Friday, July 29, 2016

Shanghai, China, Part 2: Chinese Glamour Shots

Heading back from Suzhou, I hit up Shanghai one last time before finally leaving the area for good (Shanghai and its surrounding areas sure got some quality time on this trip).  I spent a couple days crashing with Jade at her apartment (THANK YOU for being the sweetest hostess ever!), and, in my words, "living like a local."  With no "to-see's" on the docket, I totally took my time and did whatever I wanted (one of those days involved me sitting in a coffee shop with a giant iced coffee for hours, catching up on the blog. After so long on the road, that is sometimes the true, true luxury!).

Jade and I were talking my first night back, and she mentioned that she had been meaning to go get some photos done.  At first I assumed they were work photos or something, but then she explained that sometimes it's fun (and a fairly common activity) to just go to a photo studio, get your hair and makeup done, throw on a couple outfit changes, and get photos taken by a professional.  For (what appears to me to be) no reason; as in, they don't need a special occasion like a wedding or an engagement or a graduation to get photos done.  She asked if I'd be interested in joining her for a session, saying that they had packages specifically designed for friends, called "friendship shoots."  Seriously, this was the name of the photo package.  WELL OK.

In China, "friendship shoots" involve wearing matching clothes and posing on beds. Apparently.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • So I actually also spent a day and a half in Shanghai in between Hangzhou and Suzhou, with Jesse, before he left - but I had no idea where to put those photos because they don't exactly warrant their own post, so I'm sticking them here!

My dad had been saving his points at the Radisson for FOREVER, and he asked me to help him use them - redeemable for exactly one night at the Shanghai Radisson Blu.  I made him a montage of me using every square inch of the hotels facilities, to show him that his points were being well utilized. I'm sure the Radisson loved this.

We spent Jess' last night walking down Nanjing Road

I maybe made us ride the super fun-looking tiny trolley across town

  • The day Jess left, and the day before I left for Suzhou, Jade took me on her own (rainy) "political dissident tour". I named it myself. Jade has a lot of interest in history; and not just the history that the Chinese government teaches, but all of it.  For example, if there's a home belonging to a famous leader who was against the Communist party (you know, like Chiang Kai-Shek - the leader of the Nationalist Party who fled to Taiwan because he was against Mao Zedong, the Communist Party leader)(#Chinesehistorylessons) - the government today tries to hide it. There will be no information on the home or the area or the individual at all, and it will be restricted for access and hidden behind fences.  On the other hand, if there's a home belonging to a former government official, or a famous poet that supported the Communist government, the house is proudly preserved and displayed with information plaques and presented openly to the public. You really start to see that the Chinese government just shows you what it wants you to see.  Anyhow, Jade has a deep interest in all this history. She took me to see a lot of the homes and properties of former political figures that are not marked or indicated.  In fact, many of them just look like large buildings hidden behind even larger fences.  It's super interesting that you would normally just walk right by these, and not have any idea of their historical significance.

Rainy walk through the French Concession, to see some of the old houses.
At one point, we tried to enter a park that a guard would not allow us into, telling us it was private property. Jade responded with "I've studied the history of this park, and it used to be for public use. How can the government sell public property to a private individual?? Who allowed that?  Who's the owner?" #wow.  The guard admitted it did used to be public property, but now it isn't and he wouldn't answer who owned it. And he still didn't let us in. Jade let this one go, but apparently she's picked fights before. (insert big-eyed emoji here)

This was also somewhere historic that I can't remember, someone's former property or something - and now the police occupy it, but they won't put up a sign that it's a police station so people can't question why the police get to use this super swanky fancy building (you know, benefits of being government employees).  But it's fairly obvious because there's like, 10 police cars parked in the backyard.  The way China works sometimes blows my mind.

We found an art exhibit of photos from all over China; snapshots into all the different provinces and ways of life and such. And it had this old propaganda poster.

I changed my mind; the entire photo gallery was propaganda.  Look at this caption. I could not get over it.
"It's quality is, quite obviously, superior than that of other countries, such as Iran."  WHO SAYS THAT.

This was an incredibly pretty park (I think a hefty chunk of all the parks in China are named "People's Park"), with a teahouse overlooking the fountain.

Shanghai, you look so Euro sometimes!

We ended our day (and our political dissident tour) with big bowls of personal hotpot

Slumber party at Jade's = face masks and computers!

  • The next day, we woke up bright and early for *drumroll* the "Friendship Photo Shoot!"  I don't think that needs to be capitalized, but I'm making it a proper noun.  Let me just preface these next set of photos with 
    • These are only a handful, and trust me, these are the faaaaairly normal ones. If you want weirder, I have weirder. Just ask;  
    • Jade was right! Girls do randomly just go get photos done for no reason! There were two sets of them at the photo studio when we arrived.  One was getting a set with her boyfriend done (what?? What happens if they break up!?), and one was just getting photos of herself in different outfits for no apparent reason; 
    • Please keep in mind that China loves themes. Jade chose all our themes. 
    • Girls in China are very close - like, they hold hands in the street and stuff. So getting photos done together felt kind of like an engagement shoot to me, but here it's normal; and hey, what the wife wants, the wife gets. (The wife is Jade, btw. Keep up.)

