China Trip–Arriving In Shanghai

Our flight leaving Vancouver was delayed by an hour with electronic issues, so we had a bit of a wait before making our long flight ( 12 hours) to Shanghai. Once again I was seated with Allyn

My Air Canada seatmate - Allyn

My Air Canada seatmate – Allyn

and as it turned out he was my seat mate for all our Air Canada flights.  Allyn was perhaps the oldest in our group, but he kept up with the group without any problems.  Allyn continues to work as a pastor despite being a few years beyond retirement age.  During our trip we found he could play the piano so we made good use of his talents while on board the cruise ship.

I don’t think many of us slept on the flight over so we were a pretty tired bunch when we arrived.  The Shanghai airport was pretty easy to navigate and we didn’t have to go far to claim our luggage. 

Waiting for everyone to get their luggage - Shanghai airport

Waiting for everyone to get their luggage – Shanghai airport

In fact we felt quite at home as we quickly spotted a KFC. We had a bit of a wait as one of our group, found they were missing a suitcase.  Air Canada eventually was able to locate the suitcase and promised it would be delivered the following day ( which it was.) We all passed through immigration without difficulty and made our way out to our waiting guide….. Michael Hai.  Michael is employed by Shanghai East Travel Co which was contracted by China Pac to be our guide for our entire tour.  If we could have hand picked someone we could not have done better.  Some members of our group had been to China and said Michael was by far the best guide they encountered.By the end of our 18 days we felt we had a new friend, son or grandson.  He was a very gracious host and also acted as our local guide for Shanghai.

We trekked to a waiting bus where we off loaded our suitcases ( which were going by snail bus to the hotel) while we boarded the Maglev bound for Shanghai.

Magnetically levitated train

Magnetically levitated train

The Maglev is a magnetic levitation train.  It is the first commercially operated high speed magnetic levitation line in the world. The top speed is 431 km/hr. making it the world’s fastest train in regular service.  During a test run on Nov 12, 2003 it went 501 km/hr.  It cost 1.2 billion US dollars to build and was completed  ( 34 miles) in under 3 years.  There are plans for expansion but they have been put on hold twice.

When we walked out of the train terminal we were hit with the smells of the street vendors and it was smelling pretty good and made a great first impression.  We got on a bus to take us to our first dinner in Shanghai.  All of us were agog with the maze of traffic, buses, cars, scooters, bicycles and pedestrians all sharing the same space. It seems the six lanes of traffic were trying to accommodate 8 lanes of traffic and as Michael explained, traffic signals and laws are treated simply as a suggestion. We all agreed we could not drive in China and 18 days later, no one had changed their mind.  On the bus ride to dinner we passed miles and miles of high rise buildings.  The high density housing has to be seen to be believed. 

The Shanghai sky line at night

The Shanghai sky line at night

As we neared the city center and the financial district of Pudong, we were impressed with the beautiful buildings lit up at night, making for a great first impression of this very modern city.  Chinese say Xian is old China, Beijing it today’s China and Shanghai the city of the future.

Our guide Michael explained the meal set ups for us.  We could expect our hotels would provide a buffet breakfast which will be a combination of western and Chinese food.  Lunch and dinner would be served “ Lazy Susan” style with the food placed in the center of the table and one simply turns the table to be able to reach your wanted item.  The table settings included chopsticks, forks ( sometimes you had to ask for them) a small plate about the size of a bread and butter plate, a small bowl, a small cup ( no handle) and a glass.  Our meals included a beverage and the choice was local beer, Pepsi, Seven Up or water and of course Chinese tea.

Our table awaits - Lazy Susan style

Our table awaits – Lazy Susan style

( It became obvious during our trip the Pepsi Company likely arrived in China first.) While Coke products could be found, you had to go looking for them. Most meals started with the arrival of a large bowl of rice followed by several other dishes some containing small amounts of pork or chicken, a fish dish ( usually carp so too boney for most of us) dishes of cooked veggies.  Soup was often served second to last.  You knew the food delivery was done when the watermelon came out. I think only twice did we get something other than watermelon…of course the cruise was buffet style so I don’t count that.

After our dinner we board the bus bound for our Shanghai hotel, the Jin Jiang Hotel.  We were glad to have our luggage waiting and we all quickly our room keys and head to our room.  Upon entering the room, one of the room keys must be inserted into a slot just inside the door, to keep the power flowing.  I read about this in the book I read on the plane over, so it wasn’t a surprise.  Our luggage arrived quickly and it wasn’t long before we settled into the king sized bed.  The book I read, explained Chinese like their beds hard and after several hotels…I can attest to that. A full day awaits.

