Shanghai

shanghai days | the old city: fuyou road, yu yuan & xintiandi |

Sunday, May 3:  After leaving the Pudong waterfront, I get on metro for one stop and switch to line 10, where I get off one stop later at Yu Yuan.  I’m heading into the Old City, the traditional urban core of Shanghai, formerly known as the Chinese City. It was based on the original walled city of Shanghai, dating back to the 11th century.  After the Opium War in 1842, foreign concessions (ceded territories within China, governed and occupied by foreign powers) were established to the north of the Old City, which remained under Chinese control.  Only foreigners could settled in the concessions (except for the Chinese who already lived there), while newly arrived Chinese residents lived in packed and squalid conditions in the Old City, which was a kind of ghetto.  Most of the Old City walls were dismantled in 1912 (Wikipedia: Old City of Shanghai and Lonely Planet China).

I have no idea where to go, but I follow the crowds to Fuyou Road, a small street running east-west along the northern edge of Yuyuan, where the Sunday market is in full swing.  A frenetic atmosphere pervades this street as shopkeepers holler for attention and shoppers rifle through goods on tables and racks, leaving chaos in their wake.

Merchants and crowds on Fuyou Road

Merchants and crowds on Fuyou Road

In this little video, you can get a sense for the noise level on a busy Chinese street.

Fuyou Road

Fuyou Road

I poke into a few shops to check out the scarves and textiles of various sorts, but they all look cheaply made, so I continue on.

Fuyou Road

Fuyou Road

Fuyou Road

Fuyou Road

Fuyou Road

Fuyou Road

street food on Fuyou Road

street food on Fuyou Road

little pretties on Fuyou Road

little pretties on Fuyou Road

street vendor on Fuyou Road

street vendor on Fuyou Road

At a big corner on the pedestrian-only street heading toward the Old City, three young people approach me and ask if they can take their picture with me.  We pose together and then I ask them if they’ll take a picture of me with my camera.  Their English is very good and they tell me they’re students.  They ask where I’m going and I tell them I’m looking for Yu Yuan Garden.  They tell me this is Yu Yuan Garden.  I don’t believe them, as this looks nothing like a garden. 🙂  Already I’m suspicious.

Fuyou Road

Fuyou Road

me in the middle of Fuyou Road

me in the middle of Fuyou Road

After conversing for a while in a laid-back way, they tell me they’d like to take me to a tea house they know of.  Aha!  The Shanghai Tea Scam, again!  This is the second time in three days that young people have tried to pull the tea scam on me.  I tell them no thanks and start walking away, and then they get quite aggressive: “Why? Where are you going?  Why won’t you come with us?”  I should have said, “Oh!  The famous tea scam!” Instead, I hightail it into the crowds, where I follow the signs to the Classic Chinese Street.

I figure if this is Yuyuan Garden, it is nothing like any garden I’ve ever seen. I figure an actual “garden” will turn up if I just follow the crowds.

on the way to Yuyuan Garden

on the way to Yuyuan Garden

on the way to Yuyuan Garden

on the way to Yuyuan Garden

The center of the activity in the Old City is an area called Changhaung Miao, where I find, in the midst of a modern touristy bazaar, one of the most crowded tourist sites in the city: Huxin Ting Teahouse.

on the way to Yuyuan Garden

on the way to Yuyuan Garden

Huxin Ting (Heart of Lake Pavilion) is a two-story teahouse sitting on an island at the center of an ornamental pond, reached by a zigzag bridge.   Many famous people have come here for an expensive cup of tea, including the Queen of England and Bill Clinton (Lonely Planet China).

tea house

Huxin Ting Teahouse

A convoluted walkway leads to the tea house and across the pond.  The walkway is packed and policemen are blowing whistles and prodding people along.  The line moves at a snail’s pace with every Chinese person taking pictures along the walkway with the tea house as a backdrop.

the line past the tea house on the way to Yuyuan Garden

the line past Huxin Ting Teahouse on the way to Yuyuan Garden

Traditional Chinese buildings

Traditional Chinese buildings

the pond and tea houses

the pond and tea houses

the pond and tea houses

the pond and tea houses

When I emerge from the walkway on the other side of the pond, I see a line forming at a ticket booth.  I almost walk past but then I ask some foreigners, “What are the tickets for?” They tell me it’s Yu Yuan (Jade Garden).  Ah, finally, the elusive garden. I buy the ticket for 40 yuan (~$6.50).  I find a number of halls that look similar to the one below, but I don’t linger long.

a hall at Yuyuan Garden

a hall at Yuyuan Garden

According to Lonely Planet China, Yu Yuan (Jade Garden) is “a classical Chinese garden featuring ponds, walkways, bridges and rockeries.”

The garden “was finished in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. Yu in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying, and this garden was specially built for Pan’s parents as a place for them to enjoy a tranquil and happy time in their old age,” according to China Travel Guide: Yuyuan Garden.

Due to fluctuating fortunes and historical events, the garden went through numerous changes. During the late Ming Dynasty, it became dilapidated with the decline of Pan’s family. In 1760, some rich merchants bought it and spent more than 20 years reconstructing the buildings. During the Opium War of the 19th century, it was severely damaged. Today’s garden is the result of a five-year restoration project which began in 1956. It was opened to the public in September, 1961 (China Travel Guide: Yuyuan Garden).

keyhole in the wall

keyhole in the wall

flying eaves

flying eaves

Yuyuan Garden

Yuyuan Garden

Stone creature

Stone creature

Chamber of Ten Thousand Flowers

Chamber of Ten Thousand Flowers

Gardens & ponds

Gardens & ponds

The garden is packed with people on this holiday weekend, but I love it anyway because it is so iconically Chinese.

One of my favorite features of the garden is the whitewashed undulating garden wall topped with a dragon made of tiles.

Dragon head on the gate

Dragon head on the gate

After leaving the garden, I head back into the Old City and make my way through the narrow alleys back to Fuyou Road.

Back in the town

Back in the town

pretty cups all in a row

pretty cups all in a row

Back on Fuyou Road, I stop to check out the scarves, where I pick up 3 for 10 yuan ($1.60). When I get back to my hotel later, I find two of them have flaws in them, bright white lines cutting through.  Oh well, even one for $1.61 isn’t bad.

I get back on Line 10 of the metro and go two stops to Xintiandi, which consists of two blocks of renovated shikumen converted to a Western-style open air mall.  Shikumen is a traditional Shanghainese architectural style combining Western and Chinese elements that first appeared in the 1860s.  At the height of their popularity, there were 9000 shikumen-style buildings in Shanghai, comprising 60% of the total housing stock of the city (Wikipedia: Shikumen).

