Day1: Tuesday, September 09, 2008
This morning I got up at 7:30 and went down to have breakfast in the hotel. I'm staying at the Central Star Hotel. I'm very happy with it. The room is very nice and even has a cute stuffed rat sitting on the rooms table. This year is the year of the rat. That is why the rat is there. The breakfast was buffet style. It was very good. I had a lot of Chinese food. Shanghai's cuisine is known for being slightly sweet, and the breakfast food in the buffet was that way. After breakfast I went back to my room and rested for a bit before I had to meet my guide Wendy at 9:30. I got to the lobby early and she was already waiting with bottled water for me. We went outside, where the car was waiting, and were driven to the Shanghai Urban planning Exhibition Hall by my private car and driver. The
Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition hall was really quite interesting.
It shows Shanghai's past, present, and future. The first floor had a long model of the bund. It was very impressively done. A lot of attention was paid to the building's details. There was also a large sculpture featuring the most famous buildings of Shanghai, which slowly rotated. We then went up to the second floor to experience Shanghai's past. As hard as it is to believe, Shanghai started as a fishing village. The exhibits on the second floor showed how it changed from a small fishing village to a very hip and happening city. With its large, deep harbor, Shanghai was an ideal location for a city. During the 1920's and '30's Shanghai became a cosmopolitan city.
With the many colonial businesses introduced to China, its population and importance grew. The hall showed how this all happened. The Third floor showcases current Shanghai. The main feature of the floor is a giant scale model of Shanghai. It is unbelievable! It is built with such exquisite detail. Every building in the city is there and it is constantly upgraded. The Global Finance Center building which opened just three days ago was already in place. The third floor shows the future of Shanghai. It showed the many things that the city has planned including remodeling and enlarging of its airport, subway systems and the Shanghai World Expo that will come to Shanghai in 2010. The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center was quite remarkable. It was filled with models of Shanghai. It really gave me a better understanding of this great city. We then headed to the Shanghai Museum.
I told Wendy not to bother coming with me because it would bore her to tears. I passionately love Chinese history and when I go to a museum I want to stop and look at each item in it. I spent quite a few hours in the museum. The Shanghai Museum is one of the best in China and is wonderful. The building is shaped like an ancient Ding. An ancient ding was a bronze period cooking vessel that eventually became a symbol of power.
The Shanghai Museum has four floors and each floor has two to four exhibition halls. It features a hall on ancient coins, Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture, ceramics, bronze ware, calligraphy, paintings, jades, ethnic minority clothing, seals, Buddhist stone carvings, and several temporary exhibits that change periodically. Their collections are exquisite. I could have easily spent the whole day there. After the Shanghai Museum, Wendy took me to lunch. We had lunch on a floating restaurant. It was very nice. The food was all local Shanghai cuisine and was quite tasty. Wendy and the driver were going to sit at another table so I could eat alone, but I thought that was terrible, so I insisted they sit with me.
The view from the restaurant was incredible. It is located on the Huangpu River and sit across the Huangpu River from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The sky was blue with white puffy clouds. It was really beautiful. After lunch we went to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. I've seen photos of it before and thought it looked nice, but standing under it and seeing the size of it, it is not only very impressive, but quite beautiful. We went inside the pavilion at the bottom of the tower. We then took one of the elevators up to the Observation platform located 259 meters above the ground.
It is located in the higher of the two large spheres and has three floors. The top floor is a revolving restaurant, the middle floor is an observation area with binoculars and glass windows all the way around, and the lower floor has open windows without glass. The observation floors had tables to sit at and little shops. The view of Shanghai from the tower is very beautiful. It is amazing to see all of the construction going on. This city is definitely growing at an amazing pace. Located at the entrance to the tower is a series of photos showing the tower every ten years since its opening in 1994. When it opened, the side of the river that it sits on was almost perfectly flat and had no tall buildings. It is amazing so see how much it has changed in only 24 years. After checking out the observation platform we went down to the pavilion located at the base of the tower. In the pavilion is the Shanghai History Museum.
The museum is absolutely wonderful. Wendy said most visitors don't go to the museum because of time constraints, but I think they really should insist on going. I loved it. It was not a normal museum with just relics in cases. It shows Shanghai the way it used to be. The museum is filled with wax figures. The figures are placed in period shops. The shops look like shops found in different periods of Shanghai's history. They are filled with antiques and just look like the shop keepers are waiting for customers. The wax figures are beautifully crafted and dressed. The entire museum is ingeniously laid out so that you feel like you are walking down lanes and alleyways in ancient Shanghai.