Touring Shanghai April 10,2013

Both of us slept well, it may have been due to the fact we were awake for more than 24 hours!  All breakfasts will be served at our hotels and will be a combination of western and Chinese food.  The coffee was welcome, even if it was so strong a spoon would stand up in it. 

One of the youngest our of tour, Maryann was so easy going and so much fun.  She took many many photos and I hope to see them.  I know she got some great shots.

One of the youngest our of tour, Maryann was so easy going and so much fun. She took many many photos and I hope to see them. I know she got some great shots.

Certainly there was enough western choices to satisfy our group and we quickly learned to eat a hearty breakfast given some food options later in the day may be a mystery.  Michael was waiting for us and took us to the bus to start our long day of sight seeing. While driving through the chaotic traffic ( we had a driver), so Michael was free to talk. Michael explained the facilities we may encounter and rated them for our benefit. #1 might be a bush somewhere ( quite frankly I would rate this better than #2 and # 3#2 is a trough when one squats and does what one has to.  At some point, without notice,
A # 4 squatty potty.  The paper is disposed in the garbage can as seen here.

A # 4 squatty potty. The paper is disposed in the garbage can as seen here.

a rush of water will enter the channel and send the debris on it’s way down the channel to who knows where. #3 is a hole in the ground that may or may not have foot holds.  #4 is an enamel bowl placed into the floor, complete with places for your feet, at ground level and commonly referred to as a squatty potty.  Toilet tissue may or may not be present – check by the door, sometimes you find it by the entry. #5 is a western toilet with or without paper.  #6 is a western toilet, with paper, a clean sink, soap and towels for drying.  We found most restaurants have several squatty potties and one ear marked “handicapped” with a western style toilet behind the door.  We frequently had long line ups for the “handicapped” stall, however by the end of our tour, several brave ( and flexible) souls had adapted to the squatting position.  I did not! 

Shanghai “ The Paris of The East” prior to WW2 was a booming city and known for it’s art, architecture and business.  During the 30s and 40s the city suffered raids, invasions and occupation by Japan. 

"Our Group"  It was a challenge to get this photo as the locals kept lining up with us!

“Our Group” It was a challenge to get this photo as the locals kept lining up with us!

After the war the Communists won the civil war and China became a communist country in 1949.  For the next 30 years Shanghai’s industries soldiered on through periods of famine, drought, reform and suppression. The city was central to the Cultural Revolution and the Gang of Four’s base.  The “ January Storm” of 1967 purged many of Shanghai’s old leaders and the Red Guards set out to destroy the four “olds” – Old ways of ideas, living, traditions and thought.  A a result many historical areas were destroyed or left to ruin. Our first stop today would be the Jade Buddha Temple.
Burning incense and bags of "ghost" money

Burning incense and bags of “ghost” money

Completed in 1918 this temple is relatively new by Chinese standards. In order to save the temple when the Red Guards came to destroy it, the monks pasted portraits of Mao Zedong on the outside of it’s walls so the Guards couldn’t tear them down without destroying Mao’s face as well. The temple did suffer from neglect but has since been restored to it’s original beauty. 
White Jade Buddha      aaah...no photos please   oops!

White Jade Buddha aaah…no photos please oops!

The Temple’s great treasure is it’s 6 1/2  foot tall seated Buddha made of white jade with a robe of precious gems, originally brought to Shanghai from Burma.

When we arrived at the Temple, we found it very busy and very smoky. This was a holy day and many people were there, burning incense and praying. In the center of the courtyard was a large caldron( I think it’s called a censer) with an equally large fire burning.  People would place their burning incense into the caldron as well as large red paper bags. Chinese people burn incense both as an offering and as a way of communicating with spirits through the smoke. ( There was a great deal of communication going on as the smoke was very thick).  We later found out the large red bags contained “ghost” money. 

Ladies "prepare" the ghost money by crunching it up and putting it into red paper bags.

Ladies “prepare” the ghost money by crunching it up and putting it into red paper bags.

It’s a scented paper resembling cash and it’s offered up to the spirits in hopes/ prayers of abundance.

