Lee & Sachi,
It is great to read about your travels. My wife and I spent the month of July traveling China. We spent three weeks teaching English to Chinese English teachers and one week of just traveling China. Your blog inspired me to create one of my own to document our travels through China.
We spent two weeks teaching in Wenling (5 hours south of Shanghai on the coast) and one week in Linhai. Ingrid and I had an amazing time and met many wonderful people who even invited us into their home for an authentic "home cooked" Chinese dinner. It took us quite a while to get use to the food, especially since we use to be vegetarians (good luck being a vegetarian in China). We also got to experience typhoon Bilis and narrowly missing two other typhoons. When you get to Shanghai I would suggest that you make a special effort to ride the MagLev (super train), which travels at 430 km/hour. I could ramble on for hours about our travels and experiences but I wont because you can read our blog if you are interested or have time to kill. I hope your experiences are as wonderful as ours were in China.
Before China's capital was called Beijing, it was known as Peking... which is where that famous duck comes from. Just like going to New York for infamous thin crust pizza, there are just as many places to get Peking Duck in Beijing. When I was there in March, we went to a restaurant chain called, Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. This place has been in existence since 1864 and since has opened 5 additional restaurants with similar names. Unlike the peking duck you get in the states, the serving and preparation comes from 13th century China, when only the upper classes could afford it.
When they bring the duck out, a carver (wearing a surgeon's mask) rolls out a cart and cuts the duck in front of you. We were told that expert carvers can consistently cut a duck into 120 pieces, with each piece having a section of meat and a section of crispy skin. Amazing. I can barely cut a turkey into 10 pieces without the whole thing falling apart. Throw in those thin pancakes, some scallions and a little hoisin sauce and you're in HEAVEN!!!
If you're in Beijing, don't settle for the inferior ducks.... go to the original. One caveat though.... it is rumored that there are 2 menus. One in Mandarin and one in English. The dishes listed on the English menu may not be as "adventerous" (read: sea cucumbers and pigs feet) and are probably not as cheap. Why do they discriminate and charge non-chinese more for the same dishes??? Because they can. But it's still so cheap (probably $10 per person) that you won't care. Wo Bao La = "i'm full"
Agree with Jordan's comments on crowds. Shrink your personal space and expect nudges and bumps as a matter of course.
I had an interesting experience at the Golden Computer Centre, a massive comglomeration of computer vendors piled in together in a 2 story building. I purchased some software for some silly amount like $4 a piece, and was told to come back to the stall in 20 minutes. When I returned, an old man led me through the back hall, we went out a side door, crossed the street, went up half a block, and then he started to go in a tiny hall with stairs leading up. At that point I halted and started to say enough was enough, but then someone else came down with the stairs and handed over a small paper bag with a couple of warm CDs in it. Hmmm.
Anyway for sights, check out the southern area on South China Sea. Repulse Bay has a nice beach, Stanley Market has brand name soft goods and fine linens for dirt cheap, the waterfront walk at Stanley is very european with cafes and restaurants. There's a water community in Aberdeen. Although much smaller because of government efforts to relocate families to land, when I was there in 2004 there were still six women who had never set foot on land. Ever. Market boats travel within the floating community with produce and goods and sell. You can take a boat tour through the "neighborhood", on the same boats that take you out to the Jumbo floating restaurant.
Climb Taishan mountain in China's Shandong province up about 6,500 steps. Beautiful views and ancient sites...