A Travellerspoint blog

Shanghai

overcast 14 °C

We arrived in Shanghai safe and sound. Our flights were delightfully empty. I've actually never seen so few people on a flight even on those bound to Winnipeg (just kidding guys) or those really expensive ones in Laos. They fed us meal after meal of food that was pretty good. Ryan had a healthy or perhaps unhealthy supply of Ginger Ale (he's not too impressed with this statement) and I was loving the orange juice. We took the metro to our hostel, which almost went by without a hitch until the train we were on started going backwards and we realized that listening to the announcements on the train probably would have been a good call. We jumped off and rectified the situation quickly. The only thing we lost were about twenty minutes and our seats on the metro. Luckily, there were maps posted and bi-lingual announcements in Chinese and English.

China is cleaner than we expected with only the occasional sewage smell. It felt pretty safe finding our way to the hostel and one man offered to help us with our printed bilingual map. We'd rather walk around here at night than downtown Winnipeg. Lots of skyscrapers and commercialism. Our hostel is pretty nice with a pond in the front and western toilets. Our room is a bit on the smaller side but the common area is pretty big and the beds comfortable.

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Day one we went to visit the Shanghai Museum in People's Square. The metro line was quite handy. We bought ourselves some day passes and tackled the metro lines at rush hour. This was no feat for the faint-hearted. The lines and crowds were always moving and in a rush. We squished into the trains and hardly made it out at our stop in time. People move in lines like traffic and leaving the popular path is quite tricky. There's quite a bit of bumping and pushing that goes on as everyone is in a rush, except us and the people sleeping in the subway halls. We got our first authentic Shanghai experience out of the way.

People's Square is a beautiful park, quite large and well kept. There were city workers dressed in blue uniforms sweeping the leaves that fell on the paths, quite the commitment to cleanliness. We sat on a bench to enjoy some Chinese oranges from the market. Less than a dollar for four large ones. They were delicious to eat in the park and a few people stopped to take our pictures. We must have been looking great!

The Museum containing thousands of artifacts from Chinese history was free to enter. It had four levels. We started with the Buddhist and religious statues section which was interesting as it spanned several dynasties and showed changes from when Indian Buddhism became more prevalent in the society as well as a bit of influence from Middle Eastern areas. We went up to ceramics and pottery next, a whole adventure on its own. It started around 6,000 B.C. and developed from there. Some of the kilns they had reached impressive temperatures of 1300 degrees Celsius considering the time period. The pieces ranged from pots to statues to bowls. As time progressed, people would add different elements such as copper, cobalt, and iron to give the clay colour and finish with glaze to protect them from the elements.

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We also saw exhibits on calligraphy, painting, furniture, minority tribe artifacts, and bronze. The paintings mainly had a natural theme and you could tell that the ruling dynasty had a fair bit of influence over the preferences of style and subject. The bronze exhibit revealed an interesting insight into Chinese culture. We all knew about Chinese food being important and the other 40% of the bronze pieces included wine vessels. There at least nine different Chinese words to describe the different types of wine vessels and their functions. Many were extremely large to store large quantities of wine. There were also some knives and swords to add some diversity to the collection, but the overall theme was still food and drink.

We attempted to find lunch after that, extremely sleep deprived and hungry. We wandered off down a nearby street and didn't find many restaurants that I thought I could find a vegetarian meal at. There were pet shops and apartments though. Ryan was excited to see the buckets full of small turtles laying out in the street.

Venturing back to the mall, we found a restaurant called Tomato Girl Rice Flour Noodles (some things must not translate that well). It had some sort of vegetarian option, gross tofu noodles and some sort of pickled greens or seaweeds or mystery item I managed to eat without gagging. Ryan had a flavourless chicken noodle bowl with a nifty spoon. He found the noodles hard to eat with chopsticks, slippery guys. The upside is that we didn't get food poisoning and the mango juice was alright.

