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Just the name “Shanghai” conjures up thoughts of exotic lands, opium use, busy ports and streets. We had plenty of time to visualize what we would see during the long flights from Chicago to Pudong Airport, Shanghai. The first leg of the flight was to San Francisco where we and many more gathered for the much longer flight across the Pacific. Several hours later, in the darkness that had settled over China, we landed and found a brand new and modern airport. Going through Chinese Immigrations and Customs was simple and soon we were in the main lobby with the Viking guides sent to meet us. Below is a look at the airport main lobby.
The bus ride into the city was about 45 minutes to an hour. The highway was quite modern but I could not help but notice that at several places men were doing some road work. Strangely, these men had no warning lights, no work lights and no warnings that they were on the road. The driver seems to have known where they were because he did not come close to hitting them. Also along side the highway for a short distance was a very nice and modern commuter train. The group on the bus was split between two hotels. After the first group was left at their hotel, the guide said that we had the better hotel and the best breakfast buffet. The advertisement for the cruise stated that we would be staying in 5-Star hotels. That it was. In Shanghai our hotel was the Shangri-La. Their Photo Gallery found on the left of their web page will give you a good look at the interior.
Ah, the breakfast buffet. A beautiful spread of various styles. Truly an international spread. Whatever your taste, there was food for the American, European, Chinese, Japanese, Thai — so much it was hard to know where to start. The food was outstanding and could have eaten more had we the time to indulge.
Our guide was Arnold. A very well educated person, speaking excellent and easily understood English. His idea was to get us over the jet lag as soon as possible and he would do that by keeping us so busy that we wouldn't, couldn't fall asleep. It seemed to work and most definitely, our day in Shanghai was a very full day — from breakfast to bedtime. More about Arnold later.
With a great breakfast finished, we gathered in the lobby of the hotel to make our way out for our first tour. Today was to be a full day. Lunch and dinner outside the hotel was arranged so we would not be coming back to this beautiful hotel until late at night. Our first stop would be the Yuyuan Garden. But first we traveled from the new part of Shanghai, Pudong, into the old part of the city.
Once at the Garden, Arnold gave us information on where we were going and what it was that we would see. These first two photographs are of Arnold talking to our group. He is the gentleman with the very long pony tail. In these photographs he is without his backpack and camera which seemed later to be a part of his dress that he could not be without.
The following pictures were taken inside this Garden. Like every Chinese city, Shanghai boasts beautiful gardens. The most exquisite is said to be this garden, the Yuyuan Garden. It dates back to the Ming Dynasty. It is five acres of delicate pavilions and winding paths, and its Grand Rockery boasts caves, grottos and artificial mountains nearly 46 feet high.
There are three-toed dragons and four-toed dragons. Three-toed dragon are considered non-imperial dragons. Here you will count three toes. Believe in dragons? Why not? Read more about the Chinese Dragons
Below in the first two photos is the featured rockery of this garden. In the second photograph you can kind of get an idea of the size. I thought that these rock sculptures were natural formations. Nope, they are man made — in an artistic fashion. However, keep in mind that they are all from the Ming Dynasty.
Finished with the garden we were given free time in a nearby shopping area. There was time to walk around and window shop and get a cool drink and maybe a snack. Particularly tasty looking was the dumpling being sold. They must have been good as there was a very long line. Sort of the Chinese fast-food.
After a half hour or so, we were taken to lunch. All the lunches that we had were, of course, Chinese food. Not just a few courses — more like twelve! My only compliant was that the plates from which we ate were like saucers in size. Not big enough to pile on the food. In general, the food was always good and there was opportunity to eat something that we had never seen.
From lunch, we went to the Shanghai Museum. There is wonderful collection of ancient bronzes, ceramics and sculptures. There is also a gallery of jade and a collection of beautiful Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture as well as paintings. We were too tired to see everything in the museum. I find museums to be very very tiring, interesting but tiring.
The following four photographs are of jade. We thought all good jade was green, not so. I found photographing these pieces, and others not shown, to be very difficult. Difficult to focus and difficult to get the exposure correct. In the first, these are knife blades. The rings in the third photograph were considered signs of wealth.
The circle with the geometric pattern is a skylight over the center of the museum. This photo and the next were taken from the first floor lobby. Once outside, one last photo before heading for our next stop.
The next stop would be the Bund. The Bund is famous in Shanghai as it is an elegant waterfront promenade that contains many of Shanghai's banks and trading houses. It is not a boulevard of sterile financial institutions — the architecture of many of the buildings dates to the time when they were the embassies and consulates of other nations, and range from Renaissance to Gothic to art nouveau. The above link contains a night time panorama view of these old buildings. It is lined with parks and greenery and is a favorite place for strolling. It was very crowded mostly with young people. Everyone seemed to be having a very good time. The river divides the present day Shanghai between the old and the new. The Bund is on the old city side of the river. Not perhaps the best location to view the old architecture but a fine place to view the new Shanghai. Across the river is Pudong, where our hotel is located. The third photo shows an innovative way of advertising.
From the Bund, we were taken for dinner. A nice dinner but not a lot of time to relax. From dinner, we went to an Chinese Acrobat performance. The following are probably an overkill but it is representative of what we saw. Yes, often there were safety lines to assure that no one got hurt but there were no near mishaps. No slips, no falls.
Our evening in Shanghai was finished. Back at the hotel I thought it would be good to take a few shots of our room before I headed out to do some night photography.
The new Shanghai is a very modern city. The architecture is interesting during the daylight hours and equally interesting at night. Night photography is a favorite of mine. There were a lot of people still on the street, many waiting for bus transportation. It was funny, the bus was getting near when it was stopped by a red light. Everyone made a mad dash to the bus while it was stop. We have seen on television that the Chinese government is giving the people "training" on how to be polite and patient getting on busses and trains in preparation for the Olympics.
Next day... breakfast first then on the bus to travel to Suzhou. The modern architecture of Shanghai very nice. The second photo below is, I think, of the building that was for a time the tallest building in the world. Condominiums and apartments are not only most popular they are a necessity. Arnold explained that when a condo is purchased, all that is purchased is the shell of the space. The buyer is expected to buy materials, arrange for contractors and designers to finish the space. He commented that it was a long and difficult process but for those who could afford it. Often it took years to finish depending on how much money the new owner had.