26 January 2007

Shanghai Holiday

Shanghai is an eclectic mix architecture - there is the old European world charm, the expected tradition of the Orient, and the unusually futuristic and ultra modern. This makes Shanghai a truly unique experience and definitely different to visiting other Chinese cities.

We stayed at a Gary's place. Gary is a local friend of ours who moved to Shanghai about 5 months ago from Hong Kong. Nick met him when he first arrived in Hong Kong.

Gary showed us around his area before he headed of to Hong Kong for a holiday. He was kind enough to explain some of the standard practices of the locals, such as parking their bicycles on the footpath and therefore the reason we need to walk on the street; washing hung in the streets or from the tree branches to dry and for all to see; and emptying their toilet pan from the night before in the gutter each morning, then washing it a community basin on the street.

Thankfully we were not up early enough to witness such a morning ritual, however while wandering the streets we were lucky (or unlucky) enough to see all sorts of underwear and sleeping attire.

As we wandered the streets we were constantly saying hello to the people who so obviously stared at us… I guess they are not use to seeing Westerners in their part of town. And talking about things that people are not use to, we are not use to waking each morning to the sounds of car horns tooting and beeping. Nick fondly referred to the drivers as being ‘horny’.

We did experience one or two horny taxi drivers… some were gentle on us, driving carefully and not using the horn too frequently but there were some that drove like they were trying to break a world record and they were extremely horny!

Each day we spent wandering the different parts of Shanghai. We spent some time in the tallest building in mainland China, the Oriental Pearl Tower.

At 305 metres above the ground, our heads were in the clouds literally, and the what view we could see of Shanghai was pretty amazing.

As you can see from the photo... not a bright day and I really should have used the flash when taking this photo from the bottom of the Oriental Pearl Tower.

The Yuyeun Gardens were gorgeous and would be spectacular in Spring and Summer. We spent an hour or so wandering through the gardens and they instantly reminded us of our wedding ceremony in the Chinese Gardens. The Yuyeun Gardens had the zig zag bridges, golden carp in the water and gorgeous archways. I was very click happy, trying to take photos that really captured the beauty of the moment.

We experienced a very poor excuse of a river cruise with a taped commentary which crackled and jumped all over the place and attendants that were too interested in their tapestry to care. That experience has been marked down as a learning experience… we should know better to ask more question but we were so keen to see the skyline by boat that we hopped on the first available.

A short walk from where we were staying was the outdoor antique market. After wandering the streets looking at all the treasure troves, we walked away with a lovely jade statue of Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion; a gorgeous chest set for my father; a colourful porcelain Chinese man on a horse; and an traditional jewellery and make up box. I just love the Chinese artifacts, and based on the prices I doubt that they were antiques but who cares... having them around makes for interesting conversation.

Our last night in Shanghai was spent attending the Il Divo concert and although not part of the authentic Shanghai culture, this was certainly one of the highlights of our trip. They were outstanding and I would highly recommend seeing them especially if you are looking for a night out with a difference. We were greatly surprised at how entertaining they were… not only do they have magnificent voices, but they engage the audience.

Now that we’re back in Hong Kong, I’m very thankful that Hong Kong does not experience such extreme weather. It was cold in Shanghai, very cold! Brrrrr!

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