At this place, I almost feel like I’m back in the USA, as this kind of open air mall is so familiar.  Both Chinese and Western people are wandering about at this mall, and I almost feel like I’m home.  At this point, I think that I could almost live in Shanghai.  Of course, that would be disregarding the numbers of people in the city.  However, this small area is not as crowded as the Bund or Yu Yuan, as this is not such a tourist spot.

I stop for a lunch at a “healthy spot” called Sproutworks, where I order two sides: orzo and cauliflower (soaked in oil) for 25 yuan (~$4).

Two sides: orzo & cauliflower

Two sides: orzo & cauliflower

Xintiandi

Xintiandi

Xintiandi

Xintiandi

Xintiandi

Xintiandi

Xintiandi

Xintiandi

After walking through Xintiandi, I feel tired and want to return to my hotel.  I don’t feel like tackling the metro again, so I take a taxi for 25 yuan (~$4).  At this point I still have 51 yuan on my metro card which I will never be able to use.

Back in my neighborhood, I walk down the street and buy a peach yogurt drink and head to a massage place where I pay 119 yuan (~$19) for an hour-long aromatic foot massage.  It feels great and makes me feel really sleepy.

Massage place

Massage place

I stop at a discount shoe store but I don’t find anything of interest.  My silver sandals are really worn out and my tennis shoes are still wet from yesterday, so I was hoping to find a cheap alternative.

Back at the room, I relax until 5:00, at which time I go down to the hotel bar for a glass of wine.  Tonight is salsa night at the hotel, so I enjoy watching the Chinese folks doing salsa on the dance floor.

Chinese folks doing salsa

Chinese folks doing salsa

Dancing up a storm

Dancing up a storm

I had seen some dumpling places on the street, so I go outside in search of dinner.  I always love dumplings in China, so when I find a spot, I go inside.  However, the only menu is on the wall in Chinese, which makes it impossible to translate with my WayGo app.  I can’t even figure out how we’re supposed to order.  As I’m totally ignored, I decide to try another place.

Dumpling shop

Dumpling shop

dumplings in bamboo stacks

dumplings in bamboo stacks

Finally, I find a place where I can sit down and read the menu with my WayGo app, and I order Chinese cabbage pork dumplings (6) and shrimp and greens pouches (6), all for 25 yuan.  I mix some minced garlic and red-hot oil with the soy sauce and dip the dumplings into the sauce.  They are delicious!  I’m hooked now on Shanghai dumplings. 🙂

Chinese cabbage pork dumplings & Shrimp & greens pouches

Chinese cabbage pork dumplings & Shrimp & greens pouches

Back at the hotel, the salsa night is in full swing and I don’t really feel like hanging out in the crowded bar.  I’m more of a quiet-bar-kinda-girl.  I return to my hotel where I take a long hot bath and relax and read for the night.  I have a super early flight back to Nanning tomorrow from Hongqiao Airport, which is luckily closer to my hotel than Pudong International Airport, from where I arrived on Thursday night.

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Categories: Asia, China, Fuyou Road, Huxin Ting Teahouse, Old City, Shanghai, Sunday market, Travel, Xintiandi, Yuyuan Garden | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

a stroll along the pudong shore for a cloudy-day view of the bund

Sunday, May 3:  Last night, I accidentally set the alarm for 6:30 p.m., so this morning I slept a little later than I intended to. 🙂 I make some coffee in my room, catch up on Instagram and then soak in a long steamy bath.  I go out without having breakfast in the hotel, and that seems to work to alleviate some of the stomach troubles I’ve been plagued with all weekend.

I get on metro at 9 a.m. and go straight to the Lujiazui stop in Pudong.  I head directly to Riverside Avenue, bypassing the long queues waiting to go to the top of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.  I have no interest in standing in those queues as it’s a dark and cloudy morning and the view from the top wouldn’t be anything special.

Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong

Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong

Pudong

Pudong

Modern architecture in Pudong

Modern architecture in Pudong

Traffic circle in Pudong

Traffic circle in Pudong

downtown Pudong

downtown Pudong

To be honest, the view from the riverside isn’t great either.  When I was at the Bund on Friday, I was frustrated that the sun was to the west, foiling my attempts to get decent pictures of the old colonial buildings lining the Huangpu River. Thus I determined that this morning I would head directly to Pudong, so when I looked across the river to the west, the sun would be behind me.  However, it’s so cloudy and grey, that the views are not good.  No matter.  They do give you an idea of how different the west side of the river is from the east.  The Bund is old, classic and a little stodgy, while Pudong is glittering, colorful and modern.  I find it fascinating that the two sides of the river are so different.

The Bund from Pudong

The Bund from Pudong

Of course, since I’m on the Pudong side, I have to take some pictures of the modern side too, especially the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai International Convention Center.

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai International Convention Center

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai International Convention Center

The word ‘bund’ derives from an Anglo-Indian word for an embankment along a muddy waterfront.  That was what the Bund was originally (China Highlights: The Bund of Shanghai).

According to Wikipedia, the Shanghai Bund boasts dozens of historical buildings along the Huangpu River that once housed numerous banks and trading houses from the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Italy, Germany, Russia, Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the Russian and British consulates, a newspaper, the Shanghai Club and the Masonic Club. The Bund lies north of the old, walled city of Shanghai. It was initially a British settlement; later the British and American settlements were combined in the International Settlement. Magnificent commercial buildings in the Beaux Arts style sprung up in the years around the turn of the 20th century as the Bund developed into a major financial center of East Asia. (Wikipedia: The Bund)

The Bund

The Bund

The Bund across the Huangpu River

The Bund across the Huangpu River

As I walk along the Pudong waterfront, a small flotilla of official-looking boats comes down the river blaring trumpets and other loud instruments, much like a marching band in a parade.  I guess they’re celebrating International Workers’ Day, which was Friday.  This is, after all, the holiday weekend.

The Bund as seen from Pudong

The Bund as seen from Pudong

a musical flotilla

a musical flotilla

a celebratory parade of boats

a celebratory parade of boats

a musical celebration of the Labour Day holiday

a musical celebration of the Labour Day holiday

The Bund from Pudong

The Bund from Pudong

A cloudy day on the Bund

A cloudy day on the Bund

I guess I’m just not meant to get any great pictures of the Bund this weekend. 😦

The Bund

The Bund

Pudong and the Shangri-La

Pudong and the Shangri-La

Flags at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Flags at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower

looking up in Pudong

looking up in Pudong

After my riverside walk, I make my way to the metro.  My next destination is Yuyuan Garden.