Next, we visited the Yuyuan Gardens with our handy dandy metro passes (and student cards for a fifty percent discount). They featured classic Chinese architecture with slopped roofs, clay shingles, and ornamental decorations. Most of them were redwood coloured. We went through countless archways and passages to explore the extensive garden grounds. There were plenty of large fish in the ponds and greenery everywhere, including willow trees! The garden was built during the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century.

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On the trip there and back, we went through a heavily commercial area where we were asked several times to buy watches, wheelies and other trinkets. We were in a hurry to get out of there and over to the Bund boardwalk. The Bund was a skyline view of modern Shanghai's skyscrapers. The sun was going down, with the pollution masking the sunset. We walked the long river walk and took many pictures along the way. At 5:30, the Oriental Pearl Tower with two round spheres lit up in vibrant blue. Half an hour later a few other buildings lit up too and the Oriental Pearl Tower began to flash different colours in the chilly night sky.

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We discovered some vibrant cow sculptures on the way back with some more living walls, adorned with colourful flowers. We got a little lost trying to find the metro back, but made it eventually. Back in our neighbourhood, I got 'I don't eat meat' written down in Chinese so we could explore the area and find some supper. We found a nearby restaurant and had a delicious meal. Ryan had Spicy, crispy beef with interesting star-like peppers and I had eggplant, potato and peppers in a strong garlic sauce.

Day two we took off to Zhu jia jiao, an ancient town outside of Shanghai with some reputable buildings. The bus ride there was easy enough once a man on the street helped us find the right bus at the stop and talked to the driver. He was very kind. The bus ride was longer than we expected and had some interesting sights. There were clusters of high-rise apartment buildings in the industrial areas, likely servicing the countless factories in the area making everything from car parts, to perfume, to clothing. The shear numbers of these apartments were overwhelming just to imagine a fraction of the area where the world's products are produced. There were quite a few trees along the roads as well.

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The town, we figured we could find on our own. We tried to follow the signs and did end up on a bridge after passing schools, fruit vendors, and back alleys of people's homes. The bridge was not the ancient one people would travel to visit, but we looked down the river and backtracked our steps. Once we arrived in the area, it was obvious that it was the right place. The architecture was similar to what we had seen at Yuyuan Garden's yesterday and there were ample vendors selling everything you could want and more.

The town had many canals and bridges. Small boats could be rented to travel the canals, hand paddled by a local driver. We opted just to take it in on foot. There were many red lanterns hanging from the rooftops as well. We found Kenzi Garden and paid the admission. Inside was a large garden similar to the one we saw yesterday but with some impressive rock caves, pavilions and a bamboo forest. It was quite large as well and worth the admission price. Very picturesque.

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Next we tracked down the post office, the next item on our admission scavenger hunt. It was neat with blue cloth hanging in the entryway. Apparently their mail system has been around for thousands of years and envied by visiting cultures. We sat down to canal-side lunch afterwards. To celebrate Ryan finding a bamboo forest, I thought we should eat some, since it's so tasty! The teriyaki flavour was rich and flavourful. We also had some spicy bean curd which was not as well received. I didn't mind it, but the tofu-like texture can be off putting. Plus it's hard to eat with the chop sticks.

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We had two more stops on our hunt, the humanist museum, mainly modern looking art of various figures in the local area. We didn't quite get the name, but the art was very beautiful. I mistook the firefighting painting for a happy festival and Ryan ad a laugh at my expense. Next was the pharmacy, a quite stop as the woman inside seemed to want us to leave before we had even arrived. Maybe it was just the language barrier.

Our ride back was hectic, lots of horn blasting and fast driving on the bus. I'm surprised there weren't any accidents. We managed to find our stop alright with a little help and made our way.

(Sorry half the pictures are sideways: we're still learning on this blog platform and my computer doesn't want to save them properly for some reason.)

Posted by Sarah.M 16:46 Archived in China Tagged temples food metro china shanghai bamboo bund

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