Sunday, December 19, 2004

Shanghai

Wow, who'da thunk writing about 3 weeks in China is as tiring as living 3 weeks in China. Don't worry, we're HALFWAY through!

Shanghai - The largest city in China, Shanghai is even more modern than the capital Beijing. I'd wager that more than half the business done in China is done in or goes through Shanghai. THE major port city on the mainland, China is almost as western as Hong Kong and has almost as many westerners to boot. We stayed at the Ramada Plaza, near downtown and right on the pedestrian mall, Nanjing Road. An excellent location (walking distance to the Bund) and a very nice hotel.

Day 1-
Shanghai Musuem - Every major city has it's major museums, and this is Shanghai's. Another impressive collection, everything from stone age to modern China is well represented here. Especially noteworthy is the collection of china (small c) and pottery, detailed through history showing the progression of the art and science. Pay careful attention as there will be a quiz on Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasty vases at the end of this series.

Jade Buddha Temple - A beautiful buddhist temple built to enshrine a priceless 6-foot buddha carved of solid Jade. No photos allowed. The monks here have a tearoom and will show you the art of preparing tea as well as sample a few varieties. Dad asked to sample the tea said to cure/reverse heart disease - bright red and very bitter. I asked for the tea to cure headaches - pale brown, tastes like wet cork. Mom simply asked for the one that tastes the best - pale green and minty sweet. We bought $5 worth (a lot) of this one.

Day 2-
Longhua Pagoda - We stopped at the (unimpressive) Jesuit Church first, then on to a 1300 year old pagoda in the middle of the city. Strangely, the pagoda is actually outside the walls of the temple, so if you want to see it you don't have to pay. Too fragile to climb, it's still amazing that something this old is still standing. Unless you're really a fan, you probably won't mind missing this.

Yu Yuan Garden - Shanghai's answer to Central Park, if Central Park had a cool dragon-headed wall around it and they charged admission. Yu Yuan was originally a private residence, so I guess technically it's a museum now. In any case, this is a great place to escape the summer heat in the shade of idyllic gardens and ponds. Just outside the walls is a teahouse in the middle of a large pond. Overpriced, but still a nice view from the upper floor and there are often musicians "jamming" in the corner. This is where we discovered Chinese "Flowering Tea" - a bulb the size of a large marble is placed in a clear glass teapot and boiling water is poured over it. Within a minute or so, the bulb opens up to reveal the tea leaves tied in the shape of a flower. The taste of the tea appears to be secondary to the show. This neighborhood is also the pedestrian antiques market, but most of the antiques stores have been converted to stores selling silk jammies, cheap jade, and other crap. This is the best place to buy that Faux-lex watch, if you're so inclined.

Jin Mao Tower - The west side of the Huangpu river is the majority of the city of Shanghai with the old historic districts and the Bund, the riverfront promenade that is completely congested with foot traffic 24/7. The east side of the river is the new financial district with the majority of the skyscrapers including Jin Mao Tower, the largest building in China (aside: If you don't count Taiwan as part of China, which they don't but China does) and presently the 4th largest in the world (aside: If you count the twin towers of the Petronas Towers as one, which I do because it allows me to add this aside). Jin Mao Tower also holds a few other records including the world's tallest hotel and tallest elevators (aside: The cars themselves, not the shaft...hehe, shaft). The ride to the observation desk is an awesome, ear-popping ride and the view from the top is fantastic, if the weather is clear enough to see. I took a few time-lapse shots of the river so you can see that there is non-stop river traffic.

[For convenience, I'm skipping Day 3 here to write about it tomorrow.]

Day 4-
Shanghai Aquarium - A brand, new modern aquarium is in the new financial district. Sea life of all kinds is on display here, but the real treat is the moving-sidewalk ride through the world's longest sub-sea tunnels. It feels like a mile of plexiglass tubing while you look up and around at sharks, rays, and fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors. My favorites are the jellies and the cuttlefish. Unfortunately, with all the glass, photos are beyond my skill.

Oriental Pearl Tower - This is the most recognizable landmark in Shanghai, and I'm sure you see why in the photos. It's got another bitchin observation deck and the haze lifted long enough for me to get a few daytime shots. The Shanghai City Museum is in the basement and details the history of life in Shanghai through most of its interesting past. The museum is FAR too big however, unless you REALLY like pretending it's 1938 and the Japanese are invading.

Back to the airport, this time flying to backpacker's heaven...

[Next: Yangshuo]

7 Comments:

At 2:58 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

Great photos, as usual, but NOTHING looks familiar except the colour of the river and the air. I've been hearing from a colleague (who has an apartment there, and a Chinese wife, and a new son) that Shanghai has changed, but this is ridiculous. What's this 24/7 pedestrians on the Bund business, then? When I was there it was deserted in the evening, and all the lights went out at 8pm. (Of course I was only in Shanghai for one day, and maybe they were having an early-to-bed night or something.)

Also, my hotel was a cockroach-infested falling apart run-down old colonial building, and I didn't have time to see any of the museums or anything famous. I did, however, have time to make a friend. His name was Wang Typhoon and he worked in a washing machine factory. He showed me around a bit and helped me organize train tickets and so on.

I want to go back. It looks like a completely different city these days, and a more interesting one.

 
At 10:54 AM, Blogger Allie#3ga said...

i think i'maneed teeny to come to atlanta and take me on a tour - 'cause even though i've lived here since childhood - i think he could find cool stuff i've been missing out on.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Zelda said...

This is great stuff. I really would love to visit.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger se7en said...

bitchcakes!

wow i am impressed with the terracotta warriors. i didn't realize quite the scope of the restoration project until now, nor have i seen any close ups of the ones on single display like this.

i can only imagine what the 6ft jade buddha looks like, must be awesome! and i am really interested in that Jesuit church, amazing that the chinese gov. has allowed it to stand. i used to live near downtown Antwerp in Belgium right slap next door to a 600 yr old catholic church called St. Josephs that looks a lot like the one in your pic except the stone was grayish in color.

there wasn't a single time i walked pass it that i didn't marvel at the stone working skill involved in building such a great work.

again i say nice pics and great work on the slick as snake snot slide show lol

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger tinyhands said...

Theic- The Bund at night is almost as bright as the day thanks to all the neon. Since I've been thinking about where in China/Japan I want to live when I graduate, Shanghai keeps coming to the top of the China list. Western but eastern, seedy and refined, Shanghai has it all. (Kyoto tops my Japan list, but I'm going to need to see everything from Nagasaki to Sapporo first.)

Allie- I'll meet you at The Cheetah, but at some point we need to make it to the Clermont Lounge.

Zelda- Let's go see Jethro's ancestral home, I'll be tour guide during the day and nanny for the girls at night so you two can go dancing.

Lucky 7- Now I'm jealous. I can trace my coonass ancestry back to Belgium (Flanders, actually) but the trail goes cold after that. I might need to go spend some quality time over there.

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger Zelda said...

Ha! Don't think we wouldn't take you up on that. But I think we should bring another nanny so you could go out dancing too. Then you find nice Vietnamese wife. She cook, she clean, she make nice with you.

Jethro's been there, and it is extremely hot. He went during that one summer of record breaking heat in Houston I think it was like '97 or '98. He said he stepped off the plane in Houston after returning from Vietnam and he shivered.

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger se7en said...

I loved it there,in Antwerp, the people were sooo damn friendly they were totally amazing. Flemish is a pretty cool dialect and it has so many flavors, dutch, french and german mixed in it's confusing to say the least. It also varied a LOT depending on whether you lived in north or south Belgium, which is kind of strange considering it's such a small country. It sounds most like french when spoken though. I lived there for a year.

I will prolly do some posts about my adventures in Northern Europe and England and Scotland and Norway after the New Year.

 

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