Back to Shanghai

Trip Start Jan 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2008

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Where I stayed
Melissa's Apartment

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Monday, February 4-Wednesday Feb. 13
Back to Shanghai
Today we left for the trip back to Shanghai-luckily, United re-routed us through San Francisco and it all went beautifully-that is a much nicer international airport than LAX and planes get in and leave on time from there unlike Chicago! The plane had LOTS of Chinese teenagers on it-some kind of tour or the other apparently.  Lots of other folks heading back for Chinese New Year too.  One young lady fascinated Melissa and I.  She was taking pictures of many things-first she took pictures of her airline dinner, then some pictures of the magazine in the seat pocket!  She then took some snapshots of her duty free things.  She made many notes in her diary too so I know this trip was important to her.  The flight was uneventful and we got to Shanghai just fine.  Shanghai has a lovely mass transit system-we rode the Magnetic Levitation train (the Mag Lev) to the subway and got to almost 300 KPH.  It seemed really fast until we left and the train taking us back to the airport went even faster!  It went over 400 KPH-folks were taking pictures of speedometer! Very exciting. 
We spent just over a week in Shanghai. We'd planned doing all kinds of cool things-going to Xian and seeing the sights all over town. Two things intervened. First, I got sick the day after Daddy's funeral with a fever and congestion-some flu bug going all over Texas apparently. Travis then caught it and then Melissa did.  And it was COLD in Shanghai---really cold.  So, we didn't get as much done as we'd hoped.  Also during Chinese New Year (CNY from now on), the crowds were very big and they tend to jack the prices up to get into see different attractions and we were often too cheap to stand in line-for instance, we went to   Jing'An Temple and there was this HUGE line around the block-we decided we could wait on that. At the Science & Technology museum, the price had gone way up.  So, we opted not to go in there either-we got pictures of the outside of both though! 
We did walk around Shanghai a lot and it's a lovely city.  I am fascinated with Chinese young women. They are all slim-you do not see fat Chinese people.  In Shanghai, they are taller than in Guangzhou but they are all slim and wear really tight jeans. The jeans can't be plain either.   They have to have embellishments on the back-lace, sparkles, flowers-all of some of these. Jeans CANNOT be plain. In Shanghai and often in Guangzhou, they wear boots all the time too. These also cannot be plain. They are often quite high heeled and almost always embellished-laces tying them up in front or back, lace decorations, piercings in leather flaps to look like lace, all kinds of things-they are very fancy.  If they wear boots, which most of them do, the jeans are, of course, tucked in or they wear knickers.  Sometimes the socks show between the knickers and the boots and these are sometimes striped which is odd.  The jackets are short and very fashionably cut-flares, ruffles-very nice.  And over that, scarves!  Silk usually but during the winter cashmere or other heavier scarves worn knotted very artistically and fashionably-everything is VERY chic. They really look nice and did I mention tiny?   I wonder how they can walk all over in those boots-my feet would die! 
Another thing about Shanghai that caught my eye is the number of street vendors-there are many. But what is truly odd is what they are selling. These can be very focused vendors. It makes sense that many sell umbrellas-even hair ties seems reasonable. But there are also a tremendous number of vendors selling nothing but socks.  Lots and lots of socks. All over the city.  And sometimes there are competing sock sellers right next to each other. Why so many socks? Do Shanghai people go through socks exceptionally fast?  Do you often find yourself longing for a new pair of socks?  It's very strange.
We did get to witness the CNY fireworks in Shanghai and they were impressive.  Everyone blows them off-all over the city. Starting the night of the Feb. 6, they started as it got dark and went on all night-it was so loud, you couldn't hear yourself think! We went outside and we could smell the cordite in the air.  There were drifts of red paper that cover the strings of little fireworks that everyone blows off all over the sidewalks in Melissa's apartment complex.  The sky was alight with rockets and star bursts.  It was amazing.  And LOUD.  It went on every night though not always as constant throughout the New Year celebrations. 
We did go to the Old Town to see the Yu Gardens which are really lovely. The problem is that they are surrounded by a little maze of shops and this area was PACKED partly because so many people have time off during CNY.  You have to cross the 9 Turnings Bridge to get to the Gardens and we could barely make our way through the solid mass of people.  There were decorations everywhere and it was really bright and festive.  We finally got across without trampling anyone and got into the Gardens. 
Here is a little description of Yu Gardens:
The Yu Gardens, also known as the Yu Yuan Garden, is likely the most celebrated classical Chinese garden in Shanghai. Found in the northeast of the old town and numbering over fives acres in total area, the Yu Gardens of China are one of the country's most popular natural landmarks, even going so far to being labeled "an architectural miracle in the region south of Yangtze River".