We returned to the bus and went on to The Bund (Riverside Parkway). The waterfront boulevard shows the city’s pre 1949 past and it’s focus on the future. The city rebuilt the promenade, making it an ideal gathering place for tourists and residents.  Early morning you find the Bund full of people ballroom dancing, doing aerobics, walking and doing tai chi.  Across the Huangpu river is the Oriental Pearl Tower

Pudong skyline in the background. Notice the "Bottle Opener" building.  Taken on the Bund

Pudong skyline in the background. Notice the “Bottle Opener” building. Taken on the Bund

and a building referred to as the bottle opener…for obvious reasons.  This area is the financial district of Pudong and is less than 20 years old.  Michael said while the national bird of China is the crane, he indicated at any given time 20% of the world’s building cranes can be found in the city of Shanghai and when we passed a building crane we all laughed at seeing the “ National” bird. It was quite amusing when our group stopped for a group photo, we became the tourist attraction as many locals joined in the line up and took their photos with us. The Bund is a great place to take photos of Pudong’s famous skyline.  The photos however are not clear due to the air pollution
The air quality was listed as acceptable.  Hard to see much across the river.  Oriental Pearl Tower ( with it's 3 globes) on the right

The air quality was listed as acceptable. Hard to see much across the river. Oriental Pearl Tower ( with it’s 3 globes) on the right

which Michael described the air quality as “acceptable.” The river also appears polluted and is very busy with barge after barge making it’s way along to and from factories.

We were scheduled to  go to visit a kindergarten in the afternoon, but from 1 to 3, it was nap time.  Rather than waste time, Michael arranged for us to tour the Jinmao Tower. This building is 88 stories ( 8 being the Chinese number implying wealth and prosperity). This art-deco building houses one of the highest hotels in the world.  The Grand Hyatt takes up the 53rd to 87th floor and when you are on the observation deck, you can peer down into the 88 story atrium. The observation deck gave us a 360 degree view of the massive city, however much of it obscured in the ever present smoky haze.

We left the Jinmao Tower and went to a local neighbourhood ( of 90,000) to go to our kindergarten visit.  The children were excited to see us and took each of us by hand up the stairs to a small gym.

Our lovely hosts and performers

Our lovely hosts and performers

  The children preformed songs and dances for us.  Many of us were surprised to see the class was made up mostly of little girls.  I think we expected to see more boys, given China continues with their “one child” policy.  Our group had brought along gifts for the children so before leaving we presented them to the teachers.  The children were so very cute and so very boisterous.

We had time before going for dinner so Michael arranged for us to visit an open air food market and mix with the locals.  Michael indicated his mother shopped here on a daily basis.  The market was covered but open at both ends, allowing pedestrians, bicycles and the odd scooter to squeeze down the aisles.

Fresh frog for dinner?

Fresh frog for dinner?

  There were a variety of stalls and sanitation was limited at best.  Some stalls had a rusty sink, and I did see a couple of coolers, but for the most part, our health inspectors would be appalled at the conditions.  Given the “bird flu” had struck Shanghai all the poultry vendors’ stalls were closed. 
This was the cleanest stall I came across.  Don't those feet look yummy?

This was the cleanest stall I came across. Don’t those feet look yummy?

I think I was most grossed out by the large green “live” frogs for sale and the eels!

After this eye opening visit we went for an early dinner. We were to attend an acrobatic show later , but found time on our hands. Once again Michael arranged for us to tour a local market near the theatre before going on to the show.  The market had several upscale vendors crammed into tiny spaces.  There was also the usual “trinket” shops and also lovely restaurants and tea houses

One could easily get lost walking down these alley ways.  Lots of unique shops.

One could easily get lost walking down these alley ways. Lots of unique shops.

.  The alleys were narrow and one could get lost quickly.  We left the market for a brisk walk to the theatre.  Earlier in the day Michael stressed the importance of keeping our group together and when he wanted to remind us to keep together , he suggested we stick together like “ sticky rice.”  For the rest of the trip, one or more members would yell out “ sticky rice” when someone would fall behind.  However, this night the “sticky rice” concept didn’t work and Brian and I found ourselves way behind the group and not sure where to go when they turned the corner.  This was a bit hairy as I couldn’t remember the name of our hotel, in case we did get lost and needed to get back to somewhere.  We came across a theatre and it was the right one.  Once inside we found we had not been missed.  Thank goodness this never happened again, but it was scary.

The performance was wonderful and amazing.

These girls were very talented and never dropped a plate until the end when they did it on purpose to prove they weren't glued to the poles.

These girls were very talented and never dropped a plate until the end when they did it on purpose to prove they weren’t glued to the poles.

  It reminded me of the recent Cirque D Soleil we had been to a few months ago.  This was indeed a long day but chocked full of new experiences and sights.  The traffic continued to amaze us.  It seems like 8 lanes of traffic trying to squeeze into 6 lanes.  Horns are blowing all the time and we can’t believe so few accidents happen.  It was good to get back to the hotel and go to bed.  We have an 8 a.m. start.