Shanghai Skyline

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Touring Shanghai

After landing in Shanghai in the evening of Monday, April 21, we checked into the beautiful Ocean Hotel. By midnight, we’d settled into bed and got a much-needed, full-night’s rest before our first excursion in the city.

Yu Yuan Gardens

On Tuesday, April 22, after an extensive buffet breakfast in the hotel, our national guide Sheila (who would be with us for the entire trip) led us to the beautiful Yu Yuan Gardens, a classic example of a Chinese garden. If you’ve never seen a Chinese garden up close, check out the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon. All the tiles and building materials for that garden were imported from China, so you’ll get a good feel for what we saw, but only on a much more extensive area. But it was a thrill to see a real Chinese garden in China. It was a vast complex, consisting of diverse plants, lakes, rock formations, and buildings. On one building, we thought we saw dragons. However, Sheila explained that these were sea serpents. Only the emperor could have dragons on his property.


Next we visited the Bund walkway along the Huangpu River. As we stood by the railing of the boardwalk, we looked out across the river to the Pudong Area of Shanghai. This view is the most famous panoramic view of Shanghai’s skyline. The top picture on this page shows you that magnificent view.The tallest building on the right will be the tallest building in China when completed, but not the tallest in the world. Dubai currently claims that record. But for how long? Who knows?

Miractulously, Dean and I bumped into our friend Dan, who was visiting China on his own. We’d met only once through mutual friends who belong to Mature Friends, but who didn’t take this tour because they’d been to China several times. Although we’d met Dan only once, he picked out Dean among all the Asians strolling on the Bund, even though Dean was wearing sunglasses and accompanied by someone Dan had never met, but mistook for me.

On one side, the Bund overlooks the river and on the other it overlooks a main street with old buildings from British colonial days. One magnificent structure used to be the financial center of the region.

Nanjing Road

We then spent some time on the Nanjing Road in the British sector. We had some free time to stroll around and soak up the high-end shopping mall and window shop, have a drink, or buy a snack. Some sneaked into McDonald’s to grab lunch American fast-food style. But I don’t rat them out.

We didn’t have time to do any serious shopping, but that would come later in the tour. Walking past the shops was no different than walking an outside shopping mall in any other country, except for the omnipresent smokers choking the air with their habit. In fact, during out tour we came to appreciate the nonsmoking trend back home as well as the much cleaner air.

Dinner and Show

Back at the hotel we had some time to relax before going out to a local restaurant for dinner and then off to see an acrobatic show. Culture shock hit us at dinner when we saw that our dinner plates were the size of coffee saucers in the States. We had a joke that perhaps they wanted to make sure we didn’t get too much to eat, to save money on their part. We also joked about the corn nibblets that looked as though they’d come out of a package of frozen Bird’s Eye corn nibblets.

Two of the Group at Dinner

The rest of the dinners took on the same basic structure — rather bland, very little meat (and the meat we did get was unrecognizable), rarely any fish except for a boney corpse that we had to scrape morsels of flesh off the bones, and all served on a lazy Susan. Once we got over the shock, which took a few days, we got used to the small portions and small plates. When we thought back over it, the food was heavy in vegetables and quite healthy. The menu was bland probably because of serving a large number of Western tourists who might not appreciate well-spiced food.

The show turned out to be phenomenal. The acrobats did stunts that appeared to defy gravity and the laws of physics. The show capped off the evening perfectly. The next day we got up early for the daily buffet breakfast and then off to the train depot.

The next morning, we took the bullet train to Suzhou. The trip took 30 minutes to travel 50 miles. A description of what we did and saw in Suzhou appears on the next page. you can get to it by clicking the arrow at the bottom of this page.

After a day of touring, we stayed overnight in Suzhou, and the next morning after a buffet breakfast, a bus drove us back to Shanghai in a little more than three hours. The highways are toll roads, but the Chinese keep the roads in good condition, which was a nice surprise since so much of the tour involved traveling by bus.

Last Day in Shanghai

Upon returning to Shanghai, our bus first took us back to our hotel to check in again. Once we settled into our new rooms, we met in the lobby and headed off for a final day of touring in Shanghai.

French Concession

We’d seen the former British sector, and on our final day in Shanghai, the bus dropped us off in the French sector. We took a walking tour to the site of the first meeting hall of the Chinese Communist Party.

This area had the look and feel of a French pedestrian boulevard. Unlike the Nanjing Road, the French sector had plenty of European style cafés. We didn’t have much time there, and because some of us craved some good coffee, we congregated one of the omnipresent Starbucks and just sat, sipped, relaxed, and chatted. I know, I know, we came all the way to China for Starbucks? But remember, we ate almost all of our meals in common and they had been prepaid. Plus we didn’t have time to sit and relax in a French colonial style café and enjoy a pastry and café au lait, beer, or wine. Then on to the next stop.

Jade Buddha Temple

Next we visited this large temple complex, where the centerpiece was a large Buddha statue carved from a white jade rock brought back from Burma in 1882. To show respect for the temple grounds, we took no pictures inside the buildings and certainly none of the Jade Buddha himself. However, we could take pictures outside.

Looking Down on Temple Courtyard I took this picture from a window just after seeing the Jade Buddha. Afterward, on the way out, I took a picture of the entrance to one of the pagodas in the complex.

Shanghai Museum

We finished our day in the Shanghai Museum. Particularly impressive are the ancient bronze artifacts, which reflect a high level of sophistication from as early as the Xia dynasty, ca. 1600 BC. Two of our group posed outside this fascinating museum.