Categories: Asia, China, Holidays, Huangpu River, International Workers' Day, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Pudong, Shanghai, Shanghai International Convention Center, The Bund | Tags: , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

rainy day in shanghai: yufo si, renmin square & a chinese massage

Saturday, May 2:  This morning, I eat the buffet breakfast in the hotel and thus get a later start than I planned, leaving around 9:30. I take line 2 of the metro to Jing’an Temple Station then switch to line 7, where I go 2 stops to Changshou Road Station.  It has been forecast to rain all day today, and as I walk the 10 minute walk to Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple, the skies are getting heavier and more foreboding.  By the time I reach the temple, it’s looking like the skies will open up any minute.

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

The temple was originally built in 1882 to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen. The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty, but the statues were saved and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928. It was named Yufo Si, or the Jade Buddha Temple (Travel China Guide: Jade Buddha Temple).

The temple is a lively place of worship, with believers kowtowing before past and future Buddhas, and incense wafting from large incense burners in the courtyard.

As I enter the courtyard, it starts to sprinkle, so I head indoors to the central Great Treasure Hall, which holds three huge figures of the past, present and future Buddhas.

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

The gods of the twenty heavens, decorated with gold leaf, line the Great Treasure Hall, like stern headmasters welcoming new students to a prestigious school.

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Monks and worshippers are actively praying and making offerings in the Great Treasure Hall.

Devotees at Yufo Si

Devotees at Yufo Si

Yufo Si

Yufo Si

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

At the back of the Great Treasure Hall, I see a monk and I motion with my camera to ask if it’s okay to take his picture.  He doesn’t say no, but as I put my camera up to take the picture he opens his umbrella to block himself from my photo.  An Italian woman who is nearby scolds me: “No!  You can’t take a picture, not of him!”  I said, “Oh, no one told me.”  Obviously her tour group leader must have told her that.  I’ve taken pictures of monks all over China and Myanmar and have never had a problem.  She scolds me again, “No! Not him!”  I feel like saying but I don’t: “Who appointed you the photo police?”  I wish now I had said it!  I really hate it when bossy and nosy tourists try to tell me what I can and cannot do.

According to China Travel Guide, “the two precious jade Buddhist statues are not only rare cultural relics but also porcelain artworks. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved with whole white jade. The sparkling and crystal-clear white jade gives the Buddhas the beauty of sanctity and make them more vivid.”

I have to pay an extra 10 yuan to see the the Sitting Buddha, housed in the Jade Buddha Tower.  It is 190 centimeters high and encrusted by agate and emerald, portraying the Buddha at the moment of his meditation and enlightenment. Sadly, no photographs are allowed.  Again, these no-photo rules annoy me because I honestly don’t see any reason for them.  If they want to keep their temple for worshippers only, then they should do so, and they shouldn’t open it up to tourists. If they open the temple to tourists, they should allow photos.

Below is the courtyard of the Jade Buddha Tower.

courtyard at Yufo Si

courtyard at Yufo Si

Courtyard at Yufo Si

Courtyard at Yufo Si

After leaving the Jade Buddha Tower, I walk down a corridor under red lanterns toward the Recumbent Buddha Hall.

Lanterns at Yufo Si

Lanterns at Yufo Si

red lanterns

red lanterns

The Recumbent Buddha is 96 centimeters long, lying on the right side with the right hand supporting the head and the left hand placed on the left leg; this shape is called the ‘lucky repose’. The sedate face shows the peaceful mood of Sakyamuni when he left this world. In the temple there is also another Recumbent Buddha which is four meters long and was brought from Singapore by the tenth abbot of the temple in 1989 (Travel China Guide: Jade Buddha Temple).

Below is the Recumbent Buddha brought from Singapore.  Again, no photos are allowed of the smaller and more famous recumbent Buddha from Burma.

a reclining Buddha

a reclining Buddha

In front of the small recumbent Buddha (which of course is not pictured), a group of older Chinese ladies are chanting with their hands over their heads in prayer stance.

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

guardians at Yufo Si

guardians at Yufo Si

guardians at Yufo Si

guardians at Yufo Si

When I return to the courtyard, the rain is coming down in a steady drizzle and I’m hoping as I prepare to leave that I can simply take a taxi to Renmin Park.

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple

Outside Yufo Si, there are no taxis in sight.  I walk down the street to a more heavily traveled road, but the taxis that whiz past are all occupied.  I accidentally step in a puddle and one foot is then soaked.  I stand for quite a while in the pouring rain hoping for a taxi, but I finally have to give up and walk the 10 minutes back to the metro.  By the time I arrive at the Changshou Station, the bottoms of my pants and my feet are soaked through.

I take the #7 line back to Jing’an Temple station, and then switch to the #2 to People’s Park, also called Renmin Square.  As I walk toward the square, I pass by the Shanghai Grand Theatre, with its convex roof and its transparent walls and pillars.

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Renmin Square, or People’s Square, is the modern heart of Shanghai.  The area was originally the site of the Shanghai racecourse, built by the British in 1862.  In 1941, Chiang Kaishek converted it to a sports area, as he thought gambling immoral.  During WWII, the stadium served as a holding camp for prisoners and a temporary mortuary (Lonely Planet China).

I am in search of museums today since it is raining and forecast to rain all day, but when I get to the pot-shaped Shanghai Museum, I see there is a long line of people huddled under umbrellas waiting to get in.  I guess everyone has the same idea.  I decide not to bother.

The Shanghai Museum

The Shanghai Museum

the umbrella brigade

the umbrella brigade

rainy day at the museum

rainy day at the museum

Shanghai Museum

Shanghai Museum

I decide to go in search of the Shanghai Art Museum.  The park is huge and I see some signs for the museum, but whenever I follow them, they don’t seem to lead anywhere.  Some girls stop me and ask if they can take a picture with me.  I let them and then ask about the museum.  They tell me it is no longer here in Renmin Park but has been moved across the river to Pudong and is now called the China Art Museum, moved in 2012 to the former China Pavilion of Expo 2010.  That’s what I get for depending on my 2010 edition of Lonely Planet China.

Both of the girls who have stopped me are very fluent in English and are asking me all kinds of questions about where I’m from and what I’m doing in China.  The next thing I know, they’re asking me to accompany them to a tea house ceremony.  Alas, this is my first encounter with the famous Shanghai Tea House Ceremony Scam, a common scam pulled on Westerners in Shanghai and Beijing.  The scam involves a small group of friendly Chinese students (usually 3-4) who approach Westerners, talk to them in a friendly manner, and invite them to a tea ceremony which can end up costing 650 – 2000 RMB.

Luckily I recognize the scam for what it is, and I suddenly tell the girls I have to leave.  They protest too loudly, but I continue to walk away.

