By the time we were up, showered, and had breakfast, we were already in transit of the Yangtze River toward the berth at the brand new International Cruise Terminal in Shanghai. It took a little longer than usual to clear immigration formalities; but soon we were on our way to the gangways for our tours. The port here is the third largest port in the world.
We were excited about our first introduction to the country which is home to 1.3 Billion people, 23 million of which call Shanghai home. Shanghai, which means “above the sea” is situated on the banks of the Huangpu River and close to the mouth of the mighty Yangtze River on the eastern seaboard. The city is sprawling, dynamic, and densely populated. Traffic is horrendous, barely crawling along the miles of elevated skyways. Shanghai came into its own in the mid-19th century when the British went to war with China. The Nanking Treaty, which ended the Opium wars brought unrestricted trade from certain treaty ports and Shanghai was one of those fabled ports, a center of glamour and elegant living. Foreign nationals from Britain, France, the U.S. and Japan lived opulent lifestyles in elegant mansions in miniature versions of their home countries, known as “concessions”. Shanghai hosted the 2010 World Expo and this brought an infusion of investments in infrastructure.
Today, there are three main districts: the Old City, quintessentially Chinese, The Bund or promenade along the river is home to grand colonial buildings and lots of modern shopping, getting the city the nickname Paris of the East. Across the river is the Pudong, the newest district and the base for some of the tallest buildings in the world.
Our tour started with a bus ride to Old Town, internationally known for one of the most lavish Chinese gardens in the region. Yu Gardens established in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty by Pan Yunduan as a private residence for his aging parents. The gardens stretch over five acres; walls divide the gardens into scenic areas and it feels a little like a maze. A huge rockery, ponds, lotus pools, pavilions and grand pagodas are some of the features. The dragon wall is topped by a four-clawed dragon. They refer to restrooms here as ‘happy’ rooms and some of our ladies got a huge surprise to find the happy room was a basin in the floor, not your conventional toilet; definitely not for a woman with a bad back.
Our bus whisked us on to the Shanghai Museum. The unique complex has multiple galleries and houses more than 120,000 pieces of art. The structure itself is designed in the shape of an ancient cooking vessel from the Shang Dynasty known as a Ding pot. The building has a round top and square base, which symbolizes the ancient Chinese perception of the world as “a round heaven and square earth”. The vast art displays include bronze ware, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, jade, furniture, coins, sculptures and Chinese seals known as “chops”. I wished we had more time here but the tour must go on.
We had a classic Shanghai cuisine lunch at the Jin Jiang Hotel.
The Jiangnan Silk Museum was the shopping venue, where we got a demonstration on Chinese silk and the opportunity to shop. Our lifestyle doesn’t lend itself well to silk so we joined several other tour members in the tea room for a cold coke.
Can’t be in China, where the predominant religion is Buddhism, and not visit a Temple. The Jade Buddha temple is the most famous in Shanghai. Built elsewhere in 1882 to house two Buddha statues carved from solid white jade, it was moved here in 1918 after fire damage to the earlier structure. It was closed for almost 30 years but reopened in 1980. Monks do live here and the main draw are the two jade Buddhas, one reclining measures a little over 3 feet long, and the seated Buddha measures over 6 feet and is studded with gemstones. Absolutely no photography allowed, so no pictures to share.
We finalized our day with a drive along The Bund to the Jin Mao Tower. We took the elevator to the 88th floor, 340 meters ascent in 45 seconds; that’ll make your ears pop. Unfortunately, beyond the perspective of the city from that height, there wasn’t much to see because of the pea-soup air pollution.
The traffic was horrible and it took over an hour to get back to the ship. We had a casual dinner at the buffet. Once we sailed for a while, Joe was able to get on the internet and I went to the show, a pretty good variety entertainer named Bayne Bacon.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day in Shanghai. They work very hard to keep the city sparkling clean, someone is always sweeping. Colorful flowers and green spaces are abundant. Skyscrapers were going up at such an alarming rate they’ve had to slow construction. English is spoken almost everywhere and U.S. Dollars are widely accepted in the tourist spots. The traffic and air pollution are enormous problems, which they are trying to address with expansion of subways, all-electric scooters, etc. but they have a very long way to go.
We have an At Sea day tomorrow and then next stop is Nagasaki.