Shanghai ~ A City in Contrast

Shanghai is a city of contrasts, and even though we just had one short day to enjoy it, we took full advantage of what we had time to see.  We shall start with sister Barb’s visit to the Jade Buddha Temple and the Yu Garden. Carolyn and Mary Jane were off to see Futuristic Shanghai with a ride on the maglev train and a trip to the top of one of the tallest buildings in Shanghai.  We also enjoyed a wonderful performance of the famous Chinese acrobats (see our blog posting that follows this one entitled Chinese Pretzel People).  The day was topped off with a drive along the Bund to see all the lights of Shanghai at night.  It is quite a memory.  We hope you will enjoy it too!

An economic boom, which began in the 1990s, has proven to be very good for visitors. Shanghai’s attractions are legendary, from exquisite temples and superb museums to a stroll along the Bund with its elegant 19th Century European architecture. From opium wars to junks and barges, images of Shanghai flood the senses.  But, in fact, the real Shanghai is the skyscraper capital of commerce and industry for the People’s Republic of China. Shanghai is the largest port in the nation and we had to queue up to sail into port dodging fishing boats on the way in.  The fishing boats seem to have the right of way; and believe it or not, a ship as big as the Queen Mary 2 has to avoid them even if they pull in front of us.

Our tour in Shanghai included the Yu Garden in Old Town and the Jade Buddha Temple.

The bus parked a couple of blocks away from the Jade Buddha Temple and walking to the site was like walking through a mine field and it was difficult to make our way down the narrow sidewalk filled with people, street merchants selling “genuine fake Rolex watches,” postcards, and roller skates you put on the back of your shoes.

The popular Jade Buddha Temple was built in the style of the Song Dynasty with graceful upturned eaves, bright yellow walls, and symmetrical halls and courtyards.  It is still an active venue for Buddhist events. The site is in a commercial district of the city and is dwarfed by nearby towering skyscrapers.  Several Buddha statues are displayed on the premises, but the priceless one is 6 ½ feet high, weighs 455 pounds and carved from a single piece of white jade and precious gems.  It was originally brought to Shanghai from Burma.







We drove a short distance down the Bund, the waterfront and financial hub of colonial Shanghai that divides old and new Shanghai. We got off the bus at the end of a park and walked to Old Town. Our destination was the Yu Garden, which is a place of peace and tranquility in the heart of a bustling city. The gardens date back to the fabled Ming Dynasty. “Yu” in Chinese means “peace and health.”






Carolyn and Mary Jane rode the MagLev train (magnetic levitation) from Pudong to the airport and back.  It is not a long ride, but the train goes at a maximum speed of 431 kilometers an hour.  We got a picture of the speedometer hitting its maximum on both legs of the trip.



Back on the bus, we made our way to one of the highest buildings in Shanghai.  It is 88 stories tall, and it takes less than a minute at ear popping speed to reach the top.  It was a hazy day, so the pictures are not very clear, but you can get the idea of what we experienced.  The neatest part was to look down, from the top, through the center of the building to the 65th floor, which houses the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.  When we departed the building we were besieged with street vendors selling the genuine fake Rolex watches, so we had fun bargaining with them, and came home with some jazzy new styles.




Old Town is a favorite gathering place; so we did take some time to wander through the bazaar. We had about an hour and a half before we had to get back on the bus, so we had time for lunch.  Would you believe we ate at McDonalds, which we found in the basement of a department store? The food tasted just like home. There was also a Starbucks and KFC in the area. Several U.S. fast food establishments are here and popular with the Chinese.

As we drove through the city it was interesting to see the brand new skyscrapers in neighborhoods that still had slum conditions just around the corner.  All these older neighborhoods are set for demolition, as the government wants to move everyone into high rise housing.  The traffic planners did a good job of laying out the new streets, including wide lanes to accommodate the motorcycles and bicycles, so they are safe from the new onslaught of motor vehicles. We also found it strange that everyone dries his or her clothes outdoors, even from skyscraper windows.









Shanghai at night along the Bund is delightful.





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