Next, I go in search of the Museum of Contemporary Art in the midst of the groves and ponds of Renmin Park.  Here, I find an exhibit called “Echos” by Oliviero Rainaldi, an exhibit of human forms in utmost simplicity.  You can read about the exhibition here: ARTLINKART: ECHOS – SCULPTURES BY OLIVIERO RAINALDI.

Walking upstairs at the museum, I find a kind of children’s area, where children can make art.

in the children's area of the Museum of Contemporary Art

in the children’s area of the Museum of Contemporary Art

world map

world map

I also find an inviting cafe where I decide I will eat, mainly because I need a place to sit down and rest out of the rain. I order a set lunch with an appetizer of mousse with crabmeat and grapefruit and a glass of white wine, followed by a main course of shrimp, asparagus and mushroom pasta.  I figure I can’t go wrong with Western food in such a nice restaurant.  The meal is quite expensive too, at 238 RMB (~$38), the most I’ve spent in any restaurant during my entire year in China.  I realize I’m spending all this money just because I’m tired and want a place to sit out of the rain.

mousse with crabmeat and grapefruit

mousse with crabmeat and grapefruit

A group of well-heeled Chinese women of a certain age, maybe in their 40s and very stylish, are enjoying lunch at the next table.  I feel generally miserable and frumpy, as my hair is a mess and my clothes are wet. Though I have a nice view of a lotus pond out the window, I still don’t enjoy the lunch mainly because I feel so grubby and unkempt.

Restaurant at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Restaurant at the Museum of Contemporary Art

I soon find that I’m wrong about not going wrong with Western food.  As I’m eating the meal, I feel progressively sicker and sicker.  What is wrong?? I’m so baffled by all my stomach problems in China.  No matter what I eat, almost everything makes me sick.  This is from someone who, during three weeks in India, where EVERYONE gets sick, NEVER got sick.  I’ve been a whole year in China and have been sick almost constantly.  The meal looks perfectly harmless, doesn’t it?

shrimp, asparagus and mushroom pasta

shrimp, asparagus and mushroom pasta

I also eat some waffles with berries and ice cream, hoping the waffles will settle my stomach.  They don’t.

I visit the bathroom, where I find some very unusual wallpaper. Don’t be shocked by what you read between the petals.

the bathroom wallpaper

the bathroom wallpaper

After I leave the museum, I walk through Renmin Park.  Finally, it has stopped raining, but now I’m no longer in any mood to explore as my stomach is cramping and I’m exhausted.

Renmin Park

Renmin Park

Clocktower seen from Renmin Park

Clocktower seen from Renmin Park

Renmin Park

Renmin Park

I decide I don’t feel like doing any more sightseeing today.  I’ve been defeated by the weather.  I go in search of the metro, which takes a long time to find, and take it back to Zhongshan Road.  I bypass the hotel and go straight to a massage place, where I have a great Chinese massage for an hour, for 168 yuan (~$27).  It feels great and is something I really need.  I feel pampered and refreshed after.

I stop at the Family Mart near the hotel and buy an orange juice, a grapefruit juice, a banana and a Snickers bar.  I eat and drink all this for my dinner and then take a long hot bath in my nice hotel.

I feel a lot better after all that, so I decide I should take advantage of the nice bar in the hotel, so I go downstairs, sit at the bar and order a glass of red wine, just before the 8:00 happy hour deadline.  A young man next to me asks where I’m from and I tell him I’m American. He mentions that he just met an American girl today who works in Shanghai and told him where he could buy some curtains. He says he’s a pilot with Lufthansa. I say, isn’t that the airline where the pilot committed suicide and brought down the whole jet, taking all those innocent people with him?  He says that was Germanwings, owned by Lufthansa.  I say, it must be a hard job, sitting in that cockpit for hours on end.  He says he loves it because it’s what he’s always wanted to do.  I say, you seem so young to be a pilot and he responds that he’s 36.  I say, from where I sit, I think everyone seems to be in their 20s.

What a ridiculous conversation it is, with me saying so many foolish things!  Anyway, I head up to my room after that one drink, ready to get a good night’s rest so I can tackle Shanghai for one more day!

Categories: Asia, China, Jade Buddha Temple, Museum of Contemporary Art, Renmin Park, Shanghai, Shanghai Grand Theatre, Shanghai Museum, Travel, Yufo Si | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

riding the human tide along the bund to cloud 9 & pudong

Friday, May 1: After disembarking from the Huangpu River tour, I am now in search of food and rest before I fight the crowds back to the metro.  It’s now about 3:00, and as I walk the long trek back to Nanjing Dong Lu, I see that Pudong is now glowing in the afternoon sunlight. The sky is blue and clear and the buildings are stunning against that blue backdrop.

More views of Pudong as I walk back up the Bund

More views of Pudong as I walk back up the Bund

Funky boat

Funky boat

Since I entered the waiting area for the boat launch slightly after 1:00, the crowds on the Bund have swelled.  I thought it was packed before, but that was nothing compared to what it is now.

Pudong and boats

Pudong and boats

the busy Huangpu River

the busy Huangpu River

looking north down the Huangpu River

looking north down the Huangpu River

I have quite a long walk back, so I make a number of stops along the way to capture the skyline in the waning light.  I haven’t eaten all day, since the breakfast buffet at the hotel, and my plan is to take the metro to Pudong to go to Cloud 9, a bar on the 87th floor of Jinmao Tower.  However, I realize that will take a long time and I don’t know if I can wait that long to rest and eat.  Besides I want to be there at sunset, and that’s still quite a long time from now.

I haven’t been able to take many pictures of the actual Bund, as the sun is to the west and the photos are not good in that direction.  I determine that I will need to come back one of the next two mornings at an earlier hour so I can catch the Bund from the Pudong side with the sun in the east.

Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Oriental Pearl TV Tower

I come across a bride and groom posing for wedding photos.  Every time I’m about to capture the bride and groom alone, someone else from the wedding party walks across my photo!  I kind of like these non-staged photos.

Bride & groom photo session in progress

Bride & groom photo session in progress

Bride, groom and groomsman

Bride, groom and groomsman

I sure wish I were cruising down the river on a sailboat.  I’ve always been a water person, and I especially love being on a sailboat, despite the fact that I know nothing about how to actually sail.  I’d need a good captain aboard.

sailboat heaven

sailboat heaven

sailing away

sailing away

IMG_5948

Another boat plies the river

I finally decide to turn inland from the Bund back to Nanjing Dong Lu. However, there are policemen, and possibly the National Guard, in force, trying hard to contain the crowds.  They are doing their best to keep people going in one direction on one side of the walkways, and those going in the other direction on the other side.  The police are redirecting those of us coming off of the Bund further south and aren’t allowing us onto Nanjing Dong Lu because there are so many people.  Most of the crowds seem to be going toward the Bund.  Those of coming from the Bund have to walk down a street south of that busy street.  I need to make my way back to Nanjing Dong Lu in order to catch the metro.