Yu Yuan Garden was first built in 1559 and it took workers almost 20 years to complete. The landscape seems to wind on forever - the gardens are purposefully designed to distort space and distance. You can hardly take a step in these gardens of China without coming across some kind of wood carving or engraving. Emblematic of the gardening style of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Yu Garden is a maze of pavilions, grottoes, lotus ponds, and rickety bridges crossing lazy streams. Though the gardens in Suzhou often get more critical praise, the Yu Gardens Shanghai attract far more visitors each year, and only partially due to their convenient location in one of the largest cities in Asia.
Built in a style that Suzhou gardens often take, Yu Yuan Garden is characterized by the same exquisite layout and intricate architecture. Each hall, stone, pavilion and stream is meant to imbue the essence of South China garden design - a style popularized during the Qing and Ming dynasties.
Many visitors head straight for the Five-Dragon Wall, a bounding monument to the storied mythical creature. The original design had each of the dragons with a total of five claws - legend has it that when the wall was first completed, during the reign of the Qing dynasty the feudal ruler regarded the fifth claw as a sign of unmitigated irreverence, since all the royal palaces featured four claw dragons. He then cut one of the claws of each dragon.
The Five-Dragon Wall subdivides one of the most beautiful gardens of China into six separate viewpoints, the Grand Rockery, Ten-Thousand-Flower Pavilion, Hall of Heralding Spring, Hall of Jade Magnificence, Inner Garden, and Lotus Pool. (
The gardens are just lovely-as the description says, the size is deceptive-you wind around, going through doors of all shapes and happening on one lovely vista after another.  One thing I didn't know until afterward was the story of the Exquisite Jade Stone :
The true treasure of Yuyuan Garden is the Exquisite Jade Rock. Located across from Yuhua Hall, it is one of the three famous rocks in the southern region of the Yangtze River. (The other two are Duanyun Feng in Suzhou and Zhouyun Feng in Hangzhou.) The rock is 3.3 meters (about 10.8 feet) in height and has 72 holes. What is interesting about this rock is that if you burn a joss stick just below the rock, the smoke will magically float out from all of the holes. Similarly, when you pour water into the rock from top, the water will flow out from each hole creating a spectacular sight to see. Pan Yunduan was very fond of the Exquisite Jade Rock, and he built Yuhua Hall facing the rock so it was convenient to sit in the hall and admire it. The furnishings in the hall were made of top grade rosewood of the Ming Dynasty, appearing both natural and graceful. (
The whole site is just wonderful-the curved dragon bodies topping the walls are wonderful and all the other carvings gracing the roofs are lovely too.  The wooden carvings in the rooms are fabulous and hard show adequately-you really need to see it yourself!  I've uploaded lots more pictures than are here in this blog or the collection-you can see my pictures at  if you want. 
After the Yu Gardens, we went to the Temple of the City God.  Here is a little bit I found on it.  I don't think it is all accurate-there were many people in the temple grounds worshipping but it is indeed surrounded by shops.
City God Temple (Chenghuangmiao) Located next to the Yu Garden and also known today as the Yu Garden Market, the City God Temple was built in the fifteenth century during the Ming Dynasty. Originally a temple built to honor the Han statesman Huo Guang (68 B.C.), it is a busy market today, specializing in traditional arts and crafts. Outside, however, it still looks like a temple.
One hundred years ago, as more and more pilgrims came to worship in the temple, many peddlers began to open shops near the City God Temple. Slowly, a popular, old-fashioned market came about. Today, around the temple and in a circumference of one-third of a mile there are more than one hundred small shops and restaurants, and the products they sell number 16,000 or more. Shanghai residents enjoy shopping here; they can find things unobtainable elsewhere and they dine at their favorite restaurants.
I did take some pictures though Travis was right-I do feel badly taking pictures of people worshipping. I tried to get some of the guard statues-one looked like Charlie Chan with a jaunty bowler hat on!  The statues were dressed in fresh clothing and in very vibrant colors to celebrate the new year. It was a busy, fascinating sight.
We also walked around the downtown area of Shanghai-saw the Pearl Tower, which is sort of ugly and peered across the run to the Bund, the area of old colonial buildings.  We ate at the City Diner which has GREAT breakfasts and sandwiches.   The weather remained cold and very blustery-it wasn't as bad as in other parts of China where so many people couldn't get home for the CNY because of the snow and storms.  At one point over 600,000 people were stranded just in the Guangzhou train station waiting for trains to go home and 1000s had no electricity or heat.  We shouldn't complain too much! But of course we did!

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