with lots of local snacks and sweets, including rice crackers, two kinds of cookies, a cup of noodles, a banana and orange, and a strawberry sucker for dessert. I ate pretty much all of it except the cup of noodles, which I have a feeling I’ll be taking home in my suitcase.
Five hours later, we pulled into the Shanghai station and made our way to our new hotel, the Jianguo. It’s nicer than the Tiantan, if a bit smaller. We were given free time before dinner to walk around Shanghai in small groups to just explore the city. Before dinner, we went to a dumpling place for appetizers, then we headed back to the hotel for dinner. After that, we all went our separate ways: some people went straight to bed, others went to the convenience store around the corner, but Dean Russel, Dr. Gunay, Chef, Sam and I walked downtown to the shopping district and looked at a few department stores. I tell you what, for a petite lady in heels, Dr. Gunay sure can set a brisk pace. Thoroughly exhausted but filled with the promise of the next day, we made it back to our hotel and had our first sleep in the New York City of Southeastern China.