When I finally get to Nanjing Dong Lu, I see a two-story high Starbucks and decide I’ll stop there to sit for a while to have a drink. I stand in a long line and order a Chicken Caesar Wrap and a berry yogurt drink and take a seat on the second floor overlooking Nanjing Dong Lu.  Looking down on the street, I see the police force or National Guard (I’m not sure of their official capacity), standing at intervals along the sidewalks, making sure that people stay out of the street.  They’re facing the crowds and looking very stoic and official.  Chinese people are taking pictures of the guards like crazy, but I don’t dare, in case, as a foreigner, I might get my camera confiscated.  I don’t know if that would happen, but I would imagine I’m not supposed to take pictures of official-looking places or people.

Busy Nanjing Dong Lu

Busy Nanjing Dong Lu

I can’t help but be a little mesmerized by the tall video screen on the high-end shopping mall across the street, with its models sashaying rhythmically down a runway.

Nanjing Dong Lu and fashionistas

Nanjing Dong Lu and fashionistas

After I finish eating and drinking, I look for a restroom in Starbucks, and I’m surprised to find they don’t have one!  I’ve never encountered a Starbucks without a bathroom before.  They direct me across the street to a shopping mall.  The mall is quite extravagant.

shopping mall on Nanjing Dong Lu

shopping mall on Nanjing Dong Lu

Finally, I make my way down the street to the metro.  However, as I get closer, the crowds are so thick we can’t even move.  The guards are making sure people stay on the sidewalk and we are packed in tightly, unable to move at all.  I start to feel very claustrophobic and I think, oh my gosh, these are the conditions that can result in stampedes.  As I go into the metro, it’s even worse, as people are packed in and surrounded by walls and gates and there really is nowhere to go.  All we need is a loud noise and there could be mass panic.  During this time, I feel horribly trapped myself and cannot wait to be released from this crowd.

(I find out from my colleagues after I return home from Shanghai that there was a “Bund Stampede on New Year’s Eve which left 36 people dead and 49 others injured,” according to China.org.cn: Shanghai’s cancellations of events raise controversy.  Thank goodness I didn’t know about this when I was stuck in these crowds; if so, I would have been in more of a panic than I already was).

packing into the metro

packing into the metro

Finally, we make it through the gates and I get on the metro to go one stop across the river to the Lujiazui stop in Pudong.  The metro is packed as well, but at least the crowds are limited in each metro car.  Finally, I am released into the sunshine in Pudong.  Before me I can see Jinmao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center soaring above me.

on the Pudong side of the Huangpu River

on the Pudong side of the Huangpu River

looking up in Pudong

looking up in Pudong

up, up and away

up, up and away at Jinmao Tower

Lonely Planet China advises that people should enter through the front door in the east to get to the Hyatt hotel lobby on the 54th floor.  I find there that no drinks are served, and I want a glass of wine for my viewing pleasure.  I head up another set of elevators to the hotel bar, Cloud 9, on the 87th floor.

Entering Jinmao Tower to head to the Hyatt's 54th floor

Entering Jinmao Tower to head to the Hyatt’s 54th floor

Jinmao Tower

Jinmao Tower

To get into Cloud 9, I have to pay 100 yuan (about $16), which gives me the pleasure of sitting in the bar with one glass of wine. Sadly, all the window seats are taken, so I’m on a platform overlooking those lucky people with window seats.

Cloud 9 on the 87th floor of Jinmao Tower

Cloud 9 on the 87th floor of Jinmao Tower

I order an appetizer of vegetable fried spring rolls with sweet sauce for 69 yuan ($11) and I try to enjoy my views from afar.  It’s pretty hazy now as the sun sets, so my views are a little disappointing.

hazy views from Cloud 9

hazy views from Cloud 9

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower from Cloud 9

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower from Cloud 9

view of Pudong, the Huangpu River and the Bund from Cloud 9

view of Pudong, the Huangpu River and the Bund from Cloud 9

Cloud 9 views

Cloud 9 views

I leave and pass through another bar that’s pretty deserted on the same floor as Cloud 9.

Another bar at the Hyatt

Another bar at the Hyatt

Heineken

Heineken

Then I head back down to the 54th floor to check out the free views from the Hyatt lobby.

Views of Pudong from the 54th floor

Views of Pudong from the 54th floor

the 54th floor lobby of the Hyatt

the 54th floor lobby of the Hyatt

Finally, I’m back on the streets of Pudong and, though I’d like to walk around a while, I’m too exhausted and my stomach is still cramped, as it has been all day.  I do get a few night shots on my way to the metro.

at ground level in Pudong

at ground level in Pudong

Night time in Pudong

Night time in Pudong

Oriental Pearl TV Tower at night

Oriental Pearl TV Tower at night

Oriental Pearl TV Tower at night

Oriental Pearl TV Tower at night

Oriental Pearl TV Tower at night

Oriental Pearl TV Tower at night

Oriental Pearl TV Tower at night

Oriental Pearl TV Tower at night

Walking back to the Lujiiazui metro station

Walking back to the Lujiiazui metro station

last views of Pudong at night

last views of Pudong at night

the colorful Oriental Pearl TV Tower

the colorful Oriental Pearl TV Tower

I finally get on metro and take the #2 line all the way back to Zhongshan Park.  Outside the station, I walk up and down the street near my hotel trying to find a market that sells bottled drinks; I find a Family Mart tucked into a little alley and buy some orange juice and water.

Finally, I collapse in my hotel room after a very long day!  I’ve seen the forecast for tomorrow is rain all day, so at least I feel good that I saw most of the views I wanted to see today.

Categories: Asia, China, Cloud 9, Huangpu River, Hyatt, Jinmao Tower, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Pudong, Shanghai, Shanghai World Financial Center, The Bund, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 25 Comments

shanghai days: the huangpu river tour

Friday, May 1:  After a long walk along the Bund, I find the ticket office for the Huangpu River tour and buy the ticket (120 yuan for a 50-minute ride).  It’s a long walk, and a little confusing, from the ticket office to building #481, the boarding gate for the tour, but I finally find it.  Since I just missed the 1:00 boat, I have quite a long wait until the next boat leaves at 2:00, but I’m happy to rest my aching feet for a while.  I made the mistake of wearing sandals that I usually think are comfortable, but not for the amount of walking I’m doing today.   Finally we board the boat and push off into the Huangpu River.

