Around Shanghai

Today started with a hearty breakfast at the hotel. A full array of cereals, fruit and yogurts were available. There was an omelet bar and sausages also available. I went for the baked beans, which were the same as I used to have in England and Canadian style bacon. Tea and some very strong coffee were also available.

We were met by our guide in the hotel lobby at 9 a.m. and we started the day by going to the Yu Gardens. This is the famous zig zag bridge among a setting of old fashioned traditional Chinese buildings. We walked across the bridge to enter the gardens — a famous classical garden located in Anren Jie, Shanghai. 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. It has suffered periods of neglects in its 430 year history, but has been open to the public in its currently restored state since 1956.

After the beauty of Yu Gardens we then explored Old Town with its array of tiny back streets filled with touristy knick-knack stores. Tourists are everywhere here so this also brings out the eager salespeople keen to sell you a fake Rolex watch or Prada bag. If you are looking for cheap Chinese tourist items, this is the place to buy them. Vendors sell everything from silk scarves, ink stamps, to flutes and musical instruments.

A short trip in the car then took us to Nanjing Road. Shanghai’s primary shopping district. We are not particularly into shopping so this didn’t hold too much interest for us but for those who look to peruse the stores this is the place to buy virtually anything you might want. Prices were about the same or a little less than American prices.

Next off was a Dim Sum lunch. In this case a fine example of why I am here to check things out before bringing dozens of students here next summer. The food was really not good — this placed has just been scratched off of the itinerary. The first unsatisfactory meal we have had since arriving.

After lunch we headed to Xintiandi which means Old Meets New. Here there is a small museum which shows a typical Shikumen dwelling for a middle class Shanghai citizen in the 1920s. The rooms are small but comfortable and the ingenious design allows for quite comfortable living quarters. The information boards as you enter the museum proudly extol the fact that thousands of Chinese families were successfully relocated to allow the modernization of this area to occur in the mid 1990s.

Xintiandi is an area where the old peasant dwellings have been demolished and the materials were used to create a modern upscale shopping and restaurant district. It is very pleasant to walk around and contains all the usual Western stores (Cold Stone Creamery, Starbucks, department stores). A quick check in Starbucks for a price check revealed that a large coffee was 21 Yuan which is just over $3 — you are certainly paying for location here. All the restaurants were also very expensive so we skipped the idea of stopping for a coffee break and moved on.

On the walk back to the hotel we went through the People’s Park and enjoyed watching the young children play in the fountain while a few older men flew their kites. Our idea of an impromptu visit to the Shanghai Museum was also scratched as the line went half way around the block. By this time it was mid afternoon so we went back to the hotel to put our feet up for an hour and organize our evening activities. We were without a guide for the rest of the day so we had to make our own arrangements for evening dinner and entertainment.

We decided on combining dinner with a visit to Jin Mao tower, Shanghai’s second highest building. A 25-minute taxi ride across town to the financial district cost us 24 Yuan (about $3.50). It was then up the banks of elevators to the 86th floor. The cost of our meal at this high rise restaurant was obviously going to be higher due to the fabulous view, but at 350 Yuan ($50) for both of us I didn’t think that was too bad. Right next door to the Jin Mao tower is the newly constructed Shanghai World Financial Center — the building that looks like a huge bottle opener. There is also a hotel from floor 54 on up with an open lobby extending over 30 stories in the middle of the building. Peering down the center of the building is extremely daunting, especially if you are a little uncomfortable with heights as I am.

It was then back for another cab ride to the Lan Xin Theatre for the 90 minutes Shanghai Acrobatic Show. A real tourist’s trap — but also a lot of fun! Young acrobats constantly surprise you with their energetic feats and amazing balance. Probably the most memorable part was the three hoops fixed one on top of another and a constant array of acrobats flying through the hoops at great speed as they performed somersaults, back flips and tumbles through the hoops.

By the time the show was over, the jet lag was beginning to kick back in and we barely managed to keep our eyes open until hitting the pillow at 10 o’clock at night.

Steven Payne

Yu Gardens

Yu Gardens

Typical Shikumen Dwelling

Typical Shikumen Dwelling

Shanghai World Financial Center

Shanghai World Financial Center


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