It feels like time has frozen just for your exploration. After the Shanghai History Museum, we went to the Jinmao Tower. The tower used to be the tallest building in Shanghai. Architecturally speaking the tower is very cool. It looks like a spiky pillar reaching into the sky. Very neat! We took the elevator up to the observation deck. The observation deck gave a commanding view of Shanghai. I could not only see the Bund and the New Global Finance Center, but also the Oriental Pearl TV Tower that I had just visited. Located inside the higher floors of the Jinmao Tower is the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The lobby's design is exceptional! The lobby can be looked down into from the Jinmao Tower's observation deck. The views from the tower are quite a lot higher than that of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and are slightly different. It shouldn't be missed.
We then headed to Nanjing Road. The street is known as the number one shopping street in China and with very good reason. It has boutiques offering some of the best name brand items in the world. Versace and Armani Clothing, Rolex and Cartier watches, Pearls and jewelry, and many neat little shops selling all sorts of things. The road also offers things for the not quite so wealthy such as exquisite porcelains, beautiful art supplies that are as beautiful as the artworks they are capable of creating, knick knacks, fast food, and fine dining. This street truly has something for everybody. I found it hard to not go crazy spending money. After wandering the street for a while, we went to Burger King for dinner. I know, I know, you say "How could you possibly go to Burger King while in Shanghai?" The reason is simple. I have lived in China for four and a half years without ever leaving the country. I live in Guilin which doesn't have Subway, or Burger King, and I have been craving it for years. I had two burgers and they were utterly fantastic! I was in heaven.
After my wonderful Burger King dinner we went to watch the Shanghai Acrobatics Show at the Shanghai Centre Theatre. The acrobatics show was truly amazing! I was on the edge of my seat for the whole thing. I didn't expect it to be so fantastic. It was done with a very modern twist, yet kept its Chinese roots. I was going to describe each act, but I think that might spoil it for anyone who might go. Take my word for it, it is so worth it! After the Acrobatic Show, I went back to my hotel room where I wrote this. Day2: Wednesday, September 10, 2008
This morning got up at 8:00 and went down to breakfast. Wendy met me at 9:30 with another bottled water and we went out to the waiting van. That bottled water was an amazing touch. I always forget to buy some until I am in the middle of a site where water is extremely expensive.
I was so impressed with Wendy's professionalism, knowledge, and thoughtfulness. She is an amazing guide. We then went to the Yu Garden. That place was magnificent! On the way to the garden we passed a tea house. The tea house was built over a pond. The tea house was built during the Qing Dynasty. To reach the tea house I had to cross a bridge with nine bends. I looked in and decided I needed to stop there after my visit to the Yu Garden. The garden was spectacular! It was built by a man named Pan during the Ming Dynasty. It was changed and rebuilt for hundreds of years by different descendents of the original builder. The garden is a virtual maze of caves, gardens, rockeries, paths, bridges, and buildings.
Even though many people have had a hand in rebuilding the garden over the centuries, it is seamlessly blended. Every corner you turn has a new surprise, and a total different view. I had come across a single area from three different places, and didn't realize I kept coming to the same place. It was ingeniously built! I wish I lived in Shanghai so I could go there on the weekends to just sit and relax with my family. After the Yu Garden we went to the Huxin Ting Teahouse. The tea house as I said was built in the Qing Dynasty. It was very beautiful. It has such history, and is such a wonderful place to sit and drink tea. I went up to the second floor with Wendy, and we chatted and watched people shopping.
I think we were there for two hours. The teahouse is the oldest in Shanghai, and I expected it to be really over priced, but it wasn't. The tea was very good and not too expensive. I had such a wonderful time just sitting, relaxing, and drinking tea that I bought the teapot that we used. I think it is the ultimate souvenir for me. I will treasure it forever. After the teahouse we strolled through the Yuyuan Market. The entire market, which is huge, was built in traditional Chinese style. The shops were really nice. I thought it would be a touristy, overpriced place, but it wasn't at all. The atmosphere was wonderful, the shops were actually quite cheap, after bargaining, and it was filled with locals.