Huangpu River Boat

Huangpu River Boat

We see a lot of interesting seafaring vessels both at the dock and in the river.

Another strangely shaped boat

Another strangely shaped boat

The sky is clearing up and we have great views of the Pudong skyscrapers, most notably the spiraling Shanghai World Financial Center.

Pudong as seen from the Huangpu River

Pudong as seen from the Huangpu River

And then there are the bookends of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center in Pudong.

the new Pudong

the new Pudong

It’s always interesting me that on boat rides such as these, the Western tourists climb immediately to the top outdoor deck and stand at the railings for the views, while most of the Chinese people sit at the big banquet tables below deck, where they pull out snacks and drinks.  For them, it’s all about food and socializing.

Meanwhile, on the top deck, I’m surrounded by tourists from all over the world. There are only a few Chinese on the upper deck, including a Chinese couple and their son, who I later come to know as Hubert, a very outgoing and talkative 12-year-old Chinese boy who speaks impeccable English.  He pushes his way to the railing between me and a couple from Atlanta, and he talks away about the heights of all the famous skyscrapers and the length of the Huangpu River compared to the Mississippi River, and all other kinds of factual knowledge that I’m not prone to store in my head.  He’s a non-stop talker, and it’s obvious the Atlanta couple is quite annoyed by him, but I’m impressed not only by his English-speaking ability but also by his confidence, spunk and all the knowledge in that 12-year-old head of his.

Pudong as a backdrop for boat traffic

Pudong as a backdrop for boat traffic

We have some amazing views along the river, and luckily the haze in the sky has dissipated on this lovely afternoon.

Oriental Pearl TV Tower and  the Pudong skyline

Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Pudong skyline

I also have a chat with a French woman who’s on a whirlwind tour of Beijing, Guilin, Shanghai and Hong Kong.  It’s a beautiful day with a cool breeze and I enjoy commiserating with her and other travelers along the way.

Pudong skyline with Jinmao Tower

Pudong skyline with the Shanghai World Financial Center

tall towers

tall towers

Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong

Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong

Oriental Pearl

Oriental Pearl

Pudong from the river

Pudong from the river

Pudong from the river

Pudong from the river

Shanghai International Convention Center

Shanghai International Convention Center

Facing the river near the Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the white wing-shaped Shanghai International Convention Center.

Shanghai International Convention Center & Oriental Pearl Tower

Shanghai International Convention Center & Oriental Pearl Tower

Oriental Pearl Tower & Shanghai International Convention Center

Oriental Pearl Tower & Shanghai International Convention Center

Oriental Pearl Tower & Shanghai International Convention Center

Oriental Pearl Tower & Shanghai International Convention Center

We go a little further northeast along the river and then turn around and head back.  Sadly, the sun is still not at the best angle to see the Bund clearly.

skyscrapers in Pudong

skyscrapers in Pudong

along the Huangpu River

along the Huangpu River

Looking northeast along the Huangpu River

Looking northeast along the Huangpu River

the western shore

the western shore

buildings along the western shore of the river

buildings along the western shore of the river

buildings along the west shore

buildings along the west shore

Hubert sticks by my side for the whole trip, talking away the entire time.  He asks me for my phone number and adds me on WeChat.  I fear his mother is going to ask me to tutor him online, but luckily she never does.  However, his father does take a photo of the two of us together.

Hubert and me

Hubert and me

more tall buildings

more tall buildings

Suzhou Creek

Suzhou Creek

The Bund

The Bund

The Bund & the Shanghai Customs House

The Bund & the Shanghai Customs House

Colonial buildings along the Bund

Colonial buildings along the Bund

The Bund

The Bund

colorful boat

colorful boat

Coming in to the dock

Coming in to the dock

a roundish boat

a roundish boat

fancy structure

fancy structure near the boat jetty

River boat

River boat

After the boat ride, I walk back along the Bund, where I slowly, and with some trepidation, make my way back to the metro.

Categories: Asia, Bank of China, China, Huangpu River, Huangpu River Tour, Jinmao Tower, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Pudong, Shanghai, Shanghai International Convention Center, The Bund, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

shanghai days: the peace hotel & the bund

Friday, May 1:  After leaving Jing’an Temple, I catch the number 2 metro line to the East Nanjing stop; it  empties out onto Nanjing Dong Lu, possibly the busiest street in all of Shanghai.  I walk with hordes of people down the street toward the Bund.  There are so many people, that the crowds can’t even fit on the sidewalks and are spilling over into the road, making it difficult for cars or buses to get through.

This is China on a typical national holiday.  I know that Shanghai, China’s most populous city of over 24 million people, is normally crowded, but add the holiday, and it’s insane.

This street seems to be one of China’s swankiest, as it is lined with high-end shops showing huge videos of models sashaying down runways, as well as with shops such as Old Navy, Forever 21 and Starbucks.  I love fashion, but not the high-end stuff.  However, I do find the vibe on this street fascinating.

One thing I’ve learned is that Chinese young women are quite fashion-conscious and they love to shop.  One of my students recently told me that she’s placed herself on a very tight budget with her monthly allowance from her parents; she tries to spend very little on food and entertainment so she can “buy many beautiful clothes.”  I’ve discovered that many of the clothes I buy myself at my favorite but overpriced store in the States, Anthropologie, are actually made in China.  I see many of the girls at the university wearing the same style of clothes sold in Anthropologie in America.  I have always been excited by the prospect of buying those clothes here at much reduced prices, but sadly, clothes here are only made in Chinese sizes, much too small for me!

Everyone on the street is heading like a tsunami toward the Huangpu River, and as there is a large construction project blocking the sidewalk on one side, I follow the crowds into the road.  Suddenly, I look up and see, quite to my surprise, the famous Peace Hotel.  I decide to step inside for a look.

The Peace Hotel

The Peace Hotel

The Peace Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in China. The hotel today operates as two separate businesses. The north building, a relic from the opium trading days once known as Sassoon House, originally housed the Cathay Hotel, built in 1929. Today it’s the Fairmont Peace Hotel.  The opium trade gave way in the early years of the 20th century to investments in Shanghai real estate, including the Cathay.

The south building was built in 1908 as the Palace Hotel and is today the Swatch Art Peace Hotel.  In 1911, after the success of the Xinhai Revolution, Sun Yat-sen stayed at the hotel and advocated commitment to the revolutionary cause. During World War II, the building was occupied by the Japanese army (Wikipedia: Peace Hotel).

The two buildings both face the Bund, but are divided by Nanjing Road.  Noel Coward supposedly stayed here while writing Private Lives.

