Incense, lilies and sausage rolls

21 08 2009

Yesterday we had our first full day in the country, and we did a lot of exploring. Almost too much, as we were both so exhausted by the end we came home at 8 pm and collapsed in bed.
Anyway, so far the experience has been great. Shanghai is a bit large. The crush of people can be overwhelming if you let it, but so far I haven’t. Maybe my wonderful girlfriend helps me deflect my panic reflex, I don’t know.
So since our schedules are all out of whack, we ended up getting up around 6 yesterday (and today too, but that’s neither here nor there). We had one free breakfast at the “cafe” downstairs in the hotel, which ended up turning into two, for reasons we’re not quite sure. At any rate, the breakfast was pretty good, and filling, and everyone was nice. Afterward, we hopped on the metro, which is clean, efficient and packed with tons and tons of people, but that’s no big surprise, and rode it to the downtown area (if such an area exists, since all of this city seems like one big downtown), then walked a mile or so stretch through old neighborhoods where people were doing laundry out on the side of the street and stuff, and made it to Old Shanghai, which is interesting aesthetically – it appears to be old Chinese architecture, and is quite pretty – but half of the buildings have Dairy Queens, Burger Kings and Subways, which detracts from the sense of history just a bit. At least to me.
On the way there, we stumbled upon the Shanghai City God’s Temple, which was really interesting, though we were charged the rather exorbitant fee of 10 RMB ($1, essentially) to get in. I’m kidding about exorbitant part, obviously. The temple was nice and
tourist-free, which made it a sort of oasis of real China in a sea of hyper-consumerism. Watches or massages, anyone? So we wandered around the temple a bit, took some pictures and even made an offering that will hopefully help us have a safe and fun experience here. After that, we walked through Old Town to the Yu Yuan Gardens (or just Yu Yuan, I don’t know), a small but impressive collection of Chinese gardens, complete with ponds, lilies and older (circa 1800, which I guess in China is not too old, but I’m American, so cut me some slack) buildings. It was quite nice. Lots of tourists, again, but not so much so that it was unmanageable. Being inside also offered us a chance to get away from all the hawkers.
After that, it started to rain, so we spent some time at the Shanghai Museum, which was free and nice, though at that point both of us were ready for lunch, I think. Then we had a younger guy who spoke relatively good English try and drag us to what seemed like a scam – a “tea ceremony”. I’ll let Missy blog about it. We got away unscathed, though and had lunch before heading home to sort of process and unwind. Later on we took the metro to The Bund – Shanghai’s famous riverwalk, with classic European architecture on one side and huge futuristic skyscrapers on the other, which sadly was so under construction that it was pretty much not worth seeing. Then we got a beer at “Shanghai’s Oldest Brewery” and attempted to do a bit of bar-hopping before giving up and heading home early. The pub we went to after had sausage rolls, hence that part of the blog title. Today we’re catching the train to Nanjing at noon, where we’ll meet a representative from my school.
Wish us luck!




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