Thursday, April 16, 2009

March 8, 2009: Hu...or Shanghai

Last Thursday (Wednesday for most of you), we started up the river that led to Shanghai. I can't describe the scene well enough...intense fog and about 45 degree weather, boats passing us on all sides with all sorts of cargo and all sizes. We eventually got in further and could see a vague outline of the coastline, which appeared to be all shipping yards. We pulled into Shanghai port at 2pm and out my balcony I could see through the fog the famous Pearl Tower in Pudong and the Global Financial Center, the 2nd tallest tower in Asia (2nd to tower 101 in Taiwan, which we visited a few yrs ago). Customs was interesting....2 hours for the officials to review every passport and then we all lined up and they had us present our passports personally one by one. 4 hrs after arriving we cleared customs (in all other ports it was a 30 minute process max). 

Thursday night we went to the Shanghai Center at the Portman Ritz-Carlton to see a Chinese acrobatic show. It was an amazing Cirque du Soleil times 50. Friday morning we departed the ship...we encountered some of my favorite ship crew men coming back from a night on the town...they'd gone big and looked like some hair of the dog was in order! Our guide and driver collected us and we spent the day visiting sites. Contemporary art is very big in Shanghai right now and we started at M-50, an art complex filled with a large variety of galleries with all sorts of contemporary media - really interesting. 

We visited the Yuan garden for lunch and had a LOT of dumplings (maxed out!). Tried some Tsingtao beer...kind of like a Miller in my opinion. After lunch we visited an antique market en route to the Shanghai museum where we saw the history of Jade, pottery, pottery and other artifacts. Quite interesting. The area where the museum was is the People's Square which used to be a race track back in the 20's. With the introduction of Communism gambling was outlawed so the racetrack was replaced with the square which has a beautiful theater, the museum, the urban development center and open parks. 
Saturday morning we headed to The Bund, which runs along the river and was part of the British Concession during the foreign occupation. All of the architecture is very western and if it weren't for being the only blonde person in a sea of Chinese I might have thought I was in England or Paris. We went next to the Urban Development Center which showed where Shanghai has come since its inception and with a HUGE model of the projected landscape for 2020 in Shanghai. It was amazing.     

Lunch was in the French Concession and we walked around touring a traditional Shikuman house. These homes that still exist house 5 Chinese families whereas in the French Concession one family would occupy the entire home. We enjoyed an amazing Shanghainese lunch at a fabulous restaurant there and then continued on to Pudong where we visited the Pearl Tower and the Shanghai History Museum. The rest of the afternoon we spent walking on Nanjing road looking at all the stores. One amazing store opened while we were there...a flagship Barbie store! Imagine 6 stories of Barbie with hundreds of Chinese children running around exploring all the Barbie paraphernalia - even a full size Vera Wang gown to match the Vera Wang Barbie! We enjoyed a brief tour and quickly escaped the excited swarms of children!     

A brief comment on the was about 45-50 degrees with some winds. The "sun" came out and looked like a dull light bulb in a smoky room. Even in winter the pollution is still quite evident. At days end my eyes were burning some so we toured mostly in the car especially because of dad's eye.   Yesterday we flew to Beijing. I am signing off now as we are in a trolley just arriving at the Forbidden City!!! 

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