Inside, I enjoy the hotel’s faded Art Deco elegance.

Inside the Peace Hotel

Inside the Peace Hotel

Ceiling in the lobby of the Peace Hotel

Ceiling in the lobby of the Peace Hotel

Lobby of the Peace Hotel

Lobby of the Peace Hotel

Lobby of the Peace Hotel

Lobby of the Peace Hotel

Dining room at the Peace Hotel

Dining room at the Peace Hotel

Art Deco glass ceilings

Art Deco glass ceilings

As I stand just inside the doorway of the Peace Hotel, I brace myself to step out and get swept along by the crowds on Nanjing Dong Lu.

Crowds outside the Peace Hotel on Nanjing Lu on the Labour Day holiday

Crowds outside the Peace Hotel on Nanjing Lu on the Labour Day holiday

I can see the Oriental Pearl TV Tower ahead, across the Huangpu River in Pudong.

First view of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong from Nanjing Lu

First view of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong from Nanjing Lu

As I am carried along with the crowds, I have a fabulous view across the river to Pudong, known prior to 1949 as the “wrong side of the Huangpu” because of its seedy side; it was once an area occupied by unemployed migrants, prostitutes, murderers and bankrupt gamblers who drowned themselves in the river.  In 1990, Pudong became a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in China, and its agricultural tracts have been transformed into an army of skyscrapers (Lonely Planet China).

Looking across the walkway along the Huangpu River to flashy Pudong

Looking across the walkway along the Huangpu River to flashy Pudong

Though I’m on the Bund side of the river, the views of Pudong are fantastic at this time of day.  I can see the 457-meter-high Oriental Pearl TV Tower, a recognizable feature of Shanghai’s iconic skyline, and the elegant Shanghai World Financial Center.

skyscrapers in Pudong, including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the elegant Jinmao Tower

skyscrapers in Pudong, including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the elegant Shanghai World Financial Center

The light isn’t great looking to the west, but I capture a few decent shots of the Bund’s grand colonial facades.  The Bund was old Shanghai’s commercial heart, with its leading banks and trading houses and its busy port, which hosted a bustling trade in everything ranging from silk and tea to heavy industrial equipment.  Today it’s the most exclusive piece of real estate in China.  Below are the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, the Peace Hotel and the Bank of China, from left to right.

The Bank of China was designed in the 1920s by Shanghai architectural firm Palmer & Turner, who were directed to make the building “more Chinese.”  They did so by placing a Chinese roof on the Art Deco edifice (Lonely Planet China).

Bank of China on the Bund

Bank of China on the Bund

Walking along the promenade along the river, I can watch the container ships and commercial vessels plying the waters of the Huangpu River.

Ship traffic on the Huangpu River

Ship traffic on the Huangpu River

Flashy Pudong

Flashy Pudong

It’s very crowded on the walkway, as can be seen below.  People of every nationality are playing tourist today on the Bund, from the Chinese to the French to Americans to Brits to Indians.  Shanghai is only city on mainland China, this city with its cosmopolitan flavor, where I’ve actually felt somewhat at home.

Crowds on the Bund's promenade

Crowds on the Bund’s promenade

a ferry zips past Pudong

a ferry zips past Pudong

Looking south down the Huangpu River

Looking south down the Huangpu River

Looking northeast down the Huangpu River

Looking northeast down the Huangpu River

Ship traffic on the Huangpu River

Ship traffic on the Huangpu River

In another shot of the Bund, below, is the Industrial & Commerce Bank of China (ICBC) and the Agricultural Bank of China.

Colonial buildings on the Bund

Colonial buildings on the Bund

Pudong and a Pacific Rim ship

a Pacific Basin container ship on the Huangpu River in front of Pudong

As I walk along the promenade, a Chinese girl asks if she can take a picture with me.  I tell her yes, if she’ll take one of me with my camera.  I ask her how to get to the Huangpu River tour boats, and she and her friend and brother ask me to follow them.  I’m a little leery about following any people in Shanghai as I’ve heard the warnings about “tea scams,” so I purposely keep stopping along the walkway to take more pictures, finally telling them to go on without me.

Me with Pudong in the background

Me with Pudong in the background

Again, on the Bund, I admire the grand edifice of the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, formerly the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Ltd.

former headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank

former headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank

View of Pudong from the Bund

View of Pudong from the Bund

Finally, I make my way to the Huangpu River Cruise Dock, where I buy a ticket to take the one hour cruise up and down the Huangpu River.

Categories: Asia, Bank of China, China, Huangpu River, Jinmao Tower, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Peace Hotel, Pudong, Shanghai, Swatch Art Peace Hotel, The Bund, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

arrival in shanghai & a visit to jing’an si

Thursday, April 30:  It’s another three-day holiday weekend in China, so I decide at the last-minute to fly to Shanghai.  This holiday is International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day, and celebrates laborers and the working classes.  The holiday is promoted by the international labor movement, anarchists, socialists and communists.

While I’ve been in China, I’ve taken advantage of every national holiday to travel, and of course, when I do, I have to move with the rest of the country.  It’s no fun traveling on a tidal wave of nearly 1.4 billion people, and after this holiday, I decide I’m done.  I will take several more trips, but not again on a holiday weekend.  I finally have come to understand why my colleagues who have been here for years don’t want to bother traveling on the national holidays.  I’ve finally reached that point of saturation myself.

My journey doesn’t start well.  As I’m walking to the main gate of the university to catch a taxi to the airport, the skies open up in a torrential downpour, and even walking under an umbrella, my jean jacket, suitcase and the entire bottom of my pants below the knee get drenched.  Inside the taxi, and later in the airport, I’m shivering because my clothes are wet, and they seem to take forever to dry.

While I’m sitting in the airport, the skies open up again, accompanied by roaring thunder, vicious lightning strikes, sheets of rain, and howling winds.  No preparations are underway for boarding and I know the storms will hold us up.  Sure enough, the flight is delayed 1 1/2 hours due to the ferocious storms.  My flight was to leave at 6:20 p.m., but instead we leave at nearly 8:00, meaning I will arrive in Shanghai at around 10:30.

While I sit shivering in the airport, reading about Shanghai in the torn-out pages of my Lonely Planet China, a Chinese girl sits beside me talking on her mobile phone for three straight hours.  So annoying!

My flights for this trip were not too expensive, but they’re a little convoluted.  I fly into Pudong International Airport, 40 km east of the city, on China Southern, and I fly out from the old Hongqiao Airport, 15 km west of the city, on Juneyao Airlines.  Since my flight out on Monday is early in the morning, I book a hotel, the Pentahotel, closest to the Hongqiao Airport, on the west side of the city.  This means when I arrive at Pudong, I have a very long taxi ride to my hotel.

