Shanghai (continued)

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Well, here we are. We reached our last full day of this amazing 2.5-week China trip. We had to be on the motorcoach at 8 AM that morning for our tour of Shanghai. We started off with a ride through the French Concession. Shanghai has changed hands several times over the years. I already knew it was once a territory of Britain but I did not know it was once a French territory. Homes and other buildings from the French era are located in an area of the city known as the French Concession. These days, the buildings are being converted to hotels and shops.

Our first stop was at the famous riverfront called the Bund. It is a gorgeous area of the city where you can view the unique skyline from across the river. The Bund is a nice place to stroll and exercise as we saw several people doing. We took a group photo there.

The Bund


A silk factory was the factory/shopping stop of this tour. We had already visited a silk factory during the Beijing leg of the trip; however, the presentation portion of our Shanghai factory visit was much more interesting and hands-on. I was amazed at how sturdy a strand of the silkworm cocoon is despite it having the appearance of a fragile strand of a spider web. It takes a lot of work and a lot of silkworm cocoons to produce useful fabrics. Traci looked around but did not buy anything. I spent the time chatting with the other non-shoppers of our group.

Silk Factory

stretching the strands of silk

star of the show - silkworm

Next, it was off to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. To me, a title like that sounded way too serious for vacation but again, I went in with an open mind. As our tour guide so nicely summed things up: Xi'an represents China's past; Beijing represents the present; and Shanghai represents the future. The exhibits in the urban planning center gave us a glimpse of how Shanghai used to look and how it will look in the future. The big take-away from our visit is how fast the Chinese transformed Shanghai from an old port city to the modern high-tech metropolis it is today. The transformation took less than 30 years. Shanghai is China's largest city. On the third floor of the Urban Planning Center, there is a very large, impressive model of how Shanghai will look in 20 years.

model of Shanghai of the future


During our ride to our next destination, our guide had to give us a prep talk. We would be visiting Yuyuan Garden (Yu Garden). In order to get there, we would need to follow her through a very crowded bazaar where it was easy to get lost in the crowd. She warned us to concentrate on following her instead of taking pictures. As we approached the bazaar on foot, she gave us a meeting place and time for lunch in case got separated from the group. Well, she was not lying about how crowded the bazaar was - people everywhere! Traci and I are naturally slow walkers. I found myself trying to keep an eye on the paddle our guide held above her head and the other eye on Traci who was behind me. One of our Marathon Tour representatives walked behind our group in an effort to keep us all together.

Walking to Yu Gardens


following our guide through the crowded bazaar


Yu Garden was originally constructed in the 1500's as a tranquil place for the Pan family to enjoy their senior years. Like many old sites, it has been restored several times. The garden contains rockery, sculptures, pavilions, foot bridges, and of course trees and plants. Our guide gave us an excellent tour despite the crowds.

Yu Garden




We were given time to wander the garden and/or the bazaar on our own before lunch. Traci and I explored the bazaar. We had been so busy during this China trip that we did not have much time for souvenir shopping. Knowing we would be leaving the next day, Traci and I went in search of refrigerator magnets for our collection. We ended up buying a Shanghai magnet. We also bought a Beijing/Great Wall magnet since we did not get a chance to buy one during the Beijing leg of the trip. It is expected that you haggle for purchases at the bazaar. Traci and I ended up talking a merchant down from 85 yuan for the two magnets to 35 yuan (approximately $5 at the time).

We also wanted to get some Chinese snacks to bring back for our co-workers. We had been searching for a gelatinous rice snack we had during our trip. Traci had smartly taken a picture of it with her phone but we had not been able to find it anywhere after that first experience. It was not until we asked our guide in Shanghai that we found out it was actually a Japanese snack. She told us a signature Chinese candy is something called White Rabbit. Traci and I bought two bags of the White Rabbit but things did not go as we had hoped - more about that later.

Our final lunch in China was a family-style meal at a famous restaurant called Lu Bo Lang. It was located in the crowded bazaar area. On the walls of the restaurant are pictures of famous world leaders who have dined there such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Fidel Castro. The lunch was good. It is amazing to me that with all the Chinese meals we had eaten during our time in China, there were very few similar dishes served other than rice. We were left guessing the ingredients of the other dishes. On the other hand, up until this meal, the dessert had been consistently watermelon. However, we were surprised that this restaurant served bananas as dessert instead of watermelon.

Final Family-Style Meal at Lu Bo Lang

We had one last stop on this tour - the Shanghai Museum. There was a long line to get in but since we were a tour group, our guide was able to lead us directly to the front of the line - no waiting. I felt like a V.I.P.. Inside, we were given audio wands and time to explore the four floors of the museum at our leisure. There were artifacts such as currency, clothing, documents, bronze, and artwork dating back thousands of years. The museum was very crowded. I did not bother using the audio wand nor did I try to read about every artifact. There was not enough time for that.

We were dropped off back at the hotel. We had about two hours to get cleaned up and changed before we had to be back on the bus to be taken to our farewell dinner. Our farewell dinner took place on the top floor of the exquisite House of Roosevelt. Anthony Bourdain actually featured this restaurant in the Shanghai episode of his television series Parts Unknown. Our group was shown to our table but no one sat down right away. In fact, it was at least 20 minutes before we took our seats. What was going on? Well, we were all awestruck by the view of the Bund from the restaurant. The Bund is amazing to see during the day but it is beyond words or photos when it is all lit up at night. We all went out to the restaurant's terrace where we took in the view, the mild air, and the sounds of the city. The skyscrapers had thousands of lights on them that were changing colors. Some buildings had videos playing on the sides of them. There were marquees scrolling across the tops of other skyscrapers. There were laser lights. The boats on the river had amazing light displays as well. I had never witnessed a city view as breathtaking as our view from the House of Roosevelt. This was my fourth pinch yourself moment of the trip.

Dinner View from House of Roosevelt Restaurant





Our meal was very good. It was not family-style nor was it Chinese food. Instead we had a choice of fish or beef. We had to tell our guide our preference earlier that day so that she could relay our order to the restaurant before our arrival. We each received a complimentary glass of wine but since I don't drink alcohol, I had a glass of water. As good as our meal was, I did not eat much of it because I was still full from lunch. Dinner at the House of Roosevelt was a wonderful way to end our China trip.

We said our goodbyes to our travel companions when we arrived back at the hotel after dinner. We had been traveling with some of them since we arrived in Hong Kong over two weeks ago. Because we had different flights home, our transfers to the airport would occur at different times the next day. There was no guarantee we would see our travel friends in the morning. We enjoyed getting to know the members of our group during this awesome China trip. Continue...


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