The first theme - boudoir?!? Just kidding.  But kind of not.

Yeahhh I'm not exactly sure what the difference between this and a boudoir shoot is.

Jade was barely touching my hair, but the photog instructed me to act like I was in pain, "while still keeping my face pretty."  Uh. I'm not a magician here, sir.

Next set: Chinese traditional dresses (qipaos) - we went outside for these, and it was hot as balls. That's all.

Photo shoots in China are like acting sessions.  "Walk slowly while pointing and looking over at that tree!"

The photog was way into this fan.  I was too, but only because I got to fan myself aggressively between shots in the 100 degree heat.

I love this one of Jade! The photog sent us onto the deck of a rando restaurant for these

Oh, now we're sitting on the rando restaurant's deck. Thanks, guys.

Qipaos are super racy. Jade says they are designed to be that way - to appear demure and ladylike on the surface, but then have these ridiculous sky-high slits in the legs, and have the shape be skin-tight and form-fitting to the body.  Apparently we Americans have it all wrong, what with the putting skin out there right up front. The key is you have to TRICK THE MEN into thinking you're a lady at first.

Qipaos are racy, part 2. Unless you don't think it's racy to see all my million mosquito bites.

The lady did our hair in like, 5 minutes. So impressive.

AND THE FINAL THEME. Jade was going for "cool and dangerous."  Seriously, some of these pics (which I will not post) are the most ridiculous ones of all. The photog kept instructing us to be cool (seriously, I think I heard the word "cool" 100+ times) and I was like "I DON'T KNOW HOWWWWW"

Apparently my go-to when "acting cool" is duckface

Jade is much better at being cool than I am
Omg I'm keeping this photo small

  • It was a super-fun day (SO WEIRD YET SO INTERESTING), and we had a good time at the end of it.  You know who else had a great time? Jesse. I think he could barely breathe, he was laughing so hard, when he saw these photos.  You're welcome for the day's entertainment. I hope you were entertained.  I have more, if you need.
  • After the photo shoot, we went to brunch with family friends, then headed to an area of town that has a bunch of cute cafes and afternoon tea spots and (again) looks very Euro.

I forgot what this section of town is called. I fail.

But we went and had (expensive!) afternoon tea at a place that tried so, so hard to be British.

And since we still had our makeup on, we went and took our own photos in the area (DOUBLE DUTY)

This is a beautiful former convent, which has now been turned into a swanky hotel.

  • And with that wrapped up the end of my (multiple) Shanghai adventures!  I loved having this city as a home base for two weeks, which would not have been even close to the same without Jade the superstar.  So thanks Jade, and thanks Shanghai, for being a semi-home for a little bit!  Also, thanks to the photo studio that made me feel like I was in a strange, very-interesting movie set for a day.  I now have photos that will last a lifetime, and will also be plastered across my wall in poster-size going forward.  I'm onto the rest of China!

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • After the photo shoot, Jade and I went to brunch with family friends, where my friend Catherine's aunt commented: "You know, you can put Connie in a qipao...but she still looks American."  Jade says this is because Chinese girls are taught to be more demure - not so open with their smile or gestures or emotions (oops - fail, fail, and fail).  Apparently, in the airlines (only the prettiest and most feminine girls get flight attendant jobs in Asia), they require that you only show the top 8 teeth when you smile. And this is how Jade says she was taught to smile (Jade says when I smile, the entire rack of both teeth come out). Asian girls are taught to smile with no bottom teeth. Try it in the mirror. Only show 8 teeth. It's impossible, you will see.  
  • On that note, they also measure waist sizes for flight attendants. They are supposed to be as wide as a piece of paper.  I'm going to go ahead and say that my large smile already disqualifies me as a flight attendant here.....
  • I have no idea when wearing a business suit made you cool.  You wouldn't believe the range of other options the photo studio had..


  1. heart eyes emoji times a bajillion!!!!
    <3 <3

    1. I should really credit all the photos to you, because without you, none of this would have happened!!! Heart eyes emoji back to you! XO

  2. LOL omg this might be my favorite post of your entire trip. Those photos are AMAZE! I BEGGED my mom to let me get Glamour Shots as a kid and she always refused. pahaha. i feel like there could be a real market for photo shoots like that in the U.S. (business idea?!) Also you both look beautiful! Also also i might need the additional photos sent to me for weekday entertainment. Miss you!! xoxo

    1. Hahaha next time just come to China with me and WE CAN RELIVE YOUR CHILDHOOD DREAM!!!!!

      Or yes, we'll just start our own U.S. version - I'm already dreaming up all the outfit ideas we could provide. Baawwww so many businesses for us to start! Best described over a weekday brunch, like old times!? Miss you!!!