When I’m making my way out of the airport, the usual suspicious-looking characters approach with “deals” to take me to my hotel.  One driver tells me he will take me for 150 yuan.  I think that price surely must be outrageous, even though I know it is a long way to the hotel.  He points to the taxi queue down below us, and I can see it’s extraordinarily long, but I figure I should try to be thrifty for once and stand in the queue.  It turns out I stand in the queue for nearly an hour.  Then, the metered taxi ride to my hotel takes just under another hour, and it costs — take a guess! — 150 yuan!!  I would have been better off taking the first man’s offer!  So frustrating.

When I go to pay the taxi driver his 150 yuan, all I have is two 100 yuan bills.  He tries to leave without giving me change.  Luckily, a hotel staff person is standing there as I tell him he owes me 50 yuan.  He gives me a 20. I continue to hold out my hand, and he sheepishly hands me another 20.  Finally, I thrust my hand in his face again, waiting for last 10, and he grudgingly hands it over.  Argh!!  I love how people always try to rip me off, especially since I’m a Westerner!  They seem to think we’re all made of money.  Believe me, as a teacher in China, I am certainly NOT made of money.

Finally, after my arduous journey, I’m rewarded by an amazing room at the Pentahotel.  The hotel has a wonderful restaurant and bar downstairs, and my room is excellent.  There is a bathtub, a rare bonus in China, and the bed is the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in during my entire time here.  I arrive shortly after midnight and plan to sleep as late as I need to. I have three full days to explore Shanghai, and although I’ll barely make a dent in China’s largest city, I can at least get a feel for what it’s like.

My room at the pentahotel in shanghai

My room at the pentahotel in shanghai

Friday, May 1: In the morning, I wake up to blue skies and the forecast is good.  This is my view out my hotel window.

the view out my window ~ first sight of Shanghai

the view out my window ~ first sight of Shanghai

The breakfast buffet at the hotel is a smorgasbord of Western and Chinese food.  For 50 yuan, I pile my plate with fried rice, dumplings, sautéed mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, orange juice, and coffee.  On CNN News, reporters talk about the Baltimore curfews, protests and arrests following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man, while in police custody.  I’m surprised to see this news here in Shanghai.  It really is a small world.

the restaurant at the pentahotel

the restaurant at the pentahotel

After breakfast, my stomach is not feeling so good.  I don’t know what is wrong with me and the food in China, but we definitely do not agree with one another.  I am here in Shanghai to explore, however, so I am not going to let these stomach problems keep me down.  I head out to the metro station right around the corner from my hotel, the Zhongshan Park metro station, line 2.  I walk through endless corridors filled with shops and I’m amazed at how the Chinese use every inch of space for commerce.  Underground passageways are always filled with shops in China, even in Nanning.  There is nothing like this in the Washington, D.C. metro system.  In these corridors full of shops, there are also restrooms, although they’re not particularly nice ones.  I do appreciate this, however.  I believe all metro stations everywhere should have public toilets.

Line 2 is packed with people, and I stand holding on to a dangling handhold, unable to move in any direction.   It’s so claustrophobic!  My intention is to go directly to the Bund, but instead, I want to escape the crowds, so I get off at Jing’an Si (temple).   When I get out of the metro, I’m greeted by an Old Navy store, occupying a busy corner.

the intersection near Jing'an Si

the intersection near Jing’an Si

I look all around for the temple and finally see it, barely, nestled in the midst of modern high-rises.

the rooftops of Jing'an Si

the rooftops of Jing’an Si, nestled in among the high-rises

At this bustling temple, incense is burning, monks are praying, people are bowing with incense offerings and tourists are milling about, posing for all manner of pictures.

Incense burner at Jing'an Si

Incense burner at Jing’an Si

According to Wikipedia, the temple was first built in 247 AD during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. Originally located beside Suzhou Creek, it was relocated to its current site in 1216 during the Song dynasty.  The current temple was rebuilt in the Qing dynasty, but during the Cultural Revolution, it was converted into a plastic factory. In 1983, it was returned to its original purpose and renovated, with the Jing’an Pagoda completed in 2010 (Wikipedia: Jing’an Temple).

the main hall and incense burner of Jing'an Si

the main hall and incense burner of Jing’an Si

The temple, known as the Temple of Peace and Tranquility, boasts the longest history of any religious structure in Shanghai. Prior to 1949, it was Shanghai’s richest Buddhist monastery, presided over by the Abbott of Bubbling Well Road, Khi Vehdu.  He was a gangster-like figure who kept seven mistresses and a White Russian bodyguard.  The temple is also the headquarters for the Mi Sect, a Chinese Buddhist discipline that was all but extinct until it was reintroduced from Japan in 1953 (Shanghai: Cultural-China.com: Jing An Si (Jing An Temple)).

the main prayer hall at Jing'an Si

the main prayer hall at Jing’an Si

Buddha

Buddha

Monks in prayer

Monks in prayer

Jing'an Si in Shanghai

Jing’an Si in Shanghai

Today’s Southern-style main halls are all recent renovations using Burmese teak (Shanghai: Cultural-China.com: Jing An Si (Jing An Temple)).

Buddha at Jing'an Si

Buddha at Jing’an Si

Buddha at Jing'an Si

Buddha at Jing’an Si

Paintings at Jing'an Si

Paintings at Jing’an Si

Paintings at Jing'an Si

Paintings at Jing’an Si

Wooden buildings behind the main temple at Jing'an Si

Wooden buildings behind the main temple at Jing’an Si

Porcelain relief

Porcelain relief

relief sculpture

relief sculpture

Buddha at Jing'an Si

Buddha at Jing’an Si

At Jing'an Si

At Jing’an Si

at Jing'an Si

at Jing’an Si

corridor in Jing'an Si

corridor in Jing’an Si

Courtyard at Jing'an Si

Courtyard at Jing’an Si

Laughing Buddha at Jing'an Si

Laughing Buddha at Jing’an Si

Jing'an Si nestled among the skyscrapers of modern Shanghai

Jing’an Si nestled among the skyscrapers of modern Shanghai

Laughing Buddha

Laughing Buddha

View over Jing'an Si

View over Jing’an Si

flying eaves at Jing'an Si

flying eaves at Jing’an Si

After I finish exploring all the nooks and crannies of this temple, I head back to the metro, where I get off at the East Nanjing station.  From here, I’ll head down to the waterfront to see the famous Bund.

Categories: Asia, China, Holidays, International Workers' Day, Jing'an Si, Pentahotel, Pudong International Airport, Shanghai, Travel | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments

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