I got to watch a traditional Chinese form of entertainment. Visitors look into a small window in a large box and a man sings and tells a story while playing a drum and cymbal for effect. Inside the box different backdrops drop down to show a story. With lighting, the scenes on the backdrops can change. I wish I had more time to go shopping there. I also wish I had more money to shop there. The market sold clothing, tea, arts, and toys. After the market we went to the Jade Buddha Temple. The temple was built in 1918 to house two solid jade carvings of The Buddha. The temple is beautiful and unique in that visitors are allowed to take photos, except of the Jade Buddhas. The jade carvings are very large and beautiful. The buildings are in fantastic condition, and filled with monks. After the temple, we went to Nanjing Road. I like to people watch and Nanjing Road is the perfect place. I did a lot of window shopping. We then went to the Wujiang Snack Street for lunch. Granted it was a late lunch, but it was absolutely fantastic. The snack street is filled with small booths and restaurants serving truly authentic local food. I ate so much I felt uncomfortable. I couldn't help myself. It was so wonderful. I had spring rolls. I know, most of you who read this think you have eaten spring rolls. I'm sorry, but you haven't. These were so fantastic! They were unbelievably delicious! I also had stuffed fried buns. It was fun to watch them make them. I also ate Chinese barbecue, and won tons. I was so stuffed, but it was fantastic! We then went to The Bund. Because of traffic, Shanghai is building a street under the street that runs along The Bund, so there was a lot of construction, so I couldn't get any good photos. The area used to be the financial center of Shanghai and all of the buildings were built by western banks in traditional western style. There are very impressive! After strolling along the Bund, and marveling at its architecture, we went to the dock for my cruise down the Huangpu River. We began at 7:00pm because that is when it got dark. Wendy told me that the buildings are all lit up at 7:30. The ship was surprisingly nice. We went to the top floor because it is the best place to get photos. The ships have VIP rooms for people to have private parties and very nice seating on the lower floors for viewers. It was so fun to watch the city light up. The buildings don't actually all light up at 730 but seem to have their own timer, so that they light up individually, which makes the scene change by the minute. The city has done a wonderful job of lighting its buildings and they look magnificent. The new Global Finance Center was cool to see lit up because it was just opened last Saturday. The cruise was very nice. We cruised around for around an hour. After the Huangpu River Cruise, I went back to Nanjing Road for dinner. I had Subway for dinner. I know I ate too much western food while visiting Shanghai. I haven't eaten it for years, and it was wonderful for me. You shouldn't do it though. The local food is amazing. It is only because it is not available where I live. Day3: September 11, 2008
Shanghai / Huangshan
This morning I had breakfast in the hotel before Wendy met me and we were driven to the Longhua Pagoda and Temple. The first thing I saw when arriving was the pagoda which is located outside of the temple.
It was originally built during the Han Dynasty. It was a very beautiful and simple designed pagoda. Due to its age, it is not open to the public. The temple itself is simple wonderful. It covers a very large area and has garden areas hidden between its buildings. It is not a touristy place at all, but a real working temple filled with local Buddhists praying. It is located about 45 minutes away from downtown and doesn't feel like you are in one of the largest metropolises in the world.The temple and its surrounding area are very quiet and peaceful. The buildings and area is really nice. I enjoyed strolling through it very much. Inside the temple buildings photos are not allowed, but the carvings and statues located inside are breathtaking.
Being that Mid-autumn Festival is a few days away the temple is selling its own vegetarian moon cakes. They were also selling tofu for people who wish to cook their own vegetarian meals. I bought quite a bit. The tofu is absolutely fantastic. In fact I am eating tofu ham as I am writing this. After visiting the Longhua Pagoda and Temple, we went to lunch. Wendy had called in advance and they were prepared for us. The food was very good. We ate a lot. After lunch we headed to the French Concession. I really had fun walking through this area. The houses and buildings left over by the French who lived in Shanghai are very nice. The first place we found was a hotel named Ruijin Hotel Shanghai.
It was simply gorgeous. I am not sure what it was originally, but now it is made up of many small villas. There were fountains gurgling, and a very large European garden. I'm sure it is a very expensive place to stay. We then walked around the area. There are a large number of mansions and shops around the area. It is almost difficult to believe that the area is in China, it looks so western. We then headed to Xin Tian Di Street. The street is made up of old style Shanghai buildings that have been turned into cafes.
The cafes are very beautiful and very elegant. I stopped at a German restaurant because it offered a Reuben sandwich. I haven't had a Reuben sandwich in many years and it was wonderful! After, we went to a local silk factory. This part of China is very famous for its silk. The silk factory showed how the silk moths turn mulberry leaves into silk. One of the factory's guides introduced the whole process. It is actually quite fascinating. After learning about the silk is produced we went into the shop where they were making silk quilts.
The cocoons are opened and the silk is stretched over a bamboo hoop. When ten cocoons have been spread over the hoop, they are then spread over a much larger hoop. When this is done ten times, the silk is stretched to form the filling for a quilt. It is amazing how strong silk is. Other than quilts, they had a lot of very beautiful items for sale. I was then driven to the airport for my flight to Tunxi.