Today I had a tour of Shanghai. I find that when your time is limited in a place its nice to take a day tour so that they can show you some of the main highlights. Also, if you can do it at the beginning of your visit it gives you a nice overview of the city and how it works.
I had to take the metro from my hotel at Disney into the city. There is something pretty cool in the subways here. In just a few places they have screens that show advertisements like a TV outside of the train. It’s hard to explain, but when you’re going full speed the picture looks like it would on TV; I tried to get a picture of it, and what I got was a quick look at how it works. I think there must be several narrow screens that you blur together to the human eye as you go past. It’s pretty cool!
After riding the train for about an hour and half, I met my tour at the Radisson Hotel. They had told me to just go into the lobby and find a place to sit. It’s a pretty opulent lobby, so that was fine by me!
The tour was actually about 10 minutes late in picking me up, it was to the point that I was actually getting a little worried. In any case, it ended up just being two of us on the tour. The other guest was named Javi and is from Spain. He’s here for work and has the weekend to look around.
Our first stop was People’s Square, which our guide referred to as the “political and cultural center of the city”. Beside the large fountain in the square are the government buildings. They decided to call in People’s Square to remind those running the country who they were running it for.
Across from the government building is the Shanghai Museum. The building of the museum is square on the bottom representing earth, and round on the top to signify heaven.
The museum is best known for its bronze collection. Which I think is comprised of about 80% wine vessels.
They also have bronze food vessels, bells, drums, and weapons.
And my personal favorite, a very uncomfortable pillow. Although, I guess there’s something to be said for never having to turn the pillow over to find the cold side.
Also, this Staff of Ra looking amulet called an “invisible mirror”. Now, I’ll admit that even though I read the note card about, I’m still not really clear on how it works. If you could explain it to me, that’d be awesome.
The museum has several sections including antique furniture, a collection of Chinese currency from over the years, and calligraphy.
They have a really interesting section that has ceremonial costumes from the different areas of China.
I think that is all great, but I spent the bulk of my time in the ceramics section. Here’s the thing, bronze is all fine and good, but pottery is my JAM! I mean, I love it! When I was little I always circled the toy pottery wheels in the Sears catalog, and now that I’m a full grown adult human person I have my very own real pottery wheel. I found this section so inspiring! I cannot wait to get home and get my hands on some mud!
After the museum we went to the Temple of the Jade Buddha. This is actually a pretty large temple complex, with many Buddhas. The Jade Buddha is the most famous because it was a gift from a man that made a pilgrimage to the western world in the 1850’s and brought the Buddha back with him to help cleanse Shanghai of its evil ways. In fact, he thought Shanghai was so bad that he actually gave the city two jade Buddhas. No pictures were allowed of the large jade Buddha, but pictures could be taken in the other temple areas. I made the decision not to take pictures inside any of the buildings, as many people were there to pray. Whereas I don’t believe in the Buddha, I do believing it’s important to respect others. So, these pictures are all from the outside of the buildings.
There was a large area where people burned incense. I don’t know if this picture really shows it, but the area was think with sweet smelling smoke.
The red ribbons were all over the complex; you write a wish on it, and then tie it to something on the temple grounds. There was also a bell that people were balancing coins on.
It costs money to get into the temple area, and that goes for tourists and worshipers alike. My tourmate, Javi, was surprised by this, which is understandable. In Europe, even the most famous churches are free for worshipers. Some will charge for tourist, but if you are going in to pray there is no fee. He was just shocked that they would charge people who wanted to pray.
From there we stopped by a pearl shop. They were supposed to give us a lesson on pearls, but pretty much it was “Here’s a picture of our fresh water pearl farms. Now, come buy some stuff.” We got out of there pretty quick.
After that we headed to lunch. It was a Chinese lunch, which means all I could eat was the rice. I did have a bite of the beef dish, but I could taste the MSG in it, so I didn’t venture any further. Sadly, Javi is not a fan of Chinese food. He ate some, but really didn’t enjoy it. So, we finished up there pretty quickly there too.
And then headed to The Bund. The Bund is a waterfront street in Shanghai that used to be in the international section. The buildings here are strictly European in style.
Across the river is the Pudong District which is the modern financial area of the city. It boasts the Shanghai Tower, which is the second tallest building in the world. As well as the famous, and bulbous, Pearl Tower.
From here we headed back to the Yu Garden, where I spent most of time yesterday. I am glad that we went back because some additional areas of the garden were open. And I got to see this cool dragon wall.
After that we headed to the silk factory. This was another time that they tried to sell us stuff, but this time the preshow was actually very interesting! We learned about the life cycle of the silk worm. They are eggs that become larva, that become worms. The worms then wrap themselves up in pupas, or cocoons made of silk, before they emerge as moths. To get the silk, they kill the worms by putting them in cold water.
If the pupa only has one silk worm in it, they can unwind it to get one strand of silk, using this machine. It takes seven strands of silk to make one silk thread.
If there are two worms in the pupa they won’t be able to unwind it because it is too tangled. Instead, they remove the worms and then stretch the pupa out to be used in bed comforters and pillows. They can use up to 9,000 pupas to make one comforter.
Our final stop was a walk through the French Concession, which is now famous for its Western restaurants. They even have a Pizza Express here, and if you read the London portion of the blog you may remember that we were stalked by these restaurants everywhere we went in London. We didn’t actually see much in the French Concession, we just walked through it long enough for the smells to make me really hungry!
From there it was back to the Metro and the hour and a half trip back to the hotel. The first thing I like to do after a day in Shanghai is to take a shower; the smog here is pretty bad, so I like to get it off my skin as soon as possible. The next thing I like to do is stash away all the goodies they gave me today, so that I can get new ones tomorrow. Look, I have a big family and I think we could all use a new pair of hotel slippers, especially Disney hotel slippers!
Tomorrow is a scheduled off day for me, and then Monday I head into the park!