Thursday, 25 April 2013

Shanghai March 2013

We arrived early evening at Shanghai airport and after the usual formalities which were efficiently dealt with we made our way to the metro station which provided us with a direct line to East Nanjing Road station not far from our hotel. It was with amazement that I found the road and hotel without one wrong turn, however by now early evening had become late and we were rather tired.
Our hotel The Manhattan Bund Business Hotel has art deco-ish d├ęcor but is not a patch on the Peace Hotel, they are at very different grades. We get to our room in hope of just relaxing but had difficulty with the safe in the room as it was closed and we couldn’t open it, our phone didn’t work and two lights were out. After much too-ing and froing we finally got everything fixed.

Buildings along the Bund

The first full day we started off with the Bund self- guided walking tour which is always very interesting with all the magnificent buildings of the international concessions. They stand out as symbols of the wealth from trade, especially the opium trade during the late 19th century. We had wandered as far as the old British Consulate compound, they certainly did themselves proud. The main building is now used as a financial institution, rather exclusive of course.
We had explored much when a young Chinese couple asked us to take a photo of them together. I obliged with this and then they chatted us up as only the Chinese can do and persuaded us to go with them to some cultural ‘thing’.
‘It’s not far and is not long,’ they said. ‘Blah, blah, blah.’ It is so easy to get caught up in this sort of thing. Any way we duly followed them and we arrived at a small teahouse. At once alarm bells rang in my head as I had read about scams where one is taken to a teahouse and can be left with an exorbitant bill. After much discussion it all seemed above board so we stayed. It all proved very interesting though I had been through a similar tea ceremony before.
We all paid for equal portions of the experience and exchanged the usual email addresses we went our separate ways. We then decided to continue our Bund. Walking tour, so back to where we had met them.
We continued along the Bund and then walked in the opposite direction as we wanted to go to the Yuyuan Garden. We walked in and out of the back streets of the old town and eventually arrived at a garden which was very nice and just before the place where we wished to go. As we were walking around I slipped on a step, no it wasn’t clumsiness but a very slippery surface. No bones broken, but a little shaken we continued on our way. We found the gardens which was a combination of pools and plants as well as old buildings and shops selling Chinese handicrafts. It was all very interesting and being Saturday was very crowded. We went to the Xingtin Teahouse and had some tea and snacks which was delightful.
Xingtin Teahouse
We then strolled back to Nanjing Road, promenaded up then back looking in the various shops. By this time we were getting tired but decided to treat ourselves to a drink at the bar of The Peace Hotel we had some rather overpriced nibbles and enjoyed the art deco surroundings. We then went around the corner to our more humble hotel.
As we sat at breakfast looking out the window we could see this was not going to be a day for a lot of outdoor activity. It was pouring with rain. I thought a trip out to the French Concession might be good. I thought I figured out the correct subway station to go to but nothing gelled. The rain became heavier so I decided on the taxi solution. It’s a good job as we were actually quite a distance from our objective.
The French Concession is an extremely nice area of pedestrian only streets weaving in and out of low rise grey brick buildings with very upmarket shops. Amidst high end consumerism sits the site if the first National Congress of the Communist Party. Since I was here in 2004 they have built a more impressive museum to this event and moved the diorama from the original house to be a centre piece of the museum, with the original house next door.
We then took another taxi to the Shanghai Museum. The museum is very interesting and the galleries include bronze, ceramics, calligraphy and painting. It was good to be able to get an audio guide which gave historical background as well as highlighting pertinent features of some items on display. Of course no museum visit is complete without a visit to their shop which had many items for sale that I could readily have bought, but sanity prevailed as well as the thought of the extra weight of books so I refrained from a buying spree.
By the time we left it was getting late and we hadn’t eaten much so we found a place to eat in a food court and had a large bowl of dumpling and noodle soup.
The following day we took a taxi out to the Jade Buddha Temple which is one of the few active Buddhist temples in Shanghai. It was built in the early 20th century with the centre piece being a 2 metre high white jade Buddha. The seated Buddha is encrusted with gold and jewels and is said to weigh 1000kg. The reclining Buddha also made of white jade is smaller. There is a vegetarian restaurant that sells cheap lunches and there seemed to be just one dish on the menu of which we bought and decided to share.
Reclining Jade Buddha
We needed to get a taxi back to the centre and from there we went down to the bank of the river to see if we could take a short sightseeing cruise downstream. We eventually found the terminal which had certainly changed from when I was there 9 years ago. Many amenities were upgraded for the big international exhibition they had in 2010. We had a pleasant if somewhat cool trip but it was fascinating to see a lot of innovative architecture along the way. That evening which was our last we walked to the building which has hundreds of little
shops selling ‘fake’ merchandise. It was mindboggling. We bought a few things but saw many Westerners with bags and bags of stuff. There happened to be a food court in the complex so as we were tired ate there. Then wandered back to our hotel to pack.


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