Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day Eight Shanghai

An incredible thunderstorm moves through Shanghai and we are awoken by cracking thunder and pouring rain. We meet our new city guide, Sean, after breakfast and he gives us some city culture on the bus. I zone out for some of it, as we have been soooo overloaded and rushed from place to place for so long. I've realized at this point that guided tours are not the way I like to travel.

Sean tells us that more than 30% of the Shanghai roads are under construction in preparation for the 2010 World's Expo, and that major initiatives are underway to improve air quality and green initiatives for the city. He likens 1920's Shanghai to the Paris of the east, with the city divided into sections like Chinatown, Little England, Jewish Ghetto etc. The current population is between 21-23 million and the city is divided by the Yangtzee River.

The day is a very long, busy day. First we go to the Jade Buddha temple, which was very festive and decorated with lanterns, lions and red ribbons. The Buddha is the largest Jade carving and is quite stunning, but no photos are allowed and our trip to the temple is short. Next we head outside the city to one of the universities. We are greeted by a group of students who teach us to make dumplings and we spend a little bit of time socializing and touring the grounds. All the universities are being co-located and this particular campus houses several schools with over 70,000 students!

For lunch we have “minority” food, but I am unsure of the actual term. I believe it is a southern China cuisine, and we have dancers perform for us. The food is the most flavorful we've had yet and everyone at our table seems pleased. At the bar they have more of the snake liquor, as well as a liquor with ox penis and one made of ants. All are said to be beneficial to virility.

We head to the silk factory and are given an overview of how the silk is removed from the pods, and get to meet the worms. Our guide, Tracey, is very funny and I enjoy the history. But, again, we are shuffled into a gift shop where we spend at least an hour. At this point, I am fed up with the constant sales pitches and the fact that we seem to spend more time in gift shops than we do at major cultural sites like the Jade Buddha temple.

Our fifth stop of the day is the Imperial Garden, which is lovely but we are all a little cranky after such a long day and a long time at the gift shop so do not take as much time as we shoud to enjoy the splendor. Instead we rush through and head into the small surrounding shopping area moving from vendor to vendor and seeing their secret back rooms full of purses and watches.

We met with Reggie, the trade representative from Oregon for a Shanghai company. This was the first thing I found beneficial from a business perspective. We do not have a group dinner, but go together to the acrobatics show, which was stunning. The performers do things with their bodies that I didn't know was possible and there is great music and beautiful costumes. I particularly enjoyed the couple swinging from silk banners in a 1920's style musical number, very fun.

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