Shanghai, the "Hijack City" and our first Chinese

Trip Start Mar 11, 2012
Trip End Apr 02, 2012

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Flag of China  , Shanghai,
Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday 25 March 2012, 8 degrees with a high of 15.
One thing we have learned along this trip is that the countries we visit don't exactly operate "above board". They actually play around with the immigration and docking times like this morning. The ship docking got pushed back an hour and the disembarkment was slow because everyone had to go through a radioactive measuring device (looking for explosive materials) as well as past the food sniffing dogs. As usual, I got picked to have my bag sniffed. Once cleared, we were off to our bus (called a jing-a-ling) for our tour. Our guide Jack asked we not say "Hi Jack". He was pretty funny. He promised he won't let us eat crazy stuff like the Cantonese who he says everything with 4 legs except the table.
There are 23 million people in Shanghai!!! There are skyscrapers for as far as they eye can see. This is the biggest city in China. Today is Sunday so the traffic is not as bad as during the week. For cars here, they pay about $8500 just for the licencing. That's before the price of the car or the insurance.
First stop - The Bund. This is the British quarter of Shanghai from when Britain ruled the world. The street is breathtaking and actually looks like the heart of downtown London England. The Yangtze river runs alongside of this area. We got out here for only about 15min but what a site. It was so clean. After this, it was off to the Yu Gardens. This is in Old Shanghai. Where the bus stopped, we had to walk about 10 min to the entry. It stopped at a corner where there were couples doing ballroom dancing in the park. Then we walked past a bamboo forest. All the trees are reinforced because it is a young forest and they get monsoons. The area of Old Shanghai is very busy and you have to push your way through the people to get anywhere - very different from home. I won't go into detail about the foods you can get on stick. The garden is about 500 yrs old and is absolutely beautiful. It was built by some guy named pan who built it for his parents who died before they could see it. The gardens have ponds and rocks and trees meandering amongst pavilions. When we stopped to look at the Koi pond, Bonnie almost experienced the pond 1st hand. People push through so abruptly, she got shoved and knocked off balance. If it wasn't for her fearless son Cam jumping to her rescue and grabbing her, she'd be doing the dog paddle with the fish and turtles! Way to stay in the will Cam!
After the gardens, we went to a tea ceremony. We were shown 4 different tea servings and tried the teas. They were very good. Of course, you then buy some tea and we were off to the next adventure. Walking back to the bus we went through an area in old Shanghai that had Starbucks, DQ, Pizza Hut and KFC. We moved onto the French quarter of the City. This area was rundown and taken over by the government back in 1999. They bought out the old apartments from the occupants, paying them 20% over market value, and totally renovated the area into the hottest spot for night-life in the city. The area is awesome. Fantastic restaurants, shops and walkthroughs to enjoy just about everything in entertainment you can think of from movies to art to music. It is hard to remember that this country is communist when you see this capitalist type of area.
By this time, it was mid-day and we headed out of Shanghai to a 500 yr old village known as the Oriental Venice. It's called something like Zhujaijing which means 500 yrs ago some guy named Zhu had his family there. I wish I could make this part of the blog a "scratch and sniff" interactive book, because I have never smelled smells that rancid in my life. In fact, I've smelled dead bodies that were more pleasant than this. It seems the Chinese have a lacking in the area of personal hygiene and overall cleanliness when you get into these little villages. And I should specify this "little village" still had half a million people in it! It had everything from the street beggars missing appendages to pick-pocketing rings well at work. And, so many unidentifiable things being cooked on BBQ's attached to the back of bicycles. The locals ride motorbikes through thick crowds of people on the road and on the sidewalk and constantly press the horn. God help you if you don't get out of the way. We forced out way through the crowds (trying to keep all 13 of us together) over to the river side. We first went for lunch on the market along the river. I have to say, this was not my favourite lunch and I'm not sure I can even identify what we ate. I can tell you that Jan enjoyed the rice. When we finished lunch, we gathered at the front of the restaurant so we could set off through the crowds again as a group. I chose to avoid using the facilities but apparently they weren't too bad. The bathroom was behind the fish tanks though. These are the fresh fish for lunch. At one point, one of the bigger fish (about a foot and a half long) jumped from its holding tank and landed into the plastic pail full of shrimp on the floor. Don't think this was a great move for the fish. Next up, we were to take a small boat tour up the river. The waiting area for the boat ride was a slab of concrete jutting out into the river. The river is a cesspool of microorganisms that I'm sure nothing a month's round of antibiotics couldn't cure. The people standing on this slab (including us) had about as much room as a sardine in a can and it smelled as equally attractive. Given that everything just gets dumped in the water, it is rather stinky. As we patiently waited out turn to get on a boat, a middle aged man got into a fight with about a 10yr old kid. They were pushing and shoving and very close to knocking someone in. Of course he was right beside me - my luck - so I turned and tucked so if it got out of control, I was knocking him in instead of one of us. This little fight was either a diversion for the pick-pockets or the man was getting rid of the kids because they were the pick-pockets. But I'll tell you, our guide stepped up pretty quickly to make sure everyone checked their stuff to make sure they hadn't been robbed. This was all over in about a minute but it was enough to keep everyone on their toes. Jan and I and Henrietta, Robert and Nilo got into the 1st boat. I'm pretty sure Jan spent the rest of the ride watching backwards to see if she could see the other boats - just to make sure we did actually see them all again. The tour lasted about 15min and we got out further down the river. Finally, everyone landed at the same spot and we walked through the market for some shopping. We did actually make some purchases and then made our way back to the bus. If it wasn't for the intense crowds, I'm sure we would have sprinted through the markets just to escape the smell. Unreal.
On the way back to the ship, we stopped at silk market - actually specializing in silk. They make everything there - including the silk. They showed the process with the silk worms and how they spread out the silk from the cocoons to make the thread and fibers as well the insides of silk duvets. Again, we contributed to the Chinese economy but the items were beautiful.
During the drive back to the ship, and we are all again mesmerized by the shear vastness of the city and the skyscrapers. Our guide told us there are over 3000 skyscrapers with more than 20 floors in Shanghai and that 1 skyscraper is completed every week. The skyscrapers are built at a rate of 1 floor a week so they are able to build lots very quickly.
Once back on board, we needed a beer and a 2nd lunch as well as lively debrief on the days events to cover all the crazy things we all saw. I will admit, some of these sites will not make the blog! After our snack, it was time to clean up and get ready for dinner! What a day. The weather was perfect and the sites were sure something to remember.
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Sue on

I can't wait to see more photos when you get home. I'm glad this isn't smellovision though, from the sounds of that village. Sounds like the alcohol is keeping ahead of the germs though. Good work.

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