Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shanghai'd in Shanghai

I've been in Shanghai now for 3 days, but this is really the first chance I've had to post again. Shanghai is a huge cosmopolitan city that is impossible to cover in 3 days. You could easily spend a week here and still not cover everything.

We arrived in Shanghai mid-morning on Sunday (I think that's what day it is). After yet another family-style chinese lunch, we embarked on our quick and ambitious bus tour of the city. Our first stop was the infamous Bund, a walkway along the west side of the Huangpo River. The Bund gives you spectacular views of the new Pudong area of Shanghai, which used to be a wasteland prior to 1994 and the construction of the TV tour. Our tour guide for the Jewish Shanghai tour (TBD below) said it best: "In 1994, the Chinese had an erection and two balls." When you see it, you'll totally understand.

The views from the bund were spectacular. There is the Grand Hyatt Hotel which is the tallest hotel in the world or Asia, I can't remember. Then there's the world financial center which looks like a bottle opener and is the 3rd tallest building in the world. The architecture in Shanghai is also amazing. I can't stop taking pictures of buildings. The designers of the Comcast Center could have taken a few lessons from the folks who have designed these buildings. They are truly works of art.

Unfortunately, the views on the bund were more insane. The place was totally crowded with folks and the "hello people" - the people who greet you as you get off the bus and try to sell you postcards, chopsticks, Mao watches, etc. It's either "hello", "maybe later", or "$1, $1". They are so much more aggressive here than they were in Xi'an or Beijing.

After our tour of the Bund, we then went to a silk factory and learned about how silk is made. Very interesting. Apparently, the silk comforters, which are made from double-larvae cocoons are cheaper than the bedding since it cannot be silk cannot be unwound in one continuous strand. I even took a video of the ladies demonstrating how they stretch out the silk to make the comforters. I even gave it a try. It was very cool.

Of course, we all splurged and purchased comforters and some purchased bedding. I didn't buy a silk duvet since I prefer to sleep on my nice cotton sheets. Silk is too warm for me.

Next we went to the Yu Gardens and Bazaar. The Yu Gardens is a beautiful former private garden that provides peace and tranquility from the bustle of the city. Not only that, but also from the bazaar next door. The bazaar is insane, but beautiful. It is jampacked with tourists. There are tons of stalls selling every type of trinket or souvenier you can imagine. It's also a bargaining mecca (or hell for some). It was all about getting the best deal. However, that night was just a glimpse of the bazaar. I came back the next day and did some damage, but not like I did $$$-wise in Xi'an.

That night, we saw an interesting acrobatics show. I don't know how to describe it. Some were acrobatics, some parts weren't. By that time I was wiped out since we were up at 6am to catch our flight out of Xi'an.

The next day (Monday?), some friends and I started off at the Yu Gardens Bazaar. I purchased a number of souveniers and gifts, but won't get into it now. I still suck at bargaining, but b/c I was with others, they helped me out. :-) I then came back to the hotel and needed some "alone" time and walked around the French Concession for a bit.

That night, we did a night tour of Shanghai, starting off at the largest mall in Asia. I wasn't thrilled w/ that part since the stuff was expensive and it was boring. However, we were right next to our next stop, the TV Tower and its observation deck. We took the elevator up to the 88th floor and had an amazing view of Shanghai at night. We then walked along the east side of the Huangpo River, a much calmer and more relaxed area than the Bund. Finally, we went to this bar area in the French Concession and had a drink before heading home.

Today (Tuesday?), the group organized a Jewish tour of Shanghai. It was very informative and I enjoyed it a lot. I wasn't familiar at all about the Jewish community here in China so it was interesting to learn how much the Jewish community, albeit small at some points, had influenced pre-communist China. Sadly, very little remains of the Jewish community in Shanghai or of the buildings that used to be here. All four graveyards had been dug up and the gravestones were found all over the countryside. An Israeli man that gave our tour has made it his mission to find these stones and try to build a memorial to the Jewish community in Shanghai. He's asked the government, but now has to wait. Click here for more information about what he's been doing.

After the tour, I explored the Shanghai Museum and then the Jade Buddah Temple. The Museum was great. Lots of artifacts detailing China's cultural history. The temple was also beautiful. Now I'm sitting here, passing time before dinner and our farewell event. Tomorrow we leave for Hong Kong for the extension of the trip while some are headed home. I can't believe that the trip is almost over. I only have 3 more days before we leave on Saturday. Not sure what we'll be doing in Hong Kong yet, but I think my credit card needs a break from shopping! I think taking pictures is a better option. :-)

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