Other passengers stopped by to wish us well on our excursion. The well wishers enhanced our sense of adventure and cohesiveness with fellow travelers. Really nice. At 8:30 all passengers taking the 4 day excursion met in the Champaign Bar with our luggage for attendance and final arrangements. Many of the other passengers were also on the full world tour so it was comforting to be amongst friends, with shared experiences.
We checked our luggage and boarded our coach heading to the Yu Garden in the old town. Jason(our local guide) stated as a group we would form a dragon, he was the head of the dragon, and Jonathan(our national guide) was the tail of the dragon. Travelers, including Judy Sheldon (our Cunard guide) formed the body of the dragon to safely travel through Shanghai. Just to be safe, JoRina input and tested Jonathan's phone number in her phone. As we drove Jason taught us some conversational vocabulary: Nihio-hello, Xiexie-thank you (x in Chinese sounds like sh and q sounds like ch), Ding hao-the best, and Bushi-welcome.
The old town is an elaborate labyrinth of old structures that formally housed a vibrant community that has been transformed into a unique shopping center surrounding a historic garden complex in the center of the newly emerging tall city of Shanghai.
China is in a gentrification phase that has involved tearing down old communities and modernization of the areas, as well as transitioning from rural to urban lifestyles.
The old town is an example of China's transition from old to new while holding on to a rich and important link to their proud cultural history. Within the gardens are objects that represent or symbolize meaning to the people of China such as:
Rocks- power and wealth, Crane-long life,
Dragon- good luck,
Flower blossoms- welcome,
upturned roofs- prosperity and confidence, Red lanterns- scare off evil spirits as evil spirits are afraid of the color red. Just outside of the garden were shops where JoRina purchased a lovely pair of jade earrings. As we left the old city to board the coaches several local people approach passengers to sell watches and other goods for as little as $5. One such merchant made a scene accusing a passenger of paying for the merchandise with a $1 instead of a $20. We were all pre-warned of this scam as well as the risk of pickpockets. No harm came to any of us.
We boarded the coach and headed for the Jinjiang Hotel for lunch. Lunch was delicious, however the food was prepared to a westernized standard rather than an authentic dim-Sum preparation. Good not great. After lunch we re-boarded the coach to go to the Shanghai World Financial Center, the newest and tallest building in the Pudong area of Shanghai.
The height of this building is impressive even to a New Yorker. We took a fast elevator to the 97th floor for a panoramic view the city and Huangpu river surrounding us. Their was heavy fog or pollution so visibility was limited. JoRina and I thought we were following directions to go down 2 stories and wait in a lounge area for the rest of the group. After waiting about 15 minutes with no other group members we found our way back down the building and struggled a bit to find our group. The group had boarded the coach and was holding up traffic, to the dismay of local drivers, waiting for us. We were relieved to be back with the tour group as we headed to the train station.
We shifted from the coach to the Maglev train station without incidence. The train is unique to China using magnetic levitation to move instead of wheels.
We traveled for 7 minutes reaching a speed of 431kh/hr, (about 287 mph I think) to the Shanghai Pudong Airport.
We took a 3 hour flight to Xian China. The temperature dropped a little to about 45*F, cold but not that uncomfortable. Xian is located almost in the center of the country, with a dividing mountain range to the south that separates the north of China from the south. Although several longitudinal lines cross China, the entire country functions within one national time zone.
Xian was the capital of China for several centuries and is the cradle of the country's civilization and history, with thousands of emperors buried there. Their is a widening economic gap between western Chinese communities and emerging new cities including Shanghai.
We checked into the Xian Sofitel Hotel around 9:30 PM, and arranged for a 7:15AM wake up call. The hotel was luxurious, with large rooms, down pillows and covers, a large bathtub and L'Occitane bath products. All to our liking. We went down to the hotel restaurant for an enjoyable buffet dinner then returned to the room where I took a hot bath and updated this blog with fast WI-fii.
During the early hours of the morning we traveled up the Yangtze River en-route to the Shanghai port. JoRina got up first, showered and dressed for the day. I got up soon after her around 7:00AM. I showered dressed and thought about the items I had packed the day before. I ordered a pot of tea and repacked my suitcase. JoRina went to the Kings Court for breakfast and took pictures from the ship of the port. I turned on music and organized my surroundings, while I grappled with the excitement of being in China. China! The weather outside